Archive for social justice
Some say that we should only be concerned with the proclamation of the Gospel. That we shouldn’t concern ourselves with the community, with justice, with change…. that our task is simply to proclaim, to preach, to change individuals. Maybe it’s a knee jerk response to those believe in a social gospel which may not include proclamation. Maybe it’s because they’re afraid we’ll lose our focus and become nothing more than good people in an evil world. Maybe it’s because they’re afraid, afraid of actually having to take this faith we so value and release it off of the campus. Maybe they just don’t know how to interact with a lost world on the world’s turf. Regardless of the reason I think as we relegate our role as Christians to the singular role of proclamation we lose out on the fullness of the gospel.
Jesus said….”The Lord has put his Spirit in me, because he appointed me to tell the Good News to the poor. He has sent me to tell the captives they are free and to tell the blind that they can see again. God has sent me to free those who have been treated unfairly and to announce the time when the Lord will show his kindness.” Luke 4:18-19, NCV
What if Coldplay’s Chris Martin has a better grasp on part of Jesus mission than we do? Chris uses his global platform to bring awareness to Oxfam and Fair Trade. He wants to see those who are oppressed, treated unfairly receive a decent wage for their product/craft and to see justice for those who have been mistreated for so long. How can we say we follow Christ, that we believe in the Kingdom come and yet live holed-up on our campuses and seminaries without concern or action for those mistreated around the world? We should be leading the way on such issues as fairtrade, human trafficking, orphans and refugees. We complain about the government having to do more, about the prostitutes on our streets, about the kids in foster care and we walk around in our robes of righteousness determined our only role is to tell them about God’s love…..God forbid we leave the temple, get dirt on our robes and show them the very love we long to proclaim.
We live in a hurting, broken world. Instead of retreating into our middle-class, republican, mostly white, puritan like world of piety what if we threw open the doors, rolled up our sleeves and set out to be agents of justice, change and love among our communities. What if we spent more money on the hurting in our community than we do on our buildings, renovations and upgrades? What if we stopped building new temples and built an orphanage on our campus? What if we stopped asking “How do I build my church?” and started asking “How can I love my city, my community, the world around me?” What if we actually cared enough to show God’s love to those we proclaim it to?
A friend paid it forward on my behalf. Thank you Tim! Because of his passion about seeing this injustice addressed, it became more important to me. For that reason, I wanted to share with you WaterForward.
Participating in the public reading of Scripture was her “Christian coming out” party. Using the same language as one would to announce a homosexual lifestyle, a Czech woman was declaring her identity with Christ in a story related by Sasha Flek. This was viewed as a huge announcement that this lady was uttering.
In a culture shaped by the Thirty Year War and the resulting dominance of the Catholic church in what is modern day Czech Republic, the confessions were often not heart-felt. Claiming to be Catholic was necessary to avoid hardship at that time according to Flek.
A few centuries later the people usually decided that claiming to be Communists to an invading power allowed these “supporters” to be able to have better benefits in the area of compensation and benefits. Of course to criticize the party or Communism could merit some away time in an austere environment. With these long-standing oppressions, why would someone choose to go against the grain? Why would someone “confess” to something or someone that would bring difficulty and harm on themselves and their family?
The second annual Easter reading of the Bible that Flek had recently finished translating, provided this lady a good opportunity to declare that she was standing with Christ.
In the U.S., we are all aware that the history is radically different. A church culture in the South meant that large numbers of people went to church and were expected to make known their standing with Christ at some time in their first years in the church. The two histories could not be more different at this point. The two cultural outcomes could not be more polarized.
Exegeting the culture in key areas including the history and resulting values are key to formulating an answer to key question #2: what does the gospel look like in this culture? This is one of many topics we will be exploring during our Friday conversations on Upstream’s JetSet.
With the terrible earthquake, tsunami and now the ongoing aftershocks, many are beginning to look at ways to participate in helping the Japanese people. Praying for them is significant, but our call is one of both prayer for and acts of kindness toward the people as we seek to feed the hungry, cloth the naked or help in whatever way is needed.
While there are a number of good organizations out there providing humanitarian relief, I thought I would mention one in particular as many are not aware of the group. BGR is Baptist Global Response. While their logo may need some work, the good that they do is noteworthy and something in which others may want to participate. If your family or your church are looking for credible organizations that get donations to areas of need and provide avenues for people to lend a helping hand, this is definitely one worth considering. I know several of their board members and leaders and can vouch that these are solid guys.
Chaos is the order of the day. The unfolding events in Egypt over the past several days are compelling. With young and old standing up to say enough to the current regime calling for the president and his cronies to go while the government supporters have a seemingly endless supply of Molotov cocktails to hurl at the revolutionaries. Lives are at risk in the here and now. Future imprisonment for crimes against the people are a tangible risk for whichever side loses this battle.
This morning as our family read part of the story in Genesis, I was reminded of Joseph’s appointment to second in command in the land of Egypt. Here was a humble leader filled with integrity and a deft administrator who led people through enormous prosperity and then hardship. Through his leadership, the people of Egypt and the surrounding area were ultimately able to survive what should have been a devastating drought.
Contrasted with the story of Joseph, a recent rise in food prices along with decades of frustration have proved sufficient for an uprising. Today, the visual image of the outcome of me-oriented leadership is visible through global media. The revolutionaries are calling for and modeling a stark contrast (see above pic).
Some years ago I traveled a number of states routinely for work reasons. During these travels, one of the darkest cities I visited was Bryan, TX. What I saw of Bryan was a bunch of businesses that had been shuttered and the few that remained were primarily fast-food chains and seedy looking motels. After noticing such a stark contrast in the town I did a bit of investigative driving to see what else I might find on the main streets there. This led me to a high school that had a full-time police presence (this stood in stark contrast with many other Texas schools that may have a police presence for directing traffic at the beginning and end of the day. Close to the school was a large Planned Parenthood center and an abortion clinic.
I don’t presume to know the history of Bryan and whether a spiritual darkness led to leaving visible signs of distress in the city or if the distress in the community led toward spiritual darkness. Regardless, the signs of dysfunction were jarring for me.
A couple of weeks ago I met Karen Hall, the president of CTOMA (Central Texas Orphan Mission Alliance), a faith-based charity which exists to provide medical care for orphans, humanitarian aid, and other assistance for children in other countries and also in the United States. Recently CTOMA purchased part of the space adjoining Planned Parenthood’s facility where they will open the CTOMA charity offices (upstairs in private office space) and provide a community health, screening clinic in this location (downstairs). This will enable them to offer a real choice for women that are seriously considering having an abortion. Their offices are scheduled to open in January 2011. Thankfully, all building costs have already been covered!
Now CTOMA is in need of a 3D ultrasound to make this work possible, and funding to employ an RN sonographer to keep the free clinic open at least 5 days a week. They are committed to finding volunteer sonographers for the other day (possibly Saturdays) when Planned Parenthood decides to offer their services on weekends.
“So we really wish to do the best job possible, providing many services for the women and men. There should be no reason they would consider abortion when they can be helped by Christians whose only agenda is to be of help to them and their child. If you can possibly assist us in raising these funds, it will have an eternal impact and change many lives for Christ. Abortion clinics have closed due to the presence of free ultrasounds next door. The statistics show that 90% of women will not abort when shown an ultrasound of their baby.”
Please help! Go to CTOMA’s site and help make a difference to impact the lives of many and help advance a process of transformation in Bryan.
This past weekend I happened to catch part of 60 minutes. The piece I saw was heavy and difficult. It was the story about a city and a few lives. Scott Pelley relays the story of the 99ers. A story about one city and a few lives. A story that is representative of many cities and many people throughout the US. This story is and will continue to be with us for some time. Church leaders must be aware of what is happening…
There are additional 60 Minutes stories on those facing the completion of their 99 weeks of benefits. These other stories give up close looks at a struggling family and the difficult circumstances with which the mayor of San Jose, CA wrestles.
Along this theme are four recent posts sharing about the challenges we are facing and some recommended responses for the church.
Pure religion is practical, straightforward and non-negotiable–care for orphans and widows. James records these instructions as the clear outcome of what it looks like for believers to combine faith and action. Anything less than practically meeting the needs of the needy is simply an exercise in worthless religion. Not taking action is a sure way to fool ourselves into thinking our religion has meaning and purpose. But….
But we are to make a difference. We are not to be served, but to serve. We are to give our lives as a living sacrifice. We are to feed those that are hungry and clothe those that are naked. We are to care for orphans and widows.
Toward this end, I am happy to introduce and shamelessly promote theworldwouldnotice.com. These guys are encouraging the church to make a difference in the lives of orphans–all of the orphans in the state of Florida and beyond. Their challenge is this: For every one church, let there be 1 less child that needs a home.
Advocating that we impact the world together, the site founders promote the idea for every church to have multiple families that rally around one adopting family to be their support network and community to love and embrace a new member of the family. As a result, the church living in obedience will impact so many as they experience and live out the love of Christ. And one more thing…if done on a large scale, the world would notice that something unique and good is happening among these people seeking to obey their God.
From time to time I post original writings of guests from around the world. In this post, a lover of Jesus, poverty advocate and devoted believer in social justice for the world shares some of her experience in identifying with the impoverished in America.
How can we truly be Jesus’ hands and feet to the poor? What does it look like to truly serve the marginalized, oppressed and lost? Like many of you, I want to make a difference in this world so I went searching for a job with meaning after graduation. I enrolled in a volunteer corps program for one year where I worked at a local non-profit. In my particular program, I received a small stipend that was the equivalent to what a single person in poverty would make. This was the challenge: could I live like a person in poverty lived? Could I survive on $26.00 a day?
The answer is no. If it weren’t for my gracious parents, savings and a lot of free church meals, I wouldn’t have made it. Yet I learned an incredible amount in that year and I began to see a glimpse of what poverty truly looks like from the inside out. I didn’t just read about it, I lived it.
Part of my experience included applying for food stamps. I wanted to better understand the system and personally go through the process, not to mention I was hungry. I never imagined that it would be so difficult. It took a total of four months to receive my benefits.
My breaking point came when I visited the food stamp office for the fourth time. I asked the clerk why I had not received my EBT card in the mail and she informed me that I had been denied. At that moment, I started crying and yelled at her, “You’re telling me that even though I make less than $800 a month, I can’t get on food stamps!?”
It wasn’t my proudest moment, but it was a life changing one. I was frustrated that I would have to reapply for the second time. But even more so, I was heartbroken for my brothers and sisters, neighbors and friends who would never be able to get on food stamps even though they desperately needed them. I watched a system that was designed to help the poor, fail them.
I don’t claim to understand what it truly feels like to be in poverty nor do I claim to understand the agony of going to bed hungry, but from this experience I have come to better understand the challenges the poor face on a daily basis. More importantly, it got me thinking about how I could be an advocate on their behalf as a believer in Christ and a proponent of social justice.
Food security and hunger are growing concerns across the United States. It is no surprise that only 65% of Alabamians who are eligible for food stamps receive them according to the USDA. Additionally, food stamps only provide $3 per person per day for a family of four. That’s simply not enough.
We then must ask ourselves: What is the responsibility of the Church? What role do we have to play? It is time to rethink how we do ministry and find more effective ways to defend the weak and fatherless and uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed (Psalm 82:3.)