Social Justice

February 22, 2011

from Cardus, as part of a series of short pieces on social justice:

Sandra McCracken writes:

Conversation is a form of activism.
—Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, Caring For Words in a Culture of Lies

Social action begins with conversation. Action comes out of the words we speak with our family.

Should I yell at my son to convince him to obey? Or could I appeal to him more creatively?
Should I make time to ask about the needs of my neighbour? Or just stay inside?
Who is my sister in Africa? Am I using my resources to bring awareness to her needs?

On a good day, I battle my ego. My constant inward gaze has caused spiritual cataracts that impair my ability to seek out love in action and conversation. It is easy to fight for my own rights. It’s not so easy to fight for somebody else’s.

My husband and I moved from the suburbs into the city in 2005, chasing down this idea of what it is to love your neighbour. One practical way I have found to combat self-protection is to get out there and mix up my “rights” with someone else’s. To care about sidewalks and housing codes for the poor is to live among the poor, so that those sidewalks and housing codes become mine.

As a follower of Jesus, social justice is something I am called to do perfectly. I fail. But Jesus has accomplished social justice on my behalf. This reality, like a new birth, liberates me to engage with my neighbours in mercy and humility. In the words of John Bunyan,

Run and work, the law demands,
but gives me neither feet nor hands.
A better song the Gospel sings:
it bids me fly, and gives me wings.

In word, song, and deed, may the Gospel elevate our conversation.

There’re no simple answers when it comes to Grail, not even to the simple question, “How did the Grail come into your life?” So I’m going to approach it from a few angles. Read the rest of this entry »

We are all waiting, Lord. Read the rest of this entry »

Orphans of God

September 1, 2010

I will rise from my bed
with a question again Read the rest of this entry »

the Tug of War Tour

February 19, 2010

When I was teaching high school, there were one or two times when I said to myself, “OK, this gig is rough, but I do get to rub shoulders with young genius. Take this kid here – I should keep an eye on this kid, because someday her name will be in lights and for once I’ll be ahead of the zeitgeist.” Well, it wasn’t so much a matter of discovery, of painstakingly searching out the diamond in the rough, but of paying some very basic attention. When the kid came along, it really did not require subtle perceptions on my part to know she was going to make a splash. Her name was Tahani Salah, and she was a politically-vibrant, down-to-earth Palestinian-American Muslim slam poet. She had the way with words, but she also had the winsome combination of a profound vulnerability with an urban toughness, and for a WASPy Masshole from Naw-wood like myself, the combination of the hijab and the Brooklyn accent was irresistibly exotic.

Anyway, keeping her on my radar really paid off the other night, when I visited the Nuyorican Poets Cafe for the first time, trudging through LES snow, to catch Tahani in the Tug of War Tour. Read the rest of this entry »

beg for help

April 21, 2009

Today I was listening to the Brian Lehrer show, and heard a brief, throwaway comment that seemed to me to be terribly revealing.

Food stamps were the topic. For his last question, Lehrer asked Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, “Is one of the biggest hurdles… this stigma that won’t allow somebody to even allow themself to get on food stamps?”

Berg said, “Absolutely. New Yorkers are more willing to beg for help from their neighbors than to get help from their rich Uncle Sam, and that is absolutely the reverse of how it should be.”

I’m not trying to bust on Berg, who was told. “You’ve only got 20 seconds!” – it would be shocking if I could come up with anything intelligent to say about anything in 20 seconds – but it’s precisely the offhandedness of the comment that makes me marvel. How can it be that clear to him that a government safety net is not merely necessary (something I would not dispute) but preferable? I would just like to ask him: is it really better to rely on the government rather than your neighbors?