These are deeply disorienting times. Many of us are losing loved ones and livelihoods—to COVID-19, to racial violence and injustice. All of us are having to loosen our grasp on familiar rhythms and assumed futures. The institutional, economic, and social backdrop is a mess, and many of our vocations have been yanked into a violent gem tumbler, the somersaults revealing little of where we’re headed or how long we’ll have to keep spinning.
Historically, change of this scope has created moral opportunity. The question is whether our societies harbor the discerning capacities to see it as such, whether they have the humility to accept it, and whether they enter the crisis with the baseline social and civic health required to do something about it—productively.
Welcome to Breaking Ground, a collaborative web commons created by Comment Magazine to inspire a dynamic ecosystem of thinkers and doers to respond to the needs of this hour with wisdom and courage. In a founding partnership with Plough Quarterly and The Davenant Institute, we’ve worked to create a space where the sacred lens might influence the wider conversation, where the painfully fragmented body of Christ might come together in humility and urgent calling, and where the ecumenical church with all her scars might be better resourced to lead—in service, sacrifice, and solidarity. If you see something of your hopes echoed here, please do get in touch. We are eager to build a big tent of collaborators.
Over the next year, Breaking Ground will convene world-class scholars and seasoned practitioners, artists and pastors, community weavers and those made resilient by long-standing struggle to contribute original essays and participate in our podcast and virtual events. We will also celebrate and point you toward the work of those people, publications, and organizations that are providing particularly insightful moral leadership, weaving a broader tapestry that we hope will unearth an ecosystem that already exists but rarely sings as one.
This adventure officially begins the first week of June. All content on Breaking Ground—whether original or curated—is motivated by the following three needs:
- Seeing clearly and deeply: What exactly is being revealed in this layered crisis? About society? About the state of our own hearts?
- Learning from the past: How have plagues historically provided opportunities for new beginnings, new building, a renewal of institutions?
- Imagining the future: What institutions need renewing now, and how might that happen? What might be born anew in this time, and how might God’s people help in the building?
This is at heart a rethinking project aimed at community-building, one that seeks to offer a creative lens borne out of two thousand years of Christian social thought and the witness it has inspired time and again. It’s never easy to imagine new wineskins, to say nothing of stitching and sewing them. But as followers of Christ we believe there is a model for living that still has power to orient our hope, perhaps even direct our steps. We hope you’ll come along.
The following principles will guide Breaking Ground’s editorial judgments and public engagement:
- Excellence: All content must be original, perceptive, honest, and consequential. Generally, we want to be attracting thinkers with a large vision of history and doers whose decisions discerned in real-time are helping to cultivate the neighborly economy. This is not a conversation focused primarily on pastoral accompaniment, worthy and needed though that is. This is rather a conversation devoted to recalibration, reflection, and renewal, at both individual and structural levels.
- Hospitality and Collaboration: Given that pandemics typically incur still greater fragmentation in the societies in which they wreak havoc, Breaking Ground has intentionally created a forum for collaboration and cooperation between individuals, institutions, and traditions that are united in inspiration but distinct in interpretation. Breaking Ground will embody a notable generosity of spirit and intellectual hospitality, one that respects participants’ different traditions even as we leverage our commonalities to build a pluralistic approach to the critical issues at hand. We will strive to attract a contributing pool that is reflective of the rich diversity of God’s people.
- Humility and Discernment: We will reject any tone smacking of Christian triumphalism, and we will discourage historical inevitability. We will beware the temptation to read the pandemic as the confirmation of anyone’s ideological priors.
- Sensitivity: There is a wide spectrum of loss and disruption that is likely to continue for many more months, if not years. Whatever Breaking Ground publishes needs to make sense landing in the midst of widespread suffering. We will be keeping an alert eye focused on the ever-evolving hierarchy of needs.
- Hope and Generativity: Breaking Ground will be fundamentally oriented toward Christian hope, one that trusts in a God who is alive and able to create beauty from ashes. We will strive to embody this hope in all content, events, and collaborations, in the force of our originality, and in our civic usefulness.
- In Service to Practitioners: Breaking Ground will seek to bridge the worlds of elite thinker and local doer, and will do what it can to make this content accessible and generative to all those seeking to faithfully fulfill their civic roles and vocations in and after this historic juncture.