The world as it should be

As Christians we are called to strive for the world as it should be, to build God’s kingdom come. Many people have different opinions about how we should get from the world as it is to the world as it should be. I have a lot of friends who thinkwe need to burn the whole system down, to create a new world from the ashes of the old. I’m sympathetic to this view. I think the world as it should be will be a complete rejection of the world as is. But I also realize that overthrowing the current order is probably too tall a task to ask of those who most want to see it done. Maybe the old order will pass away on its own due to forces beyond our control. We are, after all, barreling towards what seems to be total ecological collapse.

But until that happens, we are forced to work within the confines of the world as it is. That is why I want to devote my professional career to congregational organizing. Congregations have always been a great source of power for movements for social change, from abolition, to women’s suffrage, to the civil rights movement, to environmental justice. I think this is a source of power that has fallen by the wayside as religion has retreated from the public sphere and the American left has dwindled to its most radical elements. Most Americans are not radical though. They can see that the system isn’t working, but they fear radical change more than they fear the status quo.

Those are the people I want to reach, and those are the people who fill the pews of our churches and houses of worship. Christians worship a God who wants us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the prisoner. I think many Christians hunger to do those things but they don’t know how. Or if they do, they perform ministries of mercy, but not justice. They give food to the hungry, when they could be giving them the means to grow their own food. They give clothes to the naked, when they could be helping them get jobs so they can buy their own clothes. There are better ways, to do justice, to love mercy, to walk humbly. We can bring about the world as it should be.

Advertisements

The future

I’m very excited to say that at the conclusion of my YAV year, I will be attending Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, in Evanston, IL. I have the opportunity to be part of Garrett’s first class in their Public Ministry program.

The MA in Public Ministry at is for students who wish to fulfill the command to love God and their neighbors through public advocacy and organizing. It is designed to equip lay leaders for service in community, social, or justice-oriented organizations. Personally, I would like to pursue a career in either environmental or LGBTQ+ advocacy.
I feel called to work for the betterment of our society through the vocation of faith-based nonprofits. I know that my ideas of what justice, kindness, and mercy look like are based in my reading of the Biblical texts, and my reason for pursuing a seminary education is my desire to dig deeper into those texts, to learn about the culture and context that created them, and the institutions that have sustained them over the millennia. I feel that the combination of theological education and organizational leadership training will prepare me to make a difference in the world in a way that is true to my call.

The kids are alright

Where are the young people? That’s the question we’ve been asking at the Center for Interfaith Cooperation recently. In its first five years, the Center has done a great job building relationships with established religious, community, and business leaders in central Indiana. With that accomplished, the next goal is much more difficult. We need to get the people of my generation interested and involved in the work we’re doing.

One of the things I’ve noticed about millenials is that by and large they’re more likely than any other generation to identify as spiritual but not religious. In fact many are wary of, if not hostile towards, organized religion. So how do we reach them to get them involved in interfaith work? One method that has been working for the Center already is service. The Center runs the Immigrant and Refugee Service Corps, which brings AmeriCorps volunteers to serve vulnerable populations in our community, much of which is done by faith groups.

People of my generation have an acute sense of what is wrong in the world and a desire to fix it. We can see that it isn’t right for anyone to go hungry, to live without a home, to die because they can’t afford insulin. What I think many young people don’t realize is that there are many religious groups who want to solve those same problems, and they could accomplish so much more by bringing their energy together with the resources that established religious groups can offer.

Tonight we’re screening a film at Butler University. Most of the audience will probably be students there to get extra credit. I did that plenty when I was in school. Hopefully we can show them what we’re about and get them interested in interfaith work, as long as we have a captive audience.

Dis-Orientation

We are now three days into our week-long orientation, and to be totally honest, I wish I was back home. Not home in Alabama, or home in Ohio, but Indiana, my Indiana. I haven’t even moved into my house yet, and I already consider Indy my home. Outside of places I’ve actually lived, Indianapolis is the city I’ve spent the most time in over the years. I feel like I know the city, and I know the people. I feel anchored there, in a way I really don’t feel here at orientation. I know that what we’re doing here is important, and I know that we’re building community that helps sustain us. But I’m ready to get started. I want to roll up my sleeves and get to work.

We’re headed into the city tomorrow. We’re supposed to learn something from this experience, though I’m not sure what. It seems like all the groups are headed to gentrified or gentrifying neighborhoods. The East Village is our designated spot, and I will admit I’m somewhat excited to maybe catch a glimpse of punk rock history.

We have to be here for such a long time, and our days are so long. I know it’s preparation for our YAV year, but it strikes me as a little more intense than is necessary. Maybe my attitude will change once I get off this campus and into the city. Further updates to come!

Edit: We came back from the city, and I came back with some things to think on. The others in my group all said they felt like they were intruding on a space that didn’t belong to them, when we were walking through primarily non-white neighborhoods and parks. Maybe it’s male privilege, but I’ve never felt like I was unwelcome to exist in a public space. I understand that there are certain places that aren’t for me, but I never considered that those would include city streets and public parks. I certainly don’t feel like those are spaces that belong to me, but I don’t feel guilty about existing in them.

And when we came back to debrief, two of the groups came in bashing Riverside Church. Now Riverside may be affluent, but they’re definitely on the side of the good guys. Riverside has been at the forefront of every major social justice campaign of the past 80 years. They’ve given their platform to Dr. King, Cesar Chavez, Nelson Mandela, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Every social initiative that a church can be involved in, Riverside is there. If you’re looking for enemies, there are plenty of real ones. You don’t have to invent one out of Riverside.