SIXTY-FOUR

I WAS THINKING, which is always a dangerous proposition for me, but I was thinking about Roger Williams.  He's the guy that got kicked out of the Massechusets Bay Colony because he expressed divergent ideas.  He didn't seem to think it was cool to treat Native Americans unfairly, and also thought that slavery was bad.  So, they kicked him to the curb because of his crazy, new and radical ideas.  They said he wouldn't listen to reason or settle down.  Man, can I realate.

When I was in the 7th grade, I wrote a book report about Amy Carmichael.  She went to India and devoted her life to rescuing girls from being slaves in the Hindu temples.  This was back in the 1800s.  I thought she was pretty awesome, and really appreciated her devotion.  I figured the teachers at my private Christian school would think she was awesome too - after all she was a missionary.  "Great report,"  They told me.  "But try and pick a mainstream hero next time.  Some of her views are slightly different than ours, and you really want to be careful what you expose yourself to."  It was at this point that I quietly tucked my copy of a biography about Ghandi into my backpack.  I guess studying nonviolent protests are out -- I mean Ghandi's views on the eternal DEFINITELY diverged from what I was taught at school.

This, of course, is my constant struggle -- I am a naturally curious person who wants to learn about ideas and I am also a person of faith.  I find it ridiculously ironic that it was Christian teachers who discouraged my spiritual curiosity.  It seemed that I was always being told what to read and what was safe, and what was right.  I got into a big scuffle once when I dared to ask why certain books were left out of the Bible, and why was King James so great anyway?

And all of this has come to surface lately in the oddest of places;  social justice.  It seems odd to me that the very people who teach love and forgiveness, don't want to get involved in social justice.  Jesus, himself, was involved in social justice -- He's the guy who tore up the temple market place because instead of being a place where people could worship together, it had become a place where the poor were being abused.  The world around Him ignored the poor, the socially unacceptable, and the ill, and He was always sitting down and eating with them.  

"We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal."  

That was written a very long time ago, and we've yet to make good on that promise.  We didn't really mean it back when we wrote it -- Thomas Jefferson and his buddies were all slave owners, and we didn't even mean it when the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.  We've got a history of keeping out all kinds of folks: women, foreigners, slaves, and "deviants".

Now some would argue that all of that is behind us now.  We live in modern times, and NO ONE really discriminates any more.  We accept all.  I would argue that those words still haven't been fulfilled. We still live in a society that does NOT deem all men equal.   We still live in a society where it is socially acceptable to look down on the poor.  We still live in a society where it is acceptable that some neighborhoods and some schools are falling down.  We still live in a society where people glance at those around them and say things like, "Well, THEY did such and such,"  or "THEY need to do so and so."  The very use of the word THEY indicates that not all men are created equal.

Someone told me once, a pastor actually, that it was not our job to solve the problem of the poor because Jesus himself said, "The poor will always be with us."  He also pointed out that our true home wasn't this world and this earth.  And here is where I really see my faith-filled friends disconnecting themselves from their own country.  There are many who don't get involved, don't stand up to injustice, or even vote because "this world isn't my real home."  Or other faith-filled people wrap themselves in the American flag and claim their rights to this Christian Nation - with a heavy emphasis on Christian and while ignoring the fact that a significant portion of our Nation is hurt and struggling.  They would rather rage endlessly about an NFL football players method of protest than actually examine what he is protesting.  

The established church isn't any more fond of radicals than the Massachusetts Bay Colony was. Those who are burdened by the issue of social justice are often labeled "radicals" who have mixed up their faith and their politics.  The church doesn't often involve themselves in protest or rallies -- but they often do talk about "those poor misguided folks who are protesting.  We need to pray for them and pray for peace for our Nation."  We do need to pray for peace for our Nation, but we need to do more than that.  We need to listen.  We need to listen to ideas and thoughts that are different from our own. We need to hear what the broken are saying.  We need to listen, not to respond with arguments, but we need to listen so that they can be heard.  We need to lay down our rulers, and measuring sticks, and instead of judging how people protest, we need to look at why people protest.  We need to delve into areas that make us feel uncomfortable, and cause to reconsider what we thought to be true.  

And the people on the front lines should be the ones who carry that book that says, "Love your neighbor as yourself."  It isn't politics; it's faith, but that is the kind of radical idea that can get you sent to Rhode Island.
--JEN