Seeds of a radical Christian left

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On this week's episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Letizia Waddington and Scott Neufeld. They are members of Streams of Justice, a small, highly active, multi-issue social justice group in Vancouver with roots in the Christian faith.

In part because of the frequency with which faith has been and still is brandished as a justification for oppression, but also in part because of prejudices inherited from the Enlightenment and from earlier versions of the left, it can be hard for those of us who ground our visions of justice and liberation in non-religious ways to appreciate the rich and potentially radical resource that faith traditions -- including but far from limited to Christianity -- can offer those who struggle for a better world from a place rooted in their faith.

Streams of Justice emerged from an informal bible study group associated with a Baptist church in a poor neighbourhood of Vancouver. A combination of close listening to the experiences of people who were marginalized in one way or another, and close attention to scripture, led to a shift in emphasis by those in the bible study from the charity model that is common to many faith contexts, to a focus on the need to struggle for justice. In particular, they explored the long tradition of interpreting the bible from the perspective of people who are suffering from injustice -- an approach that came to be called "liberation theology" in some Christian traditions in the 20th century, but that has gone by other names as well and has a much longer history.

Today, Streams of Justice is a mix both of people who continue to attend that same church and others who do not, and they explicitly acknowledge the group's Christian roots while working to be welcoming to those of all faiths and of none. Much of what they do involves acting in material solidarity with other groups, mostly non-religious, that are involved in a range of struggles, including Indigenous land defense, anti-poverty, climate justice, migrant justice, and more. And they have also at times worked to engage with broader Christian communities around questions of justice. Waddington and Neufeld speak with me about the origins of the group, its Christian roots, its emphatically multi-issue practice, and its work for radical social transformation.

To learn more about Streams of Justice, click here.

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show in general, visit its website here. You can learn about suggesting topics for future shows here.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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