In a small farming town in western India, a group of women are working to roll back injustices in their community.
Shanti is joined by ten women in a savings group. They have elected her president and have been together as a group for over two years. During that time, they have helped one another financially. As they've saved together, their shared bank account has grown from very little to over $500 today. They've helped each other start and grow small businesses. They've helped one another with medical fees and school bills. The group even made Shanti an $80 loan to help her start a grocery store.
But more valuable than loans or savings accounts was the newfound power this group of women had together. In their village, "society's look toward woman is very backward," Shanti lamented.
Many of the women in her group experienced this backwardness. When they gathered together each week in a local church, they shared their stories—their joys and pains. Several women in the group shared that their husbands regularly would abuse them physically.
"I always felt that as a single person," Shanti said, "I wouldn't be able to accomplish anything. But as a group, we can do a lot. So that's what I did. I mobilized our whole group to get involved and make use of our unity."
When one woman shared she had been abused, the whole group would go and name the offense and confront the abuser, warning him that they would call the police if it happened again. The results are encouraging.
"The community has realized our unity and the power in it," said Shanti. "It's changed our whole outlook on life. It's given us confidence that we can do anything as a united group."
Shanti's group hasn't stopped at confronting domestic abuse. They've chased out a bootlegger in their community. They've pressured a local councilwoman to make good on her promise to clean up the sewer system. And they are keeping their sights set how they can together make their community better.
These women created power they did not have on their own. This group practiced a sort of "Beautiful Orthodoxy"—a powerful phrase coined by my friends at Christianity Today.
Beautiful Orthodoxy captures what I love about CT. It's one of these two-word statements that hold each other in perfect harmony. I think about Jesus' approach to ministry, a tender and beautiful balance of love, grace, and justice, which in many ways is reflected in Beautiful Orthodoxy too. It's not ugly orthodoxy, where we can readily call to mind the many ways the church has held to its orthodox in mean-spirited or ugly ways. On the flip side, there are situations where there is beauty which lacks orthodoxy: love without justice, grace without justice, and that itself doesn't hold water. CT isn't unique because it does really heartwarming stories, but it's the organization's coherent moral and spiritual framework that draws people in. Even if individuals disagree with CT's orthodoxy, they can engage with it because they know where it stands—and that's really compelling.
The words "beautiful" and "orthodoxy" are perhaps a counterintuitive pairing. Holding truth and kindness in tension with one another is terribly difficult. But it's also the most powerful. It's what I have witnessed with the group of women in India. Their message is orthodox. They spoke truth to abusive power. Such an approach affirms what is right and exposes what is wrong. And, the ways these women have communicated this truth is beautiful. They made their statement in solidarity. In unity. A posture modeled first in the Trinity and again and again throughout scripture. It's lessons like this that show us the power and potential of people who embody Beautiful Orthodoxy and organizations like Christianity Today that champion it.
Chris Horst is vice president of development at microfinance nonprofit Hope International.