justice = social concern

Lots of things I feel like I need to write about. That’s always the case. It’s how I most accurately process, because the words don’t come out of my mouth right. It really does feel like everyone’s a writer. It feels like they’re all posing. And it really feels like I am because really all I have to my name is a lifetime of teachers telling me I’m really good, and a bachelor’s degree in English. But I don’t have any material to show you right now. I don’t have a record of writing in my spare time. I’m pretty neurotic and kind of the worst and I can’t make myself do things. Stubborn, let’s say.

There is so much going on politically. I do feel like I’m in an echo chamber…though maybe not – it’s just that I’m not in regular contact with people who feel very differently about all that is going on…at least, not the kind of contact that includes talking about politics. It’s difficult.

All of my interactions are fraught with insecurity and the idea that I’m not interesting. I was at a gathering of (really cool) (friendly) (nice) (fun) people from school and some of their spouses. In general it was pretty cool. They don’t really know me, and signs show they’re not trying to. I asked one of them how she was doing and she basically said pretty good and turned the conversation. That’s that. Am I just not interesting to talk to with? No good conversation, no good personality? That’s generally how other people make me feel.

Trump supporters say that his actions targeted at keeping out refugees/immigrants/ANYONE from seven majority-Muslim countries are there to keep out the bad people and let in only the good people. (I know it’s been blocked, but gosh look at what’s happened.) That is completely arbitrary and terrible. It also ignores the FACTS (the actual facts, not the alternative ones) that terrorist attacks in the United States are SO rare, and not perpetrated by people who are in this country as refugees or immigrants. The idea that everyone from seven countries is just “BAD” assumes quite a lot. The idea that there’s not an “extreme vetting” process in existence is ludicrous. It is NOT easy for people to come to this country, as immigrants or refugees. Not to mention…can you IMAGINE walking into a refugee camp? Just visualize for a second. Go to the internet if you need some help. It’s not a mystery what life looks like there. Imagine walking in and telling a family they pose too great a threat to American life to be allowed, and they’re just going to have to make it work somewhere else, like maybe in the camp? Mmm. Yeah. Sounds great. I’m pretty sure that would go fine.

People don’t take the time to imagine what it’s like to be someone else. It’s SO SIMPLE. Like, how many times in life did teachers and parents tell us to imagine ourselves in someone else’s shoes? Did anyone else ever hear that? That’s like…my favorite thing about life. I LIKE imagining other people complexly, as John Green always says.

Recommendation #1: “Dear Hank and John” podcast episode #79: “Tiny Useless Pelvises (That Are Still There)”

I’ve possibly taken in more information than I can process and write about. That is probable, actually. From endless podcasts to unlimited NPR news to class lectures to reading all of the things.

Currently listening to Auld Lang Syne in a coffee shop watching a girl and guy press their palms together in the air in what is maybe a more affectionate version of a high-five. It’s a great song…

One of my classes this semester is called Intercultural City Ministry. It’s somewhere between urban ministry-urban planning-racial reconciliation-ministering to the poor-issues of justice in the city-how does social justice work in/with the church. It’s all the reasons I’m studying in this program. The first day of classes was a Thursday, which is the day this class happens (from 6:15-9:00). The Wednesday night before, our professor emailed us to let us know the class would be meeting at a church on the other side of town from the seminary (about 30 mins.)…probably something everyone should have known several weeks earlier…or at least whenever registration happened. I was pretty upset to find out about the change of location with such short notice because it interfered with all of my plans. Even though it is much closer to my house and allows me to go home in the afternoon, and to have a short drive home when I’ll be tired. In the moment, I was angry.

I made an appointment to talk to an advisor about dropping the class. I strongly considered boycotting on that first night. But I went. I sucked it up and gave it a chance. And I got over my anger pretty much right away. It’s a small class. It’s in a less intimidating room than any place on campus. The content is tailor-made for my heart. The professors are passionate, and they want us to care deeply. I was almost in tears by the time I left, because it was the first time in any class since we’ve been here that I felt the tug in my heart saying, “Yes, this is it.” I was almost in tears when I got home because I realized the devil was all over the place trying to prevent me from going that night, or at all. People have talked about feeling spiritually attacked, and professors remind us of the reality that the enemy does not want us to be studying theology to go out on mission. But I hadn’t felt anything that real or that clear until that night.

We have been reading a book called The Great Reversal, by David O. Moberg, and if I could quote all five chapters I’ve read, I would just do that. Its subtitle is Reconciling Evangelism and Social Concern. It was written in the seventies, but it’s uncannily timely. Moberg speaks to the issue of Christians who want to remain politically uninvolved or “neutral,” which is a ridiculous impossibility. They inevitably get over-involved when it comes to issues they see as particularly moral. All signs point to the reality that once you meet people with an experience different from your own, you will understand something about life that only they can teach you. You will understand the need for things you previously saw as unnecessary or stupid, because you know someone who can’t pull themselves up by their bootstraps, or has tried but because of injustices inherent in the system has been pushed back down.

There are some distinct and tragic divides along essentially conservative/liberal lines. Personal/social. Spiritual/Secular. What have you. “Each group reads different parts of the Bible; when it stumbled into the other’s domain, it provided a different interpretive schema…Christians became either evangelistic or socially involved, not both” (page 34). Evangelicals really do lack social concern – concern for justice, which is ALL OVER the Bible. The whole Bible. The Old Testament law shows us God’s heart for the vulnerable. The New Testament shows Jesus’ radical commitment to the poor. There are people who leave the church because they see it as inward-focused, with justice as an optional ministry. This is incredibly wrong. As our professor put it…people leaving the church because it isn’t concerned about justice is about the same as people leaving the church because it’s not preaching the Bible anymore. People should be leaving the church only if they no longer believe in God.

The last chapter I read was so helpful in articulating so much of why I’m angry with right-wing conservative Christians who so identify when it comes to politics. “Actually it is impossible not to take sides in a democratic society; neutrality supports the side of whoever wins in the struggle for power. Sometimes that side may be consistent with Christian values; more often it will support vested interests sustained by wealth, power, and privileged position. ‘Neutral’ Christians thereby indirectly communicate that they believe those vested interests are morally right in social controversies” (Moberg, 87). “No vote on positive efforts to bring about reforms in society constitutes a ‘No’ vote; no vote on candidates for public office is the equivalent of casting a ballot for the winner, whoever he may be. The aphorism, ‘All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing,’ clearly applies to the question of alleged neutrality on political issues. To be neutral usually is to give one’s support to evil” (88).

I have a lot more processing to do (and more reading!) but when I write my paper on the place of social justice in the church, I’ll put it out here. Right now, just thinking so much and appreciating this book SO much.

And feeling anxious to just write, and I just wrote, and still feeling like it’s not enough. Feeling like I just want a friend who just wants a friend. Who has time and space and not ten thousand other friends and doesn’t care if I’m married and wants to talk about real things. Too much too soon? (lol opposite of too little too late).

ALL over the place, y’all.

Recommendation #2: that book.

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So many things to chase…to write about. There is too much to process, sometimes. I was trying to ease back in to real life and real time, only to get an influx of too much news at once. And that was just in listening to 20 minutes of NPR radio this morning. I found myself becoming angry at the things I was hearing. But did I stop? Nope. I went on to catch up on the NPR Politics Podcast, which actually exists to keep me from participating in the consumption of the 24-hour news cycle by summarizing and quickly analyzing recent events. Except I listened to three of them and was surprised when I started to feel gloomy and desperate.

I watched a series of videos last night. Michelle Obama was standing behind her portrait with Jimmy Fallon as people said thank you to her, and they were overcome when she came out and gave them hugs. Stephen Colbert was giving a monologue making cathartic jokes about crazy things that are way too real these days. Hank Green was talking about the anniversary of 10 years on YouTube – all the channels and causes he has started (*cough*VidCon) or been a part of. I laughed at pictures of George W. Bush struggling with his poncho at the inauguration and ultimately smirking at himself, which was just great. I haven’t been able to watch Obama’s farewell address all the way through (too soon it’s not over it can’t be over), nor have I watched Trump’s inauguration speech. I will definitely watch the former. Mere clips of Trump’s speech have been enough to make my blood feel a little warmer (as in not-blood-boiling-but-not-not-on-its-way).

Recently, I have been surrounding myself with more means of grace. I finally purchased a devotional book for myself to go through each day, because my aspirations to Just Read the Bible and Pray weren’t super effective, and I honestly was feeling empty and dry. Since we have been back in St. Louis, I’ve started doing this almost each day, trying to write my prayers in a loose formula suggested by the author. I’ve found myself able to be honest, so much more honest, not praying in a way that covers all the bases without actually digging in to my heart. This has been changing things already, and I think I knew it would, but it is difficult for me to grab hold of myself and sit me down to do what I need to do.

When we were in Nebraska, a friend of mine told me some about a book she had just read that was impactful and helpful and good, highly recommended. The next day, I got a text from a new friend at our church – the wife of one of the pastors of our church wanted to start a group to read that same book. So I’m sitting here with it, just in the first chapter but looking forward to the process. The quote at the beginning of the first chapter is what I’m talking about: “The kind of life that makes one feel empty and shallow and superficial, that makes one dread to read and dread to think, can’t be good for one, can it? It can’t be the kind of life one was meant to live.” – Willa Cather

I think I’m going to start tutoring with a nonprofit that runs through our church. We have been getting together with friends, and I’ve been pursuing time with individual ladies that I have been wanting to get to know but have been held back by some combination of fear and the thought that it’s not my job to pursue all the relationships I have all the time anymore. But maybe I’m just leaving the place where that feels too exhausting. Things are really lookin’ up…positivity, baby. It’s the time for courage – in my life, and pretty much as a person in this nation that is embarrassed to be a person under this administration.

This is a short just get-it-out-there post, because practice is the name of the game. And the blog, evidently. My 30 minutes to work on this is up, and it’s time for dinner!

Recommendations:
This is George Bush and his poncho.

http://www.npr.org/2017/01/20/510850745/-meme-of-the-week-george-w-bush-battles-poncho-at-inauguration-and-loses

and this is Hank, who is great.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LU4ygz-vTQY