Dreaming Together: Dealing with Conflict, Finding Belonging, and Doing Justice with Rev. Dr. Alexia Salvatierra

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Episode Summary

“If your community is not well, then you are not well.” Rev. Dr. Alexia Salvatierra (Fuller Theological Seminary) is an organizer, activist, and pastor whose career has shown how individual thriving is intertwined with collective justice. With respect for marvelous human complexity, she’s encouraging us to get out of our heads and into our bodies and emotions… and is inviting us to compassion for the marginalized, and to ground our spiritual health in our connectedness to the human family, across cultural and economic lines.

Show Notes

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  "What does a healthy community look like? This beautiful image of being unafraid, of everybody having what they need, of everybody having the opportunity to reach their dreams, everybody being able to take care of themselves and not having it taken away from them—all of those are part of the vision of a good life. It's not just an individual good life, it's a communal good life.  Concertación, if you were just literally translate it, means 'coming into harmony' and the way that it works in our communities is to hear somebody else with your heart. You hear them from the heart. And when you hear them from the heart, you spontaneously shift. You are automatically standing on common sacred ground and you just shift generously." (Alexia Salvatierra) Wellbeing begins with we. “If your community is not well, then you are not well.” Thriving is collective. But our atomic individualism and narrow focus on ourselves is constantly pulling us away from the mutual belonging, reciprocity, and vibrant flourishing that can only be found by seeking the good of the wider human community—the neighbor, the stranger, the migrant, the farm worker, and the poor. Rev. Dr. Alexia Salvatierra is a scholar, organizer, activist, and pastor, and is Academic Dean of the Centro Latino as well as the Assistant Professor of Integral Mission and Global Transformation at Fuller Theological Seminary. She offers a healing message for those who wrestle with the pain and suffering caused by structural and systemic injustice, calling for listening, empathy, and action. Alexia’s faith is rooted in community and kinship. She affirms the wisdom of the body and cautions against over-intellectualization, offering instead a larger emotional vocabulary, emotional attunement, and the ability to hold and live with complex feelings. The power of community is on display in our ability to celebrate and suffer together. And in Alexia’s work as an activist, she shows how fractured communities can reconcile through the power of a shared dream.

In this conversation with Alexia Salvatierra, we discuss:

  • The unique wisdom that Latin- a/o culture brings to spiritual and theological conversations about thriving and spiritual health
  • The complex, communal, and collective nature of thriving
  • How her theology as a Lutheran pastor was formed by compassion and concern for the poor
  • The challenge of Western Christians to see beyond individualistic rationality and the atomic unit of the self when thinking about wellness and thriving
  • The transformative potential of a common dream to unify and reconcile
  • The power of beautiful stories that are deeply connected to truth and goodness
  • Seeing relationships as not just an end goal of thriving, but a means to thriving.

About Rev. Dr. Alexia Salvatierra

Rev. Dr. Alexia Salvatierra is the Academic Dean of the Centro Latino at Fuller Theological Seminary, as well as the Assistant Professor of Integral Mission and Global Transformation. Her work is a beautiful mosaic of immigration reform, faith-rooted organizing, cross-cultural ministry, and building vital holistic Christian community. Throughout her career, she’s played a central role in founding and convening communities for social justice, including the New Sanctuary Movement, the Guardian angels Project. Matteo 25 a bipartisan Christian network to protect and defend families facing deportation, the Evangelical Immigration Table, and the Ecumenical Collaboration for Asylum-Seekers. She is co-author of God's Resistance: Mobilizing Faith to Defend Immigrants and Buried Seeds: Learning from the Vibrant Resiliency of Marginalized Christian Communities.

Show Notes

  • Explore Alexia’s work in God's Resistance: Mobilizing Faith to Defend Immigrants and Buried Seeds: Learning from the Vibrant Resiliency of Marginalized Christian Communities.
  • “If your community is not well, then you are not well.”
  • Pam King introduces Alexia Salvatierra
  • Mision Integral and Liberation Theology
  • Alexia Salvatierra answers, “What is thriving?”
  • Bien estar—”wellbeing”
  • Isaiah 65:17-25: “For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice for ever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress. No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime; for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth, and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed. They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labour in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord—and their descendants as well. Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpent—its food shall be dust! They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord.”
  • The sounds of healthy community
  • Equal value
  • We all want to belong
  • Frederick Buechner: “Vocation is where the world's deep hunger and our own deep gladness meet.”
  • Trauma and faith, agency to combat hopelessness
  • Spiritual gift of justice
  • Dolorismo: ennobling suffering, suffering in silence
  • Orthopathos: when suffering can be useful to make a change
  • “The Holy Spirit is your consolation, your consuelo.”
  • Surfing the Spirit: Fluidity and dynamic balance
  • Serenity Prayer
  • “I don’t make the collective an idol.”
  • The importance of freedom, while critiquing “super-individualism”
  • Discern in the context of community
  • Individual discernment
  • Liberation theology: “You learn by doing.”
  • Meditative Prayer Practice: The Serenity Prayer (In English and Spanish)
  • Civil War in Guatemala and Panama
  • Dr. Oscar Arias of Costa Rica—informal peace process behind the scenes
  • The Dream Exercise and Concertación (”coming into harmony”)
  • The difference between concertación and negotiation
  • “It’s about generosity.”
  • Generosity vs dividing up the check
  • Dream Exercise
  • “As poor people, we have trouble believing that our dreams can come true, period.”
  • Eli Finkel’s All-or-Nothing Marriage: How the Best Marriages Work
  • Social capital and trust
  • Jesuits in Asia
  • Enculturation: Encountering the truth (and each other) at the intersections of culture
  • Orthopoesis and beauty
  • Knowing God through beauty, not just truth or goodness
  • “De Colores”—the joy of all the colors
  • Adrienne Marie Brown and Community Social Transformation
  • Peter Heltzel and “revolutionary friendships”
  • “We’re a very graceless society. A society at war is a graceless society.”
  • Reconciliation: Navajo on opponents instead of enemies, and South Africa
  • Hoyt Axton’s “Less Than The Song” (1973)—”I cannot rest easy until all your dreams are real.”
  • The co-evolutionary relationship
  • “Seeing the wholeness of the other” in concertación
  • Loving the child in the other; calling the best forth in each other.
  • Truth, Beauty, and Goodness
  • Pam King’s key takeaways:
  • If your community is not well, then you are not well. Thriving is collective.
  • We all have a core psychological drive to belong and be received and contribute in our families and communities.
  • Caring for our emotional brains and bodies is essential in seeking collective thriving.
  • Thriving involves a necessary commitment to justice, and is beautifully captured by terms like shalom and concertación.
  • The Christian tradition of compassion and concern for the marginalized can pull us out of our heads, out of our tunnel vision, and move us toward the transformation of society.
  • Communicating a common dream or shared vision can help us move from an atomic individualistic mentality to loving community and reconciliation.

About the Thrive Center

About Dr. Pam King

Dr. Pam King is Executive Director the Thrive Center and is Peter L. Benson Professor of Applied Developmental Science at Fuller School of Psychology & Marriage and Family Therapy.  Follow her @drpamking.

About With & For

  • Host: Pam King
  • Senior Director and Producer: Jill Westbrook
  • Operations Manager: Lauren Kim
  • Social Media Graphic Designer: Wren Juergensen
  • Consulting Producer: Evan Rosa
Special thanks to the team at Fuller Studio and the Fuller School of Psychology & Marriage and Family Therapy.


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