Home » Social Justice (Page 3)
Category Archives: Social Justice
“God invites us to be co-creators, to help transform our world and bring about new life.”
–The Reverend Mary Luck Stanley
As a world, we are suffering in many ways: a plane crashed in France, killing more than a hundred people; war continues to rage in the Middle East; Ebola continues to take lives in Liberia; women across the globe are still treated as second-class citizens (and often much worse); our prisons continue to fill and fill with more people each day; people all over the world still face prejudice for their skin color, religion, sexual orientation, and any other differences one can find to hold against them—but these are not the entirety of our world. These do not have to define our world.
Nothing is fixed.
It’s the desire to celebrate this fact—Nothing is fixed; everything can change; everything can be reimagined—that always excites me about the Easter holiday. Easter speaks directly to the author and artist in me as a time to recognize the radical transformation that’s possible in all of us. As a professional writer, there are few things I find more inspiring or important than this: that the radical transformation of our world is possible, no matter how engrained or “natural” our current systems and oppressive forces may seem.
And it’s for this same reason that I’ve always been particularly drawn to science fiction as both a reader and writer. Science fiction is unique among all genres because it’s dedicated not to the imagining of different worlds and systems, but to the reimagining of our current ones. It’s a genre focused on remembering that the power of transformation and change rests with us of the here and now, that these dreams are real and that nothing is fixed. Homophobia? Prisons? Racism? Sexism? Nothing is fixed. We have the tools, ability, and imagination to see these evils ended.
And isn’t this Christ’s Easter example to us?—to radically transform the world through love. To reimagine our world as run by the rules of love.
As renowned science fiction author Ursula K. Le Guin said in her acceptance speech as Medalist for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters (2014 National Book Awards ceremony):
“Hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of [people] who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope. We’ll need [people] who can remember freedom – poets, visionaries – realists of a larger reality.”
The celebration, possibility, and truth of this “larger reality” is a major part of what Easter has come to mean for me—to remember that I live in a world where a man rose from the dead, where a man was willing to suffer anything to pursue a better world for us all, and that we also have this power to drive change and pursue worlds that don’t yet exist, worlds that others may call impossible. We have the ability to be Realists of a Larger Reality.
“When we free our imaginations, we question everything. We recognize none of this is fixed, everything is stardust, and we have the strength to cast it however we will.” (emphasis added)
Nothing is fixed. The stone was rolled away from Christ’s tomb, and we have the power still to roll all the other stones away.
*In Le Guin’s above quote, I changed the word “writers” to “people,” as indicated by the [brackets].
The modern Valentine’s Day is often a time for exchanging love notes, candies, flowers, and other such romantic tokens. The history of St. Valentine, however, tells a slightly different story—one filled with a variety of myths, rumor, and much heartbreak. Some stories claim that the man who would be St. Valentine was a priest who sought to marry young couples in order to bring them to Christianity and more in line with the Christian traditions of the time. Other stories claim that a 3rd century (A.D.) Roman emperor attempted to “ban marriage among young people, believing that unmarried soldiers fought better than married soldiers,” only to have his edict challenged by a (soon to be martyred) Christian priest (HuffPo, 2/14/14). The truth, however, is lost in the mire of legend.
Today, we celebrate Valentine’s Day for entirely different (and usually secular) reasons. Unfortunately, though, we continue to greet the holiday under laws that still prohibit many of our neighbors from enjoying the sacrament of marriage. While the landscape in the U.S. is steadily improving for gay couples looking to say “I Do,” there are still many prejudices and obstacles that stand against them, and still many countries around the world where being gay is not simply a barrier to marriage, but is considered an offense punishable by exile and imprisonment.
Even in the U.S., however, the Episcopal Church remains sadly unique in its level of acceptance, celebration, and inclusion of the LGBTQ community. Old St. Paul’s, itself, has already conducted two same-sex marriages since it became legalized in the State of Maryland. According to The Episcopal Church.org,
“In 1976, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church declared that ‘homosexual persons are children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church’ (1976-A069). Since then, faithful Episcopalians have been working toward a greater understanding and radical inclusion of all of God’s children.
… In 2003, the first openly gay bishop was consecrated; in 2009, General Convention resolved that God’s call is open to all; and in 2012, a provisional rite of blessing for same-gender relationships was authorized, and discrimination against transgender persons in the ordination process was officially prohibited.”
This Valentine’s Day, don’t simply celebrate the love you share with your family and significant other—celebrate how far we’ve come as a Church and as a country when it comes to accepting and respecting the love of others, and keep up the fight for a more just and Godly world wherein none of God’s children need fear or hide their love.
For several weeks this winter, our Old St. Paul’s front sign read: Black Lives Matter. In our Sunday forums, we often discuss not only issues of equality in relation to race, but also to gender and sexual orientation as well. (In fact, one of the first forums I attended at Old St. Paul’s was on feminism and the Church, led by Youth Minister Jessica Sexton.) Right now, our vestry is working to get a new ramp installed to enhance ease of accessibility to the church building, showcasing our commitment to also reach out to people regardless of ability or disability. What’s more, Old St. Paul’s continues to actively look for new ways to strengthen and reach out to the fullness of its community, both in and outside of the Church (hence, the number of forums now dedicated to addressing social justice issues).
As a feminist, as someone who spent part of her childhood as a P.K. (a preacher’s kid), who has family members of different races and sexual orientations, who’s lived through a parents’ divorce, who acknowledges evolution and climate change, and who’s had close family members suffer everything from severe illness to death to imprisonment, I have experienced some of the best and worst of church communities. Old St. Paul’s, however, has proven to be nothing but supportive, open-minded, and welcoming—a place dedicated to not only being a true and constructive member of its colorful community, but to encouraging this kind of belonging and community within others.
As a Christian, I have learned that, if you want to consider yourself as belonging to a community or family—whether it’s as an American, Christian, sister, friend, etc.—then you can’t simply come to the parties and celebrate the community’s accomplishments. You have to be there to help shoulder the burdens, pains, and debts of your community as well. At Old St. Paul’s, I’ve been blessed to see just this kind of belonging and community exemplified week after week in both its clergy and laypeople.
My husband and I have attended Old St. Paul’s for just over a year, and we’ve now decided to be officially confirmed this upcoming March. As my confirmation date approaches, I find myself filled with joy, gratefulness, and a renewed sense of belonging. I believe I have found a place where I know I’ll have friends when I need them, and where I will always be honored and glad to extend my hand when called upon.
For more conversation regarding Community and belonging, be sure to check out The Rev. Mary Stanley’s recent post, “The Cost of Community.”