Have you read “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” I would encourage everyone to read the letter in its entirety, it’s transformative.
I’m in Birmingham because injustice is here.”
He shares his disappointment in the overall silence of the church, fearful of being disturbers of the peace.
I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour.”
Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.”
For the last year, I have been a part of the Be the Bridge community. I highly recommend their resources on racial reconciliation from a Christian perspective.
While in this community in a small group, or through the Facebook forum I am a part of I listen. This is what I hear. Our silence is deafening and painful.
These are difficult times we are a part of. Speaking, standing. No, they are not easy. I feel we have had the luxury of sitting out for too long. People of color have known these truths. The ugly language and ideas that shock our hearts are not new to them. For this, we must lament. We must get up and stand alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Social justice does not need to be political. Social justice is the work of Jesus. Redeeming and reconciling.
No more silence. There is injustice here.
One of my favorite quotes comes from Lupita Nyong’o best-supporting actress win in 2014.
No matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid. Not only dreams but lives.
To God, each life is valid, extraordinary and needful.
Creation Care: Have you ever wondered how climate change actually affects people? Learn about how climate change impacts women and girls on the island of Fiji. Take time to view these stunning photographs of how climate change affects families around the world.
Access to Education: Lal Chandra Pandey started a rebellion to stop child marriage and open up access to education for girls like herself in Nepal.
Refugees: Who loves the Olympics? We sure do! Make sure to keep your eye out for the Refugee Olympic Team. Ten athletes from Sudan, Ethiopia, Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo will be competing to shed a light on the refugee crisis. Click the link above to watch a short video.
Hunger: To combat food waste Walmart announced it will sell ‘damaged’ fruit at a reduced price. Whole Foods has also offered this to some retailer. Walmart recently estimated that U.S. consumers throw away $29 billion worth of edible food each year. Would you eat fruits and vegetable that did not look perfect, but were still healthy?
Sustainability: One the topic of food waste- a great infographic to break it down and give ideas for making a difference. What can your family implement?
Access to Education: Read this article and talk about opportunity gap with your kids.
Homelessness: Look at the photos of the finalists in the Through Our Eyes photography project, giving voice to the homeless through the lens of a camera. What surprised you?
Living Wage: Check out this infographic about affordable housing on minimum wage.
Kindness: The construction worker who hides a life-size Waldo for children at a nearby hospital to spot each day.
Education: #iwishmyteacherknew started as a project in Kyle Swartz’s third grade classroom. Her book by the same title just released and it’s beautiful encouragement, gives voice to our children and hope to all of us to support students and our teachers.
Sometimes silence speaks. Sometimes silence kills.
I’ve been in the position of a congregational justice mobilizer for two years now and if I’ve learned anything, it is that silence plus lies (or the more congenial term “myths”) equals oppression. We all know this simple equation is true but we are strangely drawn to it.
While Martin Luther King sat in a jail in Birmingham, his elders sent him a letter telling him to be quiet and leave the segregation issue to the courts. When AIDS was becoming an epidemic in the 1980s, the stigma was on the victims; discussing how to change the situation was considered akin to condoning sin. Pick a modern issue of injustice and surely you will find groups who, in spite of having the power to be heard, remain silent–maybe because of uncertainty, maybe to stay neutral, maybe to be a good listener, maybe for good or bad intentions. At any rate, where there is injustice, there is silence.
The scenario is as true on a small scale as it is on a large scale. Consider the family with an abusive parent. The child is scolded, “What happens in our house is nobody else’s business.” The spouse defends the abuser to critics, “Well, if our son watched his behavior he wouldn’t have these problems.” The critics say, “Oh, I guess it’s more complicated than I thought.” The abuse continues. The child waits for someone to ride in and speak the truth. The victims of AIDS, preventable famine, changing climate, racism, and needless deportations wait with him.
We celebrate Jesus’ birth into a land of silence and lies. The threat of his voice moved Herod to put an early ransom on his head. This is the brave voice our world needs. Jesus doesn’t fall into the temptation of silence like we do. The spirit of the Lord is on him. He sees through the myths. He is anointed to proclaim good news to the poor.
Of course, Jesus himself was silent from time to time. The most notable occasion, shortly after sharing the last supper bread and wine with his disciples, was remaining speechless before Herod. It was the death of him. A temporary death that resulted in new life.
This would become Jesus’ gift to us. Light shed on a dark scene. If we are victims, he stands with us. If we need certainty mixed with courage to break from the ranks of neutrality, he offers it through the Holy Spirit, his word, and the communion of saints. He is the prince who replaces injustice with peace.
In this new year, what is an opportunity you could take to SPEAK?
Kris Van Engen is the Congregational Justice Mobilizer for the Office of Social Justice and World Renew. He equips people as they act on Jesus’ instructions to be peacemakers, to do justice, and to prevent the root causes of poverty and hunger. You can read his article Social Justice 101 here.
Kris previously worked for 10 years as a pastor and church ministries director. He and his wife Lisa have two children, Ellie and Josiah.