Director of CPT challenges Bluffton University to be creatively maladjusted
Challenging students, faculty and staff to follow Dr. Martin Luther King’s call from a 1963 speech, to become creatively maladjusted, Sarah Thompson, executive director of Christian Peacemaker Teams, spent four days at Bluffton University.
The theme carried through all of her activities on campus including Forum, chapel and training with faculty and staff.
To a Forum crowd of more than 800 students, faculty, staff and community members, Thompson started with a quote from King: “There are certain things in our nation and in the world which I am proud to be maladjusted and which I hope all people of good-will will be maladjusted… I say very honestly that I never intend to become adjusted to segregation and discrimination. I never intend to become adjusted to religious bigotry. I never intend to adjust myself to economic conditions that will take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few. I never intend to adjust myself to the madness of militarism, to self‐defeating effects of physical violence.”
She encouraged the students to learn about others so that they will become less likely to step on them in their desire to climb to the top. Thompson says by doing this, “We become like King, less willing to be stepped on and uphold a system of segregation, religious bigotry and discrimination. Part of being a peacemaker is disturbing the peace.”
She continued, “If you graduate from Bluffton and your life remains completely disconnected from the life of the person who made your shirt or grows your food then your degree means nothing,” said Thompson.
Thompson spent a considerable amount of time with students and the same message continued with them at a private dinner with the multicultural student organization, a meeting with the PEACE Club and during Chapel. Her Chapel sermon, Creatively Maladjusted, centered on Romans 12: 1-3.
Thompson’s message was also pivotal during a workshop she led for faculty and staff on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
The workshop consisted of three parts: structured sharing, a conversation from the fishbowl and healing through nature. “When faculty and staff are in touch with what deeply moves them that is transmitted into their teaching and their way of being on campus,” said Thompson.
During the sharing portion, faculty and staff were asked to interact with a co-worker they did not know well. The teams skipped the typical small talk that comes with getting to know somebody and dove straight into finishing sentences such as: To be alive at this precarious moment on earth I’m excited that… and to be alive at this moment on earth what breaks my heart is…
“The time for chit-chat has run out,” said Thompson. “There is too much at stake to let our egos and prejudices get in the way. We need to find our connectedness with one another and build partnerships that transform violence and oppression.”
During the conversations from the fishbowl portion, Thompson and Dr. Crystal Sellers Battle, associate professor of music, held an honest conversation on race as if there was no audience.
“It allows a broader audience to get insight into our life experiences,” said Thompson.
The event ended with Thompson placing a stone, a stick, dry leaves and an empty bowl at the front of the room. The stick represented anger, the stone fear, the leaves sorrow and the bowl emptiness. Participants were welcomed to gather near the objects and to enter the middle by speaking about one of the emotions while holding the object. The activity is based on Joanna Macy’s, “The Work that Reconnects.” And while each of the items represent some sort of pain, they also represent the opposite—desire for justice, courage to speak, opportunity to be filled and love.
“The lens of MLK Day is an invitation to remember the past, celebrate the victories and act for healing and organize for positive social change,” said Thompson. “It’s a great day to be active.”
The lens of MLK Day is an invitation to remember the past, celebrate the victories and act for healing and organize for positive social change. It’s a great day to be active.”