Posts Tagged ‘social justice’

Church

January 23, 2017

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Choosing Love

August 17, 2010

I find it so easy to hate from a “righteous” place. I’ve done it a lot. I do it still. Just the other morning at 7-11, I felt it looking at a Time Magazine cover photo of a young woman whose nose and ears had been cut off by decree of the Taliban.

I hate the Taliban, what I know of the Taliban at least. When I indulge in my fury, it gives me a little high to feel so strongly about something; then I crash with frustration at the realization that fury alone won’t change anything. Upon hearing about a crime against humanity such as the butchering of the Afghan woman, I feel hate grip my mind, body and heart.

Many people who work to right social injustices find their fuel in anger, yet at what cost and to what end when that anger boils over?

Hate against hate does nothing for the world. Hate doesn’t conquer inequality. Hate won’t change the minds of those I disagree with. Hate will do nothing except burn me from the inside.

Constant rage is not sustainable in a human being. It seems to me that hate-filled bodies are more susceptible to disease of the same “angry” nature. Similarly, I think the degree of fervent hate in the world and our own country is growing to a level that is unsustainable. Just like a 105 degree summer day with 90% humidity is often broken by a massive thunderstorm; at some point, hate will crash.

What will we have left? I imagine the shredded, burned remnants of what it once meant to live in community. Maybe though, after the crash, we’ll be able to start again. If one person can remember what it is to love.

One of my heroes, Morris Dees, founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, knows a lot about hate, having fought legal battles against white supremacist groups for more than 40 years. The SPLC has documented 932 known hate groups currently operating in the United States; 22 of them in Virginia.

I received an email from the SPLC that ends: “People of goodwill can make a difference in the fight to expose organized racism and hate in our country. Remember to be an advocate for justice and speak out against hate wherever and whenever you see it.”

I added my name as a “voice for tolerance” on the SPLC’s “Stand Strong Against Hate” map. What will it do? I think it is a small, public way to speak out for a different world – one moved by care for each other.

Rob Bell writes in Velvet Elvis, “The goal here isn’t simply to not sin. Our purpose is to increase the shalom in this world.” He defines shalom as God’s goodness. I believe that goodness is expressed as love.

A few days ago I lay on the floor under the ceiling fan trying to get cool. My boyfriend was sitting across from me. As he spoke, I wasn’t really paying attention to his words; instead, I was watching the crinkle of his eyes when he smiled and thinking how happy I am with him in my life. Lately, I feel filled with love, and while I feel blessed to experience it, I believe love is also a choice.

I’ve heard many times the expression that “hurt people hurt.” I would reason then that the moment-to-moment choice to fill myself with love or hate has a direct impact on the world and others around me. In the face of so many social issues that get my ire up  (way up!), I pray that I may choose my response carefully lest I add to the problem instead of help to alleviate it.

What’s on your A list?

July 20, 2010

A friend of mine is working towards a joint master’s degree from Duke University’s School of the Environment and Divinity School. It’s exciting to hear about her intention to combine the two fields of study for the good of the planet. Our conversations about all of the theology she is learning are incredibly enlightening and fun. They confirm my desire to work for social justice driven by an ever-unfolding understanding of the responsibility I’ve taken on by being a child of God. She recommended to me – a Bible neophyte – that I read the Old Testament’s Book of Amos for a good dose of social justice.

So I added “Read Amos” to my newly organized to-do list for the weekend. Last week I took a workshop on planning, focus and prioritization, an experience I hope will make me more “efficient and effective” (or at least punctual!) Particularly now that I have a super cute, salmon-pink planner making it all the more fun to get organized! One tip offered was to rank the importance and urgency of daily tasks with an A, B or C. I ranked reading Amos a B since “Pay Bills” was a bit more urgent, if not more important.
 
I wanted to read Amos without looking at the footnotes to see what I could absorb on my own. Luckily, it was pretty easy to get the gist of the following admonition from the Lord:

“I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:21-24)
 
You might recognize that last line from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech. I yearn to hear more of its kind in church, to inspire and embolden us to follow his and others’ examples.

I admit though that I was feeling a bit anti-church this morning after reading about the Vatican’s including the ordination of women in the same “grave delict” category as the sexual abuse of children. If that kind of thinking is Christianity, what am I doing getting dressed up to go be a part of it? I then reminded myself that my church has two ordained women priests! So off I went and asked God to please let me hear something I need to get past my doubt.
 
I walk in and what’s being read aloud? Amos! Now, I don’t believe I’ve ever heard Amos in church. Granted, I’m usually late so I well could have missed it! I couldn’t help but feel that God had asked them to read it just for me, as a way to say, “Yes, you are meant to be here today.”

Adding to the list of grace-filled coincidences of the morning was priest Randy Hollerith’s sermon. In it, he noted how some people rank their to-do lists as A, B or C priorities. Hey! I just learned that little organizational trick in my training! Randy closed by saying, “The demand for justice is God’s ‘A’ priority.”

 
I was glad to be reminded of what needs to be at the top of my to-do list Monday morning. 
 
What’s on yours?