In Thought of the Social Justice Movement

A few days ago Bonnie and I sat in our living room with our coffee in hand as we watched the Inauguration of Barack Obama into the 44th Presidential office. I must admit that even as a Canadian I may not have always agreed with Obama's policies but, my heart leapt at the thought of the American people electing an African American into office for the first time. What a huge step of honesty, integrity, and commitment for the social justice movement which started sixty years ago!

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In the same breath and moment I felt convicted as a follower of Jesus while listening to Rick Warren's Invocation and prayer. I have always been inspired by the stories and lives of people like Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, and Malcolm X. People who stood for social rights, justice, freedom, and the strength of integrity through social integration and diversity. But, here is where my conviction came. Where is our Social Justice Movement today? What are the oppressive natures which create division and segregation within our nation’s society and communities? Who are our leaders in such movements and why do they not stand out as strongly as they once seemed to back in the 50's and 60's?

I'm not trying to say that the Social Justice Movement does not exist today. I still hear echoes from musicians like Lenny Kravitz 's "We're Back in Vietnam" and John Cougar Melloncamp's "Nooses in Tree's" as a symbolism to artistic freedoms along with people like Rick Warren and his wife who take the needs of addressing such issues as AIDS, Abortion, Orphans, Religious Persecution, and Human Trafficking through interviews and articles like that as the one in last February's issue of Reader's Digest. But, are we as individuals willing to still march the streets for such causes? Are we as holistic beings created with spiritual, psychological, and physical integrity free and willing to accept the possibility of imprisonment, oppression, and even death for such radical needs for social transformation?

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I end up asking myself the question, "As a follower of Jesus; what bus am I willing to sit on in the hopes of Jesus showing up?" In part, I think I began trying to answer this question while sitting in an office last Wednesday afternoon with my friends Tim Schmidt and Ron Fraser. Tim who lives with Cerebral Palsy; myself who lives with a spinal cord injury; and Ron who with his brother has been involved with the disabled community for several years began to ask the question of, "What are the ways in which the city of Calgary has reached out to the individuals who face disabilities with the hopes of offering a sense of belonging and support?" Perhaps in a secondary sense we were also asking as individuals who follow Jesus; "In what ways does the Church offer support and belonging to those who face challenges in life?"

AdventureWe spent the next hour and a half mapping out just how we might approach these issues and what our major focuses might be over the coming few months. I'm not sure where this might take us and in truth I am continuing to push myself as to how committed I am and if Jesus might be calling us to something more within this movement. That said I realize that sometimes God takes the momentum of such journeys and catapults them into the stratosphere. Who am I to deny my creator a Lord? Perhaps we just might find ourselves saying, "I have a Dream..."

"When we feel lonely we keep looking for a person or persons who can take our loneliness away. Our lonely hearts cry out, 'Please hold me, touch me, speak to me, pay attention to me.' But soon we discover that the person we expect to take our loneliness away cannot give us what we ask for. Often that person feels oppressed by our demands and runs away, leaving us in despair. As long as we approach another person from our loneliness, no mature human relationship can develop. Clinging to one another in loneliness is suffocating and eventually becomes destructive. For love to be possible we need the courage to create space between us and to trust that this space allows us to dance together."

Henri Nouwen

Thus says the Lord: “Keep justice, and do righteousness, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed. Blessed is the man who does this, and the son of man who holds it fast, who keeps the Sabbath, not profaning it, and keeps his hand from doing any evil.”

Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say, “The Lord will surely separate me from his people”; and let not the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.” For thus says the Lord: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.

“And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant— these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” The Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares, “I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered.”

Isaiah 56:1-8