Having said all that, I've been heavy-hearted lately thinking about all the violence and racism and persecution and other ugly things that happen all over the world every single day and, more specifically, about what the hell I'm supposed to do about any of it. Thinking through these kinds of things make you realize that sometimes, in taking hard stands about things that are important to you, you end up picking up a label or two.
Those labels are what I want to talk about today.
1. I am non-resistant. What this means is that I think violence only breeds more violence, and that I believe that non-violent means, including protest and diplomacy and prayer and LOVE, are the right way to address evil. I have learned a lot from Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and many others who promoted non-violent resistance. I especially admire and strive to emulate the teachings of Jesus, and he taught that we are to love our enemies, to bless those who hurt us, and to turn the other cheek. I am anti-gun, anti-war, and pro-life, from womb to tomb. I long to see our weapons beaten into plowshares. (Isaiah 2:4)
2. I am not a Republican or a Democrat; I belong to the Green Party. If you're curious, this is a good summary of what I believe and support politically: CLICK HERE.
3. I am an egalitarian. This means that I believe all people are created equal before God, and I believe that within the Kingdom of God, God gifts and equips as He sees fit, without regard to gender or race. I do not believe in male-headship and I do not believe that patriarchy is God's heart for His people.
4. I am a feminist. This means that I believe women are equal to men and deserve equal rights and opportunities.
5. I am a Jesus follower because I love Jesus and want to follow his teachings, but I don't identify as a Christian because my faith at present looks nothing like Christianity as I understand it. I'm actually having a hard time figuring this one out because I'm finding myself at a place in life where I am having to unlearn a lot of the religious crap I've learned all my life. It's kind of like being re-introduced to someone you think you've known all your life, only to realize most of the stuff you thought you knew about them was not accurate. I believe that faith should be relational, not simply theological. What I mean is, I am less concerned about mentally assenting to all the correct facts and more interested in developing a relationship with my creator that is marked by transformative love.
6. I'm an artist. This means that the way I process the things I encounter in life is to write about them, or to paint about them, or write a song about them, or to find some other creative outlet to help me internalize or understand them. I think this is important because I have run into a lot of conflict over the last couple of years based on things I've written or said. I don't write because I have it all figured out, I write because I am trying to figure it out, and because that is how I learn and explore and process.
I've heard it said that vocation is the place where one's greatest joy meets the world's greatest need. I wonder how this applies to matters of great injustice and, specifically, how all those things I just described about myself factor in to making a difference in this world we live in. I'm still working all that out in a practical sense.
I was in a discussion yesternight on Facebook about Ferguson, and found that several of my friends shared the same frustration of seeing injustice, hatred and racism, of wanting to do more than just see it, and of not knowing what to do about it. We tried brainstorming to come up with some practical ideas, and I thought my friend Tonia came up with the best advice:
"I would start with educating yourself. Reading black and Hispanic writers, blogs, getting your news from multiple view points, that sort of thing. And listen, listen, listen and push yourself to understand the other side. See where your hackles rise and ask yourself what is lurking beneath the surface. (If your hackles don't rise at some point during a discussion about privilege or racism, you're not doing it right.) ~ Commit to speaking out about it. I know my family and friends get tired of me beating the racism drum, but I am committed to not being quiet about it. ~ Study the way racism, poverty and inequality intertwine and start voting and working to eliminate those inequalities. ~ Seek out diversity. This is a hard one for us, because we are in a 90% white town. But I have seriously considered attending the Spanish Catholic service in the neighboring town because that is where our minority groups are. ~ Those are my initial thoughts on it. I bet you do a lot of those things already, but things like Ferguson just help me deepen my commitment to them."Seems like a good start, anyway.
What do YOU think? I'm certainly open to ideas.