stolen words

April 26, 2010 at 1:15 pm (Things I want to see changed) (, , , , , , )

This is cheating isn’t it? Not my own words, but there is something tearing at me, something that must start to be written and worked out and shared and grappled with. This is that start. I’ll be writing more on social justice and creativity and strategy in the next few weeks and sometimes I will repeat myself, because I’m working it all out too.

Quote from Jim Wallis’ response to Glenn Beck’s attack on social justice

“But we do say that while social justice begins with our own lives, choices, and sacrifices, it doesn’t end there. Those of us who have actually done this work for years all understand that you can’t just pull the bodies out of the river, and not send somebody upstream to see what or who is throwing them in. Serving the poor is a fundamental spiritual requirement of faith, but challenging the conditions that create poverty in the first place is also part of biblical social justice. In countering Beck’s misunderstanding of social justice on The Colbert Report, James Martin, an editor of the Jesuit America magazine, quoted a Catholic Archbishop as saying, “When I feed the poor they call me a saint; but when I ask why people are poor they call me a communist.” He suggested Beck has that problem.

Private charity, which Beck and I are both for, wasn’t enough to end the slave trade in Great Britain, end legal racial segregation in America, or end apartheid in South Africa. That took vital movements of faith which understood the connection between personal compassion and social justice. Those are the movements that have inspired me and shaped my life — not BIG GOVERNMENT. And my allies in faith-based social justice movements have wonderfully different views on the role of government — some bigger than mine and some smaller than mine — but we all believe social justice requires changing both personal choices and unjust structures. Apparently Beck thinks social justice ends with private charity, but very few churches in the nation would agree with him.

Listen to what we teach: you start by practicing social justice in your own life, then you act for social justice in your family, your congregation, your community, in the most local way possible. The Catholics call that “subsidiarity” — look it up. And you only work to change government when you can’t accomplish things on a smaller scale. Churches were the very best in responding to Katrina, for example, but churches can’t build levees. And Glenn, voluntary church action can’t provide health care for millions who don’t have it, or fix broken urban school systems, or provide jobs at fair wages, or protect our kids from toxic air, water, and toys, or fix a broken immigration system that is grinding up our vulnerable families, or keep banks from cheating our people. All that requires commitments to holding governments accountable to social justice, and advocating for better public policies.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jim-wallis/what-glenn-beck-doesnt-un_b_511362.html

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creativity

April 26, 2010 at 1:13 pm (Things I want to see changed) (, , , , , , , )

“The bottom line is that to turn information into strategic action, we need people/groups who are ready to take responsibility for what happens at teh intergroup level of mission, a level at which we can talk beyond reacting to needs and focus on teh factors that create and maintain those needs. It takes a system to intentionally transform a system, and I beleive that is what the church is for 🙂 ”

I have been grappling with the micro/macro split in the church’s approach to social problems and social justice. On the one hand we tend towards taking the moral highground on many issues and become known more for what we are against than for what we are for. So we vehemently oppose prostitution and abortion and gays etc. But we very rarely have viable solutions to the ’problems’ we so readily identify. As a result, the church often ends up taking the back-seat to international aid organisations, government and ’secular’ civil society groups.

On the other hand, where we do attempt reconciliation and to rectify social issues, we often limit our effectiveness by haphazard (albeit well-meaning) and often naive responses. As noted above, we often fail to do our research and find out what is really going on and what the issues at stake are. We go in with small-scale micro-level programmes attacking the symptoms, but very rarely having any effect on the causes and the macro-level systems which are causing, for example, gross human rights violations (human trafficking), HIV/AIDS, poverty, and gender inequality. We are very effective at changing individuals, but less skilled at transforming peoples, groups, societies and culture.We do need to start talking beyond “reacting to needs and focus on the factors that create and maintain those needs…that is what the church is for .”

As an example, South Africa is currently caught in a national debate around the decriminalisation of prostitution. For the most part (and I stand to be corrected), Christian response to this issue has been in the form of well-intentioned letters to the editor or the Commission, or to government, lobbying for prostitution to remain illegal. I too, vehemently oppose the legalisation of prostitution. But in our vociferous responses, and through a severe lack of information and understanding, the church in South Africa has come across as callous and unconcerned. In reality, prostitution in South Africa is very often a series of gross human rights violations (and again, situations do vary so this is a generalisation but highlights some of the issues at stake). Women, often struggling to support families in a context of severe poverty, are raped by clients, picked up by police and raped, locked up in jail overnight and raped, and in the morning released for the process to start again. They have no recourse to the law or any protection. Instead of providing alternative and creative solutions and ’strategies’ to impact this state of affairs, the church has often taken the moral highground in condemning the symptom rather than addressing the system.

I passionately desire to see us step into the FULL CREATIVITY of our Creator God! I desire for strategies that blow the world away. I desire to see the church at the forefront of creative strategy and engagement with the concerns of society. We have a God who is more than able to provide solutions that fly in the face of conventional wisdom, and which transform society, people groups and culture. How to tap into that creativity and those strategies is the question…

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