Wes and I are taking a small group of high school students on a mission trip this summer. We are being very intentional about equipping them to really understand the poverty in our world, by having them meet once a week as a group, read assigned readings and write reflections and participate in team building activities (I'm in charge of that part). It has been a surprising journey...these kids are really exceeding my expectations!
We recently read a chapter called "Social Action" from the book "Adventures in Missing the Point" by Brian Mclaren and Tony Campolo, and since adult chaperons are required to do all the work the kids are, I've decided to blog my answers to the discussion questions at the end of the chapter.
1. How have you been involved in social action?
Wes and I recently took our young adult bible study group to Forest Home for their conference. The guest speaker was Tony's son, Bart (And boy did we enjoy him!). He spoke often of the difference between "social action/justice" and "compassion. He gave a great analogy to help us understand.
You are standing by a river and you start to see babies floating down the river. You rush to them, pulling as many as you can out of the water and tend to them. THIS IS COMPASSION. Social justice then is the act of waking up the river and finding out who is throwing babies in the river and stopping them.
And we need both. We need compassionate people, and we need people committed to social action. The closest I've come to social justice, in my mind, is through supporting a company I've blog about here before: Anti-Body. They realized that the system of trading in the world was messed up. So they fixed it. They stopped the cycle by only supporting and buying from small local co-ops in third world counties. But even further justice might be to go even higher in political situations to fight for the rights on those people as a whole. I'm good at compassion...I like that one...social action is hard. And scary.
2. what do you think about partnership between government and religion?
I think it's tricky! I think money can be used for good...but when a religious organization relies heavily on government funding, the thought of losing it can be more important that the work you set out to do. I found this to be true for heavily funded government organization I worked for a couple years ago. It seemed like keeping up with government standards was more important than children and families. They were so paranoid about losing the money that they sacrificed quality care. I think religious organizations have the potential to fall into that money trap and lose the real meaning of why the were there in the first place. (This of course isn't to say that ALL religious organizations with government funding are bad/money driven...but there is only one King in the Kingdom of Heaven that has manifested itself on this earth, and it is not the government).
3. What place should questions about why the poor are poor have in the conversation within Christian communities?
I think it should take place everywhere until it doesn't need to be said anymore because people are actually talking to the poor.....what I mean is...talking about it is the first step, and I think it should really be talked about seriously in the Church. We are the body of Christ, we are the Kingdom come, and we need to KNOW THE POOR. I always tell the kids that you'll call them hobos until you actually know them...then you'll call them Chuck or Annie, or Bill. You'll know why the poor are poor when you start asking them. And I'm not all that great at this yet! I'm still working on knowing their names...
4. To what forms of social action, if any, might God be calling you?
Ahhhh good question. This is hard, since I feel like more of a compassion kinda girl...(cop out? I dunno, maybe...) I think the things I get most "angry" about are a good place to start. Like child rights/labor issues, and paying fair wages to workers around the world.