Category Archives: Justice

Listen

This post is a contribution to the November synchroblog “Calling us out of numbness”  I will post links to the other contributions at the end of this post as they become available.

There is immense silent agony in the world, and the task of man is to be a voice for the plundered poor, to prevent the desecration of the soul and the violation of our dream of honesty. The more deeply immersed I became in the thinking of the prophets, the more powerfully it became clear to me what the lives of the Prophets sought to convey: that morally speaking, there is no limit to the concern one must feel for the suffering of human beings, that indifference to evil is worse than evil itself, that in a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible.  – Abraham Joshua Heschel

I can’t get behind the idea of a modern day prophet that can tell you what is going to happen in the future or even the idea of someone who “received a word” from God that was intended for another.  I guess I would say that I believe that kind of prophesying has ceased.  However, I do believe that there are modern day prophets who are inspired and used by God – sometimes unknowingly.

I believe there are men and women today who speak with prophetic voices, who not only speak for God but for those who are weak and oppressed.  These prophetic voices often speak against those who allow power, wealth, position and even self-righteousness to blind them to doing justice, loving mercy and walking humbly with God.  These men and women appear to be empowered by a vision of how things should be and could be. They won’t settle for the status quo for the sake of conserving tradition, they won’t be silent in order to avoid offending someone, they won’t turn a blind eye to oppression or injustice, they won’t be quiet. And yet, not everyone who speaks out against injustice can be considered a prophet.  A true prophetic voice is one that is not arrogant and takes no joy in being harsh.  They are more likely to feel sad, or even afraid, rather than angry as they stand firm against those who are obstacles to justice and mercy.  Their role as a prophet has no connection to ambition or power.

When we think about prophetic voices, people who have upset the status quo, who have been willing to accept the dangers that come with stirring up the world, we might think of names like John the Baptist, Jesus, Ghandi, Jeremiah and Martin Luther King; but sometimes prophets are found in unlikely places – sometimes a prophetic voice comes from an unlikely person.

I believe that I have heard a prophetic voice from my friend who has a ministry that focuses on building relationships with homeless people, from my son who is a gay Christian, from a participant in the Occupy Wall Street protest, from an atheist and from a whistle blower … and all of that happened fairly recently.

Let the person who has ears listen!

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Here are the links to the other contribution to this month’s synchroblog:

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Step Away From The Keyhole

This post is part of the November Synchroblog, “Seeing Through The Eyes Of The Marginalized”.  A synchroblog is a collection of similar articles or posts made by a diverse group of bloggers who have agreed to blog on the same topic on the same day. You can find a list of all the participants at the end of this post.  If you’re a blogger & want to be part of future synchroblogs, you can join on facebook or go to our new synchroblog site and subscribe.


Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

Being “marginalized” means more than just belonging to a minority. Marginalized people are pushed to the margin because a society refuses to acknowledge their needs, their beliefs, their value, their rights and their concerns.  As a follower of Christ, I want to reach out and help people who are marginalized – I want to be a good ally, who not only empowers marginalized people to believe that they matter and that what they have to offer has value, but also to change society and systems that continue the cycles of marginalization and oppression.  Living that out is hard and even those of us who are sincere and well intentioned are prone to make mistakes.  Here are some things I have been learning as I attempt to become a good ally to some dear friends of mine who often find themselves in the margins.

PRIVILEGE

Someone said, “People who look through keyholes are apt to get the idea that most things are keyhole shaped.”  That is what happens to us.  We see the world through our position of privilege and it robs us of a realistic perspective – we need to step away from the keyhole we have been peering through, throw open the door and walk out into the open. Privilege is the biggest obstacle that an ally of any marginalized person or group has to overcome.  It traps us into mindsets that make it almost impossible for us to understand what it means to be marginalized.  This obstacle can be effectively dealt with and overcome, but many (maybe even most) allies haven’t taken the time to confront their own privilege and the part it plays in the oppression of others.  Most are so accustomed to their privilege that they aren’t even consciously aware of it – white, male, straight, healthy, affluent, employed, included, heard, affirmed – whatever our privilege is, we need to acknowledge it, confront it and learn about how it is part of the problem. Without acknowledging the privilege we hold we cannot truly understand the experience of the marginalized or effectively contribute to their betterment.

HUMILITY

The lack of humility is a definite barrier for those who want to see through the eyes of marginalized people and work for justice.  The more one learns about privilege and oppression the more one will recognize oppressive attitudes and behaviors they have held, how little they know about what it is like to be marginalized, and how many things one has done or said in the past that is now considered to be dreadful … in other words, if you want to see through the eyes of the marginalized, be a good ally and fight for justice get ready to be comfortable with humility.  Becoming a good ally means we have to give up the power that privilege has afforded us and allow humility to create space in us to listen, learn and grow.

INDIVIDUALS

It is easy for us to forget that those who are marginalized and oppressed are individuals with unique stories of their own.  People within a marginalized group have unique and individual needs and concerns.  We need to take the time to build authentic relationships with marginalized people, to listen to their stories, to see them as more than a project or a cause, to connect with them, learn from them and experience day to day life with them.  The only effective way to empower marginalized people to believe they matter and are valuable is through individual interaction.

What help can you offer to those who want to become good allies to people who are marginalized and oppressed?

Here’s a list of all the contributions for this month’s synchroblog:

Kathy Escobar – Sitting At The Rickety-Card-Table-In-The-Family-Room For Thanksgiving Dinner

George at the Love Revolution – The Hierarchy of Dirt

Arthur Stewart – The Bank

Sonnie Swenston – Seeing through the Eyes of the Marginalized

Wendy McCaig – An Empty Chair at the Debate

Ellen Haroutunian – Reading the Bible from the Margins

Christine Sine – Seeing through the Eyes of the Marginalized

Alan Knox – Naming the Marginalized

Margaret Boehlman – Just Out of Sight

Liz Dyer – Step Away from the Keyhole

John O’Keefe – Viewing the World in Different Ways

Steve Hayes – Ministry to Refugees–Synchroblog on Marginalised People

Andries Louw – The South African Squatter Problem

Drew Tatusko – Invisible Margins of a White Male Body

K.W. Leslie – Who’s the Man? We Christians Are

Jacob Boelman – Seeing through the Eyes of the Marginalized

Peter Walker – Through the Eyes of the Marginalized

Cobus van Wyngaard – Addressing the Normalized Position

Tom Smith – Seeing Through the Eyes of the Marginalized

Annie Bullock – Empty Empathy

Christen Hansel – Foreigners and Feasts

Sonja Andrews – On Being Free

Prayer For The Week – Tikkun Olam – The Healing and Transformation of our Planet

Meditation or Prayer Before Going to Vote

by Michael Lerner

Thank You, the Power of Healing and Transformation in the Universe, that Your energy has moved through human beings in the past and inspired them to create democratic institutions that would give me and others this wonderful opportunity to participate in shaping our world. I know that the outcome of this election will have consequences for all six billion people on the planet, and that if democratic norms were to be fully established that they too would be able to participate in shaping the decisions about how the world’s resources should best be used.

So I hereby take it upon myself to vote in a way that is sensitive to the needs of all the people of the planet, not just to those who are blessed to live in the richest and most powerful society. I recognize and affirm the unity of all being, and the interconnectedness and mutual interdependence of all people with each other and with the well-being of the planet itself.

As I approach this holy act, I recommit myself to the message revealed to the prophets and sages of old: that our highest task on earth is to bring more love and kindness, generosity and sanctity into the world, and that to do so we must vigorously pursue a world of justice and peace and avoid violence and hurting others directly or indirectly. May my votes actually contribute to these results.

Please give strength to those for whom I vote. If they are elected, let them actually contribute to achieving a world of greater peace, justice and love. If they are not elected, let my vote be one of the factors that contributes to empowering them to play a positive role in continuing their efforts for peace, justice and love, so that they represent my intentions and so that they do not personally fall back into despair or into personal opportunism and forget that they have the task of vigorously articulating the aspirations of those who were seeking through voting for them to bring more caring and more generosity into the world.

Give me the wisdom to understand those who do not vote in the way that I do. I already know that most people on this planet share with me the desire for a world of peace, justice, loving-kindness and caring. So it is hard for me to understand why they don’t support the candidates who I see representing those values.

Please give me the wisdom to understand the complex psychological, social and political factors that could take fundamentally decent human beings and lead them into paths that may, I believe, lead to a world exactly the opposite of what they really want. And let that understanding empower me to be more compassionate in the way that I think and talk about those with whom I disagree, and more intelligent in finding ways to reach them, speak to their goodness, and bring them through my love and compassion for them to be able to see a better path to achieve the goals that they share with me.

From this point forward, I commit myself to seeing the good in all others, and to finding the decency and generosity in those who disagree with me, and to keep that in front of my consciousness even as I continue to disagree with the paths that they have chosen – and let that understanding give me even greater energy to act for the causes of social justice and peace.

Meanwhile, let me also have compassion for the leaders of movements and candidates for office whom I do support – let me not judge them for their personal failings, for the ways that they are not in their PRIVATE LIVES the fullest possible embodiments of the ideals that they articulate. Yet let me simultaneously have the energy and commitment to hold them accountable in their PUBLIC ACTS to working even harder for social justice and peace and ecological sanity.

I know that my vote is only one little part of the whole, and nevertheless I will not belittle what I am doing today in going to vote. But neither will I use this vote as a way of excusing myself from doing more. I commit myself to putting more of my time and more of my energy and more of my money into activities explicitly aimed at tikkun olam, the healing and transformation of our planet.

Please let me be witness to a dramatic surge of the world’s energies toward love, justice, peace, nonviolence, spiritual awakening, and ecological sanity – quickly and in my lifetime, and let it be so. Amen. Shalom. Salaam.

Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with us!

Rabbi Michael Lerner
Tikkun Community

 

Nobody knows why or how same-sex marriage is harmful.

This post is part of a Synchroblog, where a group of bloggers post on the same topic on the same day, so that people can surf from one to the other and get different views on the same basic topic. You will find links to the other participants at the end of this post.

You hear a lot of people say same-sex marriage would harm “traditional marriage”, is bad for children and damaging to society … but when you press them to give you more specifics, to explain what they base their opinion on, to help you understand how and why … well, the arguments start to fall apart, they tend to get stumped or emotional, or both.

Of course we might be unfair to expect the average person to be able to clearly articulate and argue these points – but surely there are experts that could “expertly argue” how and why same-sex marriage is so harmful … someone that the average person could turn to and learn from. OBVIOUSLY NOT – or at least it didn’t seem to be the case in the recent Prop 8 trial.

Here’s some excerpts from the recent Prop 8 Trial in which the best legal minds, with the best experts at their disposal, were arguing that same-sex marriage is sooooo harmful that it should be illegal ….

MR. COOPER: It’s the state’s purpose that’s important here. And if the state has any conceivable rational purpose, I have to win. Proposition 8 has to be upheld, we believe, under the authorities that control this issue. And so the focus has to be on: what is the state’s purpose?

THE COURT: Well –

MR. COOPER: — restricting marriage to opposite-sex couples. Yeah.

THE COURT: All right. Let me throw in a question here. Assume I agree with you that the state’s interest in marriage is essentially procreative, as you’ve put it.

MR. COOPER: Yes, your Honor.

THE COURT: Assume that I agree with that. How does permitting same-sex marriages impair or adversely affect that interest?

MR. COOPER: Obviously, my submission here to you is rational-basis standard applies. And so, yes, my here are premised upon –

THE COURT: I’ve given you one assumption. Give me one, for purposes of argument. And that is that this is not rational basis review; this is intermediate scrutiny.

MR. COOPER: Well, then, your Honor, I’m going to be coming back to you with arguments.

THE COURT: Now we’re having a dialogue here. Now assume that you have to have established that this is the minimally effective means of imposing this discrimination between same-sex marriages and opposite-sex marriages. So what is the harm to the procreative purpose or function of marriage that you outline of permitting same-sex marriages?

MR. COOPER: Your Honor, even under a compelling-state-interest standard, I would submit to the Court that the state’s interests in channeling procreative activity into enduring relationships would be vital, and would satisfy a compelling-interest standard. And I would also submit to the Court that there would be no reasonable available way for — for that purpose to be fulfilled and advanced, other than the way the state has chosen — every state has chosen, with five exceptions, and California has chosen through Proposition 8. And, your Honor, that gets to the — to the fundamental, I think, theoretical disagreement that I mentioned earlier between the Plaintiffs and the Defendant-Intervenors here. They say that it’s not enough, as you were suggesting here, for opposite-sex unions to further and advance these vital state interests; that we have to prove, in addition to that, that including same-sex unions into the definition of marriage would actually harm those purposes and interests. That is not the Equal Protection construct, your Honor.

THE COURT: I’m asking you to tell me how it would harm opposite-sex marriages.

MR COOPER: All right.

COURT: All right. Let’s play on the same playing field for once. Okay.

MR COOPER: Your Honor, my answer is: I don’t know.

THE COURT: Does that mean — does that mean if this is not determined to be subject to rational basis review, you lose?

MR. COOPER: No, your Honor.

THE COURT: Okay.

MR. COOPER: I don’t believe it — it does.

THE COURT: Just haven’t figured out how you’re going to win on that basis yet?

MR. COOPER: Well, your Honor, by — by saying that the state and its electorate are entitled, when dealing with radical proposals for change, to a bedrock institution such as this to move with incrementally, to move with caution, and to adopt a wait-and-see attitude. Keep in mind, your Honor, this same-sex marriage is a very recent innovation. Its implications of a social and cultural nature, not to mention its impact on marriage over time, can’t possibly be known now.

THE COURT: So this is a political question, and the Court should abstain? Is that it?

MR. COOPER: Well, your Honor, certainly at the root of all our arguments here are that this is a question of social/cultural dimension that the people themselves in this state — and every other — have the authority to answer. So, yes, the Court — the Court should do as the Supreme Court did in the assisted-suicide case, and say that this issue is being debated throughout the land on — in terms of its legality, its morality — its morality, and its practicality in the democratic process. And that’s where it should be, and that’s where it should remain.

MR. COOPER: your Honor, I guess it’s important now to come back to this — to this point about why it’s not necessary for me to prove including same-sex unions in the traditional definition of marriage would actually harm that institution, or harm the vital purposes that that institution –

THE COURT: Well, I understand your answer to that question is you don’t know. You don’t know.

MR. COOPER: No. Well, your Honor, that’s –

THE COURT: It’s a fair answer. If you don’t know, you don’t know; or if you can’t — you can’t say, or it depends on the development of a factual records, well, but –

MR. COOPER: Well, your Honor, it depends on things we can’t know. This is a — this is a — that’s my point.

Mr. Cooper, the expert representing proponents of Prop 8, is stumped. He has no idea what the adverse effects would be.  He’s come to argue a landmark case without being able to articulate how same sex marriage is harmful.

The judge brings up the point later in the proceedings….

THE COURT: What are those potential adverse consequences?

MR. COOPER: Well, your Honor –

THE COURT: Has anybody identified them?

MR. COOPER: There have been some, yes, your Honor. For example, there seems to us to be little doubt that if the plaintiffs prevail here, and the definition of marriage is to be expanded to include same-sex couples, then the existing parallel institution of domestic partnership will also have to be expanded to include opposite-sex couples. And that parallel institution, with all the same benefits, will be available to opposite-sex couples. That’s exactly how things are proceeding in The Netherlands. And in The Netherlands –

THE COURT: What’s the effect of that? Is that harmful?

MR. COOPER: Well, your Honor, there do appear to be a number of adverse social consequences in The Netherlands from this. Domestic partnership is now used, apparently, more by heterosexual couples — opposite-sex couples — than is marriage. So marriage — the effort to channel procreative activity into that institution has abated quite a bit. There’s — there are — there are other socially unfortunate –

THE COURT: But –

MR. COOPER: Whether there’s a causal relationship, your Honor –

THE COURT: Has that been harmful to the society in The Netherlands? Has it been harmful to children? What’s the adverse effect?

MR. COOPER: Well, your Honor, again, I don’t — I don’t have a presentation for you on that; but I do, your Honor, submit that it is not self-evident that there is no chance of any harm. And unless it is, the people of California are entitled not to run the risk. And unless he can prove — Mr. Olson and his colleagues can prove that there is no harm that can possibly come from this, then the people of California are entitled to make the decision that they did.

THE COURT: When do constitutional rights depend upon proof of no harm? Freedom of speech? Freedom of press? Lots of harm flows from those fundamental and basic freedoms of ours — misinformation, incitement to passion, and so forth — but we tolerate those risks in a free society. So when does the application of a constitutional principle require proof that its application will not impose any risk?

Mr. Cooper is actually trying to convince the judge that the opponents of Prop 8 have to prove that same-sex marriages are “not” harmful in order for their constitutional rights to be upheld.  That’s crazy!  (even though there is probably some proof that same-sex marriages aren’t harmful)

Olson, the prosecuting attorney sums up the problem very well:

MR. OLSON: …the reason why they keep coming back to procreation and the raising of children is that that might be a rational basis, but it doesn’t work in terms of excluding individuals who wish to marry someone of the same sex, because procreation doesn’t require marriage, as your question pointed out. Marriage doesn’t yield procreation. Same-sex marriage does not dilute, diminish, inhibit, or deter opposite-sex persons from getting marriage. And the prohibition of same-sex marriage doesn’t mean that individuals who would prefer to be married to someone of the same sex is going to go out and marry someone of the opposite sex, produce children, and raise them in a happy relationship. That blinks reality. All of those arguments that are made about — you asked the point: if you had to prove that there was a harm by allowing same-sex marriages to exist alongside heterosexual marriages, what would that harm be? And I think I heard Mr. Cooper say he didn’t know. Now, he’s spent a lot of time on this case. And I don’t know, either, what the harm could be to heterosexual marriages by allowing same-sex marriage.

It seems the one thing everyone agrees on is … Nobody knows why or how same-sex marriage is harmful.

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Check out all of the October Synchroblog participants:

Kathy Baldock at Canyonwalker Connections – Marriage “I Do” For Who

Dan Brennan at Faith Dance – Sexual Difference, Marriage and Friendship

Steve Hayes at Khanya – Same Sex Marriage Synchroblog

Sonja Andrews at Calacirian – In Defense Of Marriage

John C O’Keefe – Exactly What Is Gay Marriage

Liz Dyer at Grace Rules – Nobody knows why or how same-sex marriage is harmful

Herman Groenewald at Along The Way – Same Sex Debate

Margaret Boelman at Minnowspeaks – What Have We Done

David Henson at unorthodoxology – ban marriage

Erin Word at Mapless – Synchroblog: Legalizing Same Sex Marriage

Joshua Jinno at Antechurch – The Church Is Impotent

Tia Lecorchick at Abandon Image – Conservative Christians and Same Sex Marriage – A Match Made In…America

Kathy Escobar at The Carnival In My Head – It’s Easy To Be Against Equal Rights When We Have Them

Peter Walker at Emerging Christian – Synchroblog – Same Sex Marriage

K. W. Leslie at The Evening of Kent – Mountains, Molehills and Same-Sex Marriage

Three Things Tuesday – Emergents Retreating?, Christian Women Oppressed and the PCUSA 219th GA

#1 – Has What Emerged Retreated?


I ran across an interesting series that Kester Brewin wrote about participants of the Emergent Movement in the UK returning to the institutional church and organizations.  He addresses this topic to some degree in his book  Other: Loving Self, God and Neighbour in a World of Fractures (which I have now ordered and am looking forward to reading).  The series (and the comments) covered a lot of interesting topics including how spiritual maturation takes place (part 2), how institutions can become damaging and what can be done to counteract that (part 3), some  info about Vaux (a community of artists and city-lovers who sought to explore the Christian faith through the media that came naturally to their hands) and Temporary Autonomous Zones (part 4).  Jonny Baker and Andrew Jones both post responses to the series.  Of course the authors are all from Europe which is some years ahead of the US regarding emerging/emergent Christianity, but there are still many similarities.  What do you think?  Is a retreat taking place?  Is it maturation?  Has the institutional church changed?

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#2 – Happy Christian Women…Really??? and Drinking The Company Kool-Aid

Pam Hogeweide and Kathy Escobar have written posts in response to a recent Barna survey of Christian women requested by Jim Henderson of Off The Map for his latest writing project about how the modern American church treats women.  I believe that this is a very important issue and am disappointed that no woman is authoring the book with Jim on this project (Pam addresses this in her post) but do appreciate that Jim is at least asking women (here) to let him know if their experience matches the survey results from Barna (mine don’t and I let him know).  Check it out and let your voice be heard.

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#3 – Good News and Bad News

The good news is that the PCUSA General Assembly voted in favor of lifting the ban of non-celibate gay and lesbian clergy.  The bad news is that they voted to not even hear or discuss the issue of same sex marriage and so it is tabled for two more years.

Soul Force held a demonstration at the proceedings and some were arrested because they refused to leave.  There seemed to be some differing opinions (check out Shuck and Jive post and comments) about Soul Force being there but I appreciated them being there to represent the voice of the oppressed and excluded.

Climate Change – Asking The Right Questions

This post is for Blog Action Day 2009: Climate Change

In 1988 “Beds Are Burning”, Midnight Oil’s infectious rocker, brought the issue of reparations for indigenous peoples to the global spotlight, and now Time For Climate Justice has gathered musicians and movie stars to transform the song into an anthem that demands action for the upcoming climate conference in Copenhagen.

In December of this year, the United Nations will meet to decide on the replacement of the Kyoto protocol, a defining agreement that will determine the future of our planet in the face of the climate crisis. People around the world are dying today as a result of climate change and without our collective action, this will continue. The people who are suffering the most from climate change happen to be those who have done the least to cause it and have the least resources to do anything about it.  In other words, climate change is above all a justice issue.

For example Ally Ouedraogo has been farming his land on the edge of the Sahel in Burkino Faso for two decades, but in recent years climate change has made it much more difficult for him to grow his crops. As the dry seasons in the region have got dryer, the quality of the soil has deteriorated dramatically. It’s a familiar story everywhere for farmers and their communities in the developing world as climate change begins to take a heavy toll.

Scientists predict that at the current rate of carbon emissions tens of millions more people will go hungry in the next couple of decades as agricultural yields diminish across the globe.  And if nothing is done to stem a rise of 2°C in global average temperatures by 2050 they say 250 million more people will be forced to leave their homes, 30 million more people will go hungry as agricultural yields go into recession across the globe, and one to three billion people will suffer acute water shortages.

I hear many Christians asking “should we care about climate change and the environment?”  But I think those are the wrong questions to be asking ourselves.  Instead I think we should be asking “as Christians, should we care about people who are forced to leave their homes, who will go hungry and suffer water shortages due to climate changes that they did not cause and cannot do anything about?”

In other words we should be asking ourselves… “should we care about justice?”

Go here to find steps you can take to limit greenhouse gas emissions

Go here and here to find out how to take political action.

Go here to donate to help those who are suffering the most from climate change.