The church I attend is wanting to get more involved in social justice. We are in the midst of a "Faith Journey" dealing with social justice issues in our community. Last week a speaker came to talk to us about different poverty issues in our area. He has been involved with our community for a long time, and has participated in and formed many groups that help those in need. It was very humbling. He spent some time reading Bible passages, and explaining how important those that are "marginalized" are to Jesus.
He told story after story of people who had gone through hardships. It really reminded me how thankful I should be and it really implored me to think beyond myself. I have to say, due to the changes in some of my thoughts, I found myself thinking beyond what I usually do.
As he was speaking about people working 3 jobs most of their life and not being able to get ahead, disablities, and vicious cycles repeating, it hit me all of a sudden that even in faith arenas we place standards that leave people "outside". Even moreso, than we would like to admit. It's not just about money or charity either.
A couple of things came to mind. We place "expectations" on how people should act in church, what they should know, how they should dress etc. One thing that our speaker mentioned, is that many times those living in poverty don't learn how to interact within social realms well. Another interesting thought that I had was the luxury I have to read books, the Bible, discuss and research faith concepts on the internet, and with those at church that many in this world are not able to do. There are a couple of levels within that, one is certainly financial, but honestly that wasn't the main thought. The main thought that came- many are left "outside" due to the focus on "knowledge and study" as well.
The "world" that I was raised in, "Knowing" your Bible, studying it, etc. so that you could "Know the Truth" was key. If you didn't "Know" certain things you were talked down to, considered a "baby" Christian etc. The problem I have with the link between "knowledge" and "study" and our Faith is that it really leaves it up to smart, intellectual, well studied people to "explain" how following Christ works and the steps we are to take. Don't get me wrong, I think that the Bible is very important. When we link, however, Faith/Salvation to the "right" things, and being able to "decipher" for ourselves, do people get left behind? For me personally, I have spent a small fortune buying books this year; everything from history, theology, faith, etc. trying to sort through "what do I believe, and why?" I even bought another Bible with a different translation, because even though I am fairly intelligent, Bible reading has never been easy for me. I am an at home mom, working from home part time for my church, I have spent hundreds of hours reading and studying this year. I have that luxury, we are able to live off of one salary. Do those living in poverty get that same luxury? I doubt it. More often than not, their situations don't allow for it. The money isn't available, they lack the education, they don't have the time or energy to invest because they are just trying to survive. With that in mind, and knowing how Jesus felt about the poor, why do we still put so much emphasis on knowledge and study of the Bible? Is it just another way we segregate? Do we need to rethink that focus (I know that is already being done), and remember not everyone is able or capable to pursue "Faith" the way we have expected? What do we need to do different to embrace (truly embrace) those that need the love and compassion of not just Jesus, but us? It seems to me, that Jesus never asked a person to follow Him, and then emplored them to get busy reading the Old Testament to acquire the knowledge. He asked us to follow Him, help the poor, the widowed, be kind, love and be a part of His Kingdom. Even for myself, it is so easy to get caught up in the "knowledge/study" realm that we may not be living out the kingdom the way Jesus led us to. Just some thoughts!
Labels: Social Justice, Theology