Archive for the ‘Justice’ Category

Despite Gains, Women Are Still Exploited

September 9, 2015

Laws and opportunities for women have greatly improved over the course of my adult life in North America and Western Europe. As a group, they are treated better by the law and business.

They do remain virtually or actually enslaved in much of the world. At least three speakers on the TED Talks circuit have pointed out one of the major problems still facing the world is treatment of women. Some identify the situation as a major drag on economies. Jimmy Carter called it the biggest problme not discussed.

This is even among people who consider themselves Christ followers. And sometimes even women themselves are talked into excepting (and promoting) the concept that the Bible says that they are second-class church citizens incapable of participating in church leadership.

Much worse than exclusion from church leadership is the reality of human trafficking–recruiting women by one means or another into sex trade basically enslaving them in a life centered on entertaining the pleasures of men.

A group of people have begun organizing a coalition in our county to raise awareness of human trafficking occurring even in our rural area–probably due to the busy Interstate highway and heavy truck traffic. Only a few men have attended the meetings. I’m the only representative of a church.

One of my small groups is studying the gospel of John. A close reading of the last few chapters shows how important women were in the inner circle of Jesus’ followers. Even if some want to continue mis-reading Paul, Jesus message is unmistakable. 

The remarkable part of the stories recorded in the gospels and Acts is simply the fact that they were recorded at all. Given the culture of first century Mediterranian peoples, giving leading roles to women in some of the stories was actually revolutionary at the time. 

There are so many problems. We can’t solve all at once. But things begin by changing hearts. You do that one heart at a time. You meet someone in an abusive situation, you try to help strengthen the heart to leave the situation. Offering support–emotionally, financially, spiritually. 

And we need to change the hearts of men to overcome whatever basic drives and emotions compel them to be the reason for the problem in the first place.

As a friend of mine said, we can do all manner of things, but unless we work on changing the hearts of people, nothing will change.

Labor Day Weekend

September 4, 2015

“14 From the fruit of the mouth one is filled with good things,and manual labor has its reward.” — Proverbs 12:14

Today kicks off Labor Day weekend in the US. It’s the traditional end of summer and beginning of fall. Although around here students have been back in school for almost two weeks.

It’s the last of the “summer fun” days. Boating, camping, and other recreational pursuits.

We very little recognize the labor movement to which this day owes its name. I’m always amazed at how the labor movement–the quest for justice for laboring people from their masters–began with violence, came to some power, then fizzled all in less than a century.

Many gains were made for justice, though. Company owners mostly cannot treat their workers like slaves. That was the case in many industrial and mining areas at the beginning of the 20th Century.

The laws of supply and demand, the workers own political preference for politicians on social issues over economic issues, and maybe even technology weakened the movement.

I know too many “social Darwinists” who look down on working people as sub-human species. As the Proverb says, manual labor has its reward. I have no less respect for the person who makes my car, fixes my plumbing, or builds a house than I do for high-flying  wealthy sales people or corporate managers. In fact, I often find higher ethics among the former than the latter.

When we as humans learn to treat everyone with respect regardless of their talents or economic position, we will begin to adopt the lifestyle that Jesus preached. Justice over power. Respect for God’s creatures.

Go out and enjoy the weekend–even if you don’t live here. 

July 4, Read The Constitution, And Read Romans 13

July 6, 2015

We just completed the holiday where Americans celebrate the birth of the nation. In some ways it is a strange celebration. Many people celebrate patriotism to the country at the same time that they continue to act rebelliously toward the government. I guess that’s just people.

My typical recommendation, especially for Americans, is to take a few minutes to actually read the US Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Many people talk like they know these, but they certainly don’t. I’d also recommend reading The Federalist Papers. Really smart people wrote those.

But then there are Paul’s thoughts on government.

Romans 13 has been one of the most difficult passages for me to comprehend. My formative years involved the injustices perpetrated by our various governments toward black people and other minorities. Then add getting involved in reckless adventurism of foreign wars, and I was not a proponent of the goodness of government.

My attitude was, and remains, peace and justice. And our governments in the 50s and 60s did not practice that.

But Paul wrote that we must be subject to governments. He firmly believed that governments were ordained by God to provide law and order to society. He himself proudly proclaimed his Roman citizenship as well as his citizenship in God’s kingdom.

I find it interesting that, given his Jewish background, he never advocated that the church also serve as the government. He seemed to be comfortable living in the various tensions of the day—Christ-follower, subject to government, living in a multi-cultural environment.

Governments do have a role. While thinking about this post I happened skim the Wall Street Journal. There is the crisis in Greece where a government has promised much and now does not have the money to pay for it. Huge debt in Puerto Rico. The Dominican Republic government figuring out how to deal with its Haitian neighbors who sought refuge there. Middle Eastern governments dealing with extremists. Eastern European governments dealing with Russia. Southeast Asia governments dealing with China.

There are people who think all these problems are easy, but they are not. And we need our governments to sort things out.

People such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses sect see government as idolatry. But they must have missed the first part of Romans 13.

Christ-followers have an obligation to obey the governments who are performing their God-ordained function. Of course, tyrannies, corruption, injustice, evil are not to be tolerated. In which case it is our obligation to work for peace and justice for all.

Where There Is Hatred, Let Me Sow Love

June 22, 2015

Make me a channel of your peace…where there is hatred let me sow love… –prayer of St. Francis

Sometimes it seems we are living in the old Wild West. Everybody is carrying weapons. It feels as if violence exists everywhere.

Part of the reason is that we get news from all over the world, now. Once news was mostly local with a smattering of regional, national, and international news. TV now brings us, indeed floods us, with instantaneous news produced and directed for maximum emotional impact.

Still, how could a young man sit in a Bible study for an hour with a peaceful group of spiritual seekers, then coolly pull out a handgun and kill nine people. A quote I saw had him saying that they were such nice people he almost hated to do it.

All because they were born with a different color skin than his.

Yes, there is evil in the world. I had a deeply spiritual conversation with a friend a couple of weeks ago who denied the existence of evil. But, it exists. Where else would someone learn to hate?

I had hoped that the civil rights work of the 60s would have yielded much more progress. I went to graduate school in the south in the early 70s. My Southern classmates all thought that with the new generation racial relations would be improved.

Overall, we treat people of other races, religions, and nationalities much better than we used to.

When it comes to healing the hearts of humans, though, sometimes it looks as if we’ve made no progress from the earliest times written in the Bible.

But we have. Despite all the fear-mongers and incessant media attention we are much safer in much of the world than we used to be. There are substantial places where peace needs to come.

Mostly we need to work and pray to heal people’s hearts.

Don’t Turn a Spiritual Problem into a Political One

December 2, 2014

My heart continues to break over the fallout of the Ferguson, MO events.

One thing that really affects me is the number of posts on Facebook from my “Christian friends” that perpetuate a meme making the situation a political one. It goes something like this, “If you are a true Conservative, then you will back the police officer. Only the nasty liberals back the black man.”

The situation is far more complex than that.

Sunday I worshipped at Willow Creek Community church. Senior Pastor Bill Hybels read a carefully composed statement about the situation. He noted that there are stories. These stories may not contain all the facts of the situation (many of which may never be known). But the stories are different for each of the actors in the drama.

He was correct. People tend to believe a story. Trouble is, there are usually many stories. Each person believes his or her own story.

It takes vast amounts of courage to step back and look at other people’s stories. See how they believe them. And then start the work of reconciliation of the various stories into a common one.

That is part of the work of the Spirit. Politics only constructs sides to an issue so that everyone can complain about the other. The Spirit draws together so that one side of the many can begin to at least see the other sides. And then see that they need not be enemies. They could be co-workers for good and growth in the community.

Those of us who want to politicize the issue should just stay out of it. If you don’t have a solution, you’re part of the problem.

For those of us far away, prayer is a powerful part of the solution.

Take That First Step in Faith

November 26, 2014

“My child, if you accept my words
and treasure up my commandments within you,
2 making your ear attentive to wisdom
and inclining your heart to understanding;
3 if you indeed cry out for insight,
and raise your voice for understanding;
4 if you seek it like silver,
and search for it as for hidden treasures—
5 then you will understand the fear of the LORD
and find the knowledge of God.”

Proverbs 2

The situation in Ferguson, MO keeps invading my consciousness, picks at it like a sore you just can’t keep from touching. It is a tragedy on so many levels. There is no obvious quick solution.

On the one hand, we can’t have mob justice and survive in a country based on rule of law. On the other hand, when there is such little respect for the authority of those entrusted to uphold the law, then where is justice?

I came of moral age in an era in the US of police brutality that was either outrightly condoned or at least hidden. And especially toward black and poor. In my all-white community of 1,000, I don’t know why I developed a deep sense of the need for justice for black people. I never had talked to any non-white person until I was 17. But, that’s where I am. So, I have deep empathy for the community—not for violence which is something I abhor—but for injustice.

The distrust on both sides in that community is so high, it will take a very strong person of faith and integrity to break that cycle. And it won’t happen in a short period of time.

Wisdom, the writer of Proverbs, pleads for a heart of understanding. If you seek it, then you will understand the fear of the Lord, she says.

Bill Hybels, founder and sr. pastor of the Willow Creek Community Church, recently talked about how the Bible teaches us to have faith that we’ll get help along the way—you have to take the first step in faith, then God will help. We need those people that step out in faith. Ferguson needs someone to rise up from its community to step out in faith to start a healing.

That brings us to another question. Where do we need to take the first step in faith to bring healing to a situation? Are we seeking Wisdom to guide us toward understanding? It’s a challenge.