Dream Maker Reviving Peace:
Our Current Reality and The Story of Joseph
Shawnee M. Daniels-Sykes, PhD
Lift up your eyes upon the day breaking for you. Give birth again to the dream. Women, children, and men, take it into the palms of your hands. Mold it into the shape of your most private need. Sculpt it into the image of your most public self. Lift up your hearts, each new hour holds new chances for new beginnings. –Maya Angelou
The current political and governmental realities in the United States of America call for mutual respect, empathy, and confidence between peoples and nations for discernment of and the promotion of peace. We need dream makers and peacemakers to lead us in this pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness. We need models like Joseph of old (Genesis 37-45), Joseph Cardinal Bernardin of Chicago (1928-1996), and many other women and men who set out to revive peace by their example, teaching, and audacious actions for social justice.
The story of Joseph closely parallels the Great Exodus Event, where God instructed (Moses/Aaron) to help free the Israelites in Egypt from dehumanizing and violent enslavement captivity by Pharaoh. In the end, Pharaoh and his armies let the people go to worship God (Exodus 13:17-14:28) . In a similar way, Joseph was freed from captivity too. Although textually and chronically, The Story of Joseph precedes the Exodus Event, their pervasive mystical themes reveal how a God of justice and love speaks to and through the need for human beings to be in right relationships.
Joseph was considered a master dreamer and a peacemaker. Examples of his dreams, shared with his family members, tended to put him in places of power, honor, and authority, above his brothers and problematic for them. Joseph’s dreams were a foreshadowing of his gaining a position of power, honor, and authority in Egypt. The question is was that a power with or power over? Was Joseph to be a peacemaker or a peace-destroyer? How would Joseph revive peace among his brothers given their deep-seated contempt and envy towards him?
Joseph was the highly favored son of his patriarch father Jacob, except for his brother Rueben, his other brothers disliked this so-called unearned privilege bestowed upon Joseph. This favoritism caused his brothers to denigrate, hurt, and threaten to kill Joseph. They conspired against him: stripping and tarnishing his long majestic tunic, throwing him inside a cistern to die, retrieving then selling him to Midian Ishmaelites who took him to Egypt and to Potiphar, a courtier and chief steward of Pharaoh. Given a well-earned ruling position in Egypt, Joseph eventually experienced struggles and sadness, and he yearned for more. It would be years before he would be satisfied with God’s grace to secure and protect the land of Egypt, to provide and take care of his family and their descendants, and to save their human lives as an extraordinary deliverance or liberation. As God has sent Joseph ahead of his brothers and father and family to Egypt, we can see how the master dreamer, Joseph, followed his dreams revealed and crystalized by the Divine who would also revive the promise and gift of peace.
Joseph was a peace-making dreamer used by God for peace, not a threat, not wielding power over others, not keeping some enslaved and others in captivity. Joseph Cardinal Bernardin was also a dream and peacemaker with reconciliation between nations in an age of nuclear proliferation and within the US on the sin of racism, sexual abuse and just sex, and the consistent ethics of life. For Bernardin the continued threats to reality and democracy in the US remain –untold victims of marginalized suffering, murder, suicide, depression, isolated dying, hurt, ashamed, bullied—in need of repair. Even amidst the struggles and debates of today: 1) with the best and most efficient ways to allow health care access to those who are medically uninsured instead causing people to be medical uninsured through Medicaid cuts and drastic changes to the Affordable Care Act, 2) with balancing the national budget on the backs of economically poor people, while allowing tax breaks for the rich, 3) with the right to work for a decent living family wage, 4) with travel bans directed at already vetted refugees and immigrants from seven majority Muslim countries, 5) with the constitutional understanding of an educated citizenry, 6) with the interference of Russians in the USA 2016 elections, 7) with an Executive Order on Religious Liberty that allows for broader exemptions, and 8) with white supremacy, sexism, heterosexism, homophobia, and hate crimes on the rise, God mandates liberation, redemption, and deliverance of all people, revealing to us that all will be well.
Hence, we call on the spirit of Jesus Christ, Susan B. Anthony, Ida B. Wells Barnett, Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Malcom X, Alice Hamilton, Fannie Lou Hamer, Cesar Chavez, Rachel Carson, Bayard Rustin, among many others, to help us, to come to be with us, to intercede for us. We stand on the shoulders of giant dreamers and peacemakers. May their peace and justice be with you!