What I’ve Learned
Today we’re taking a break from our current series, Remember Your Fairy Tales, so I can share a personal note about the current and future plans of Liberatus, and what I’ve learned along the way.
It’s been a year and a half since I left my job on Capitol Hill to launch this project with the vision to bring healing through a deeper knowledge of freedom to American politics. Whether you’re following American politics from the heart of Washington or across the country, it’s obvious to everyone that we need a paradigm shift in the way all Americans think about politics.
To that end, we believe governing well matters more than grasping for power to govern. We believe the ones working in American politics can solve the dysfunction if they are empowered. As followers of Jesus, we believe the paradigm shift extends to the way we think about the intersection of the gospel and politics, because “the gospel and politics” should be overwhelming good news for everyone.
What does that mean specifically for Liberatus?
Liberatus is a weekly journal about bringing Truth and Beauty to American politics, written by people on the inside. You can join the adventure by applying to write, subscribing to the journal, or contributing monthly.
If you’re only looking for an elevator pitch, the two sentences above are it. To continue publishing and grow into phase two of the organization, we need to raise an additional $1,100 in monthly contributions and have ten writers apply for the 2017 writing program by October 30th. You can take action on either of these points using the tabs below. However, if you want to dive into the deep end of what healing means and why Truth and Beauty matter, read on!
WHAT WE DO
We build community. We bring together writers in American politics who are dissatisfied with the way things are, and we give them a creative outlet to voice a call to change. We find those who are working in our broken system who are burned out, or just have something meaningful to say about healing and freedom and empower them to breathe life back into their workplace.
We recharge weekly. The writing community isn’t for the writers alone. We publish their perspective in a weekly journal so others can join us in this adventure too. Our hope is that as we offer deeper perspective on life in politics, anyone who wants to see a better way can come and be restored every week.
We empower leaders. Ultimately, our goal is to empower writers in American politics to lead cultural change through a weekly journal telling the story of healing through freedom.
Our metrics in this work—our definition of success, other than publishing the journal—are the stories of healing we are already seeing (note the quotations above). If you’d like to learn more about seven ways we are pursuing healing, you can read the journal entry titled Heal Holistically.
MOVING INTO PHASE 2
Phase 1 has occurred over the past year and a half. We’ve established the organization and laid the foundation for future growth. In phase 1 our focus has been setting up the journal, publishing weekly, focusing on quality, maintaining relationships with stakeholders who we want to engage at a deeper level down the road, recruiting the first writing team, and establishing a board of directors to guide Liberatus forward.
Although we have produced more creatively than I ever would have thought possible given the extremely limited resources we’ve had available to date, the current series marks the end of phase 1.
In phase 2, in addition to recruiting a writing team for the 2017 program (we need ten writers to apply by October 30th) and continuing to publish weekly, we would like to expand by meeting with our subscribers in community-based small group settings on a monthly basis for the purpose of talking through journal topics and identifying specific life-giving changes we can make to work culture, communication, and personal well-being in politics. Our goal is to have the financial and relational resources necessary to engage in conversations with our subscribers over the next two years culminating in a published white paper outlining these changes in January 2019.
OCTOBER 30TH BENCHMARKS
In order to move into phase two and continue publishing weekly, we’ve identified two major benchmarks the organization must reach by October 30, 2016.
We need 10 writers to apply and commit to writing 5 journal entries each in 2017. Apply Now
We need 12 new monthly donors giving a combined total of roughly $1,100. Contribute Now
The figures below with corresponding descriptions represent the donation amounts we need to continue publishing weekly and move into phase 2:
1. $500 – graphic design and photography
2. $100 – monthly writer lunches
3. $100 – annual writer planning retreat
4. $100 – part-time writer
5. $75 – miscellaneous expenses (PO Box, Email Accounts, Dropbox, Printing, Office Supplies)
6. $50 – 1-1 Coffees with stakeholders
7. $50 – Subscriber Coffees; Facebook Marketing
8. $25 – monthly writer lunches
9. $25 – annual writer planning retreat
10. $25 – 5x5 marketing cards (to be distributed on Capitol Hill)
11. $25 – Squarespace website accounts
12. $10 – book for each writer (examples: Next Generation Leader by Andy Stanley; The Wounded Healer by Henri Nouwen; Things Hidden by Richard Rohr)
If you believe as we do that American politics desperately needs people who will adopt a new way of approaching every political engagement, come join us.
We will not be able to continue this work without your support.
While I’ve truly loved creating Liberatus, the startup has required significant effort and resources. If we are to maintain the creative content of the journal and build the relationships necessary to move into phase two, it will require others to join us in this adventure and to give to make the future of Liberatus possible.
On a personal note to illustrate the real world necessities, I’ve started a part-time job outside of Liberatus to cover personal expenses. This change dramatically cuts the amount of time available to plan for the future, meet with stakeholders, study, and write. The reality of our situation is that if we do not reach the October 30th benchmarks we will not be able to move into phase two. We will not be able to focus additional effort on building our subscriber base organically, and we will not be able to host regular Subscriber Coffees in small-group community settings to outline specific changes for work culture, communication, or personal well-being. Additionally, because of the time required to conceptualize, develop, research, and write each journal series, if we do not reach the benchmarks above we will likely discontinue publishing weekly and scale down to a quarterly journal.
I am very grateful that our donors have given $30,000 to date, and we have established the foundation to build a stable, far-reaching organization in the center of American political culture, but the reality is huge sacrifices have been made to get this far. I will never regret making those sacrifices, but there has to be support for the work if it is to continue. If we do not reach the October 30th benchmarks I will begin looking for full time work outside the organization and make plans to consolidate the activities of Liberatus.
WHAT I’VE LEARNED
Finally, I’ve learned a lot since March 2015, and I wanted to share three notes about this work.
1. The gospel is good news for our work
Growing up, I too often internalized the gospel as bad news. The truth is, if we genuinely experience acceptance and grace, it will radically reshape the way we approach work, and we can find new motivations for work outside of the limiting idols of power and significance.
At our last board meeting, we opened by looking at Acts 8. I truly believe that as we find healing “joy in the city” is possible even inside the U.S. Capitol building.
The reason we’ve started with publishing a journal is that we believe in order to bring healing, we must reset our affections. The journal attempts to help those on the inside achieve this reset. The paradigm shift has already begun. Think about it this way: if I were to ask you to build a wardrobe, you very well might build something that functionally has three sides and doors on the front, in which one could store coats. But what if I asked you to build a gateway into Narnia? Suddenly, the three sides and the door would become so much more than just the sides of a wardrobe. The work and care you would put into crafting it would likely be elevated. Suddenly, the whole endeavor would become not just work but a work of art. The purpose of the inside of the wardrobe would be far greater than a wardrobe could actually contain on its own. So it is with the Kingdom of Heaven, and the work of Liberatus, and our vision for how followers of Jesus can work in politics. The inside is bigger than the outside.
If you believe the ideas of Truth and Beauty are real but need to be defined with greater specificity, first, follow the journal every week. Second, we will outline specific changes for work culture, communication, and personal well-being in phase two. But please recognize that a simple, specific definition of “Truth and Beauty” could never contain the whole—and so we’re not going to try. Truth and Beauty, therefore, are simply there for the pursuing, much like the wardrobe door opened to Lucy Pevensie. What we are begging you to do is step inside the wardrobe and pursue Truth and Beauty with us.
2. Taste fullness now: practice gratitude.
As I noted in this journal entry on homecoming, for many of us who have grown up in church or would consider ourselves “elder brothers”, the posture we must take if we are to come into the feast is trust and gratitude. On that note, I recently was talking with one of our stakeholders about the dysfunction of Congress. This person wisely noted that one of the chief problems is a complete lack of gratitude. It’s overwhelming to think about, but if we focus on what resources we have and what we can build together instead of what we think we deserve or the resources we lack, we can find an internal gratitude that is too often missing in each of our lives.
To be honest, I personally had to face this point even last week in the journal entry on The Voyage of the Dragon Inside. As I re-read The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, I cringed inside every time the dragon side of Eustace Scrubb returned to the scene, because I saw how ungrateful and dragonish I’ve been in my own work in politics. Deep down, I think we all long to be King Edmund, or Queen Lucy, or Prince Caspian, leading a voyage into unchartered waters to the world’s end. Mercifully, the reality is that there’s probably a little bit of both dragon and nobility in each of us.
As last week’s writer noted, we can give up control and let gratitude transform the dragonish places inside us all.
3. We need a much deeper vision for the Kingdom of Heaven.
The truth is, the Kingdom isn’t an anemic half-reality-if-you-choose-to-believe-it bit of nonsense. It is not a place of last resort that we cling to because the world is burning. It is rather a place of rest that we are called to presently enjoy while we work, looking forward in hope.
Deep down, we all long for the perfect leader, for someone to establish justice but love mercy, to set everything right. We long for a leader we can worship.
Followers of Jesus believe that—as a historical fact—he rose from the dead two thousand years ago and is coming back to be that perfect leader, to live with us forever on a restored earth. Look inside your heart and see if that isn’t what your heart’s greatest longing is chasing after.
Longing for Christ’s Kingdom is part of longing for him. The two aren’t separate, and the more we see the Kingdom, the more we are awakened to the abundant life he offers, now and forever.
Consider these words from Charles Spurgeon (We Shall See God, pp. 144-145):
One of the purest and most innocent of joys, apart from spiritual things, in which a man can indulge is a joy in the works of God. I confess I have no sympathy with the good man, who, when he went down the Rhine, dived into the cabin that he might not see the river and the mountains, lest he should be absorbed in them and forget his Savior. I like to see my Savior on the hills and by the shores of the sea. I hear my Father’s voice in the thunder and listen to the whispers of his love in the cadence of the sunlit waves. These are my Father’s works, and therefore I admire them. I seem all the nearer to him when I am among them.
If I were a great artist, I should think it a very small compliment if my son came into my house and said he would not notice the pictures I had painted because he only wanted to think of me. In doing so he would condemn my paintings, for if they were good for anything, he would rejoice to see my hand in them. Oh, but surely everything that comes from the hand of such a master artist as God has something of himself in it! The Lord rejoices in his works. Shouldn’t his people do so? He said of what he had made, “It is very good.” If a man thinks that what God has made is not very good, he cannot be very good himself. In this he contradicts his God. It is a beautiful world we live in.
Great Falls National Park has become a special place of retreat for me in the creation of Liberatus, and last Friday I made the trek there again to begin writing today’s journal. I believe all work in politics can find this rhythm of rest and retreat, that place “where the breath and stillness of Eternity are heavy upon us.”
Being part of a work of healing requires each of us to be challenged in some way, to quit seeing the world through the categories and definitions of success that will pass away, and to journey toward “the naiveté which is the yonder side of sophistication.” We need your help to reach the October 30th benchmarks, but whether we do or do not, the journey continues.
Are you ready to join the adventure?
-Caleb Paxton, Liberatus Founder
WEEKLY ACTION ITEM:
Liberatus is a weekly journal about bringing Truth and Beauty to American politics, written by people on the inside. You can join the adventure by applying to write, subscribing to the journal, or by funding the movement through monthly giving or by making a purchase in our store.