empowerment

Baloncici / Shutterstock

Baloncini / Shutterstock

RECENTLY, THE CATHOLIC CHURCH moved toward beatifying Archbishop Óscar Romero, who was martyred while presiding at a Mass in El Salvador in 1980. Romero preached that, for the love of God, soldiers and paramilitary forces must stop murdering their brothers and sisters—and he paid with his life. Many have since honored his witness during El Salvador’s civil war as “a voice for the voiceless.” Without a doubt, more of us should take on that mantle.

And yet. Sometimes we are notcalled to be a voice for the voiceless. Sometimes we are called to listen carefully and discover the voices in our midst. Sometimes we are called to consider whether weare the ones preventing voices from being heard.

We are almost 25 years beyond the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and while access is still not all it should be, we need to move beyond the wheelchair ramp. We need to listen to those living with disabilities—as fully human, as fallen and holy, as friends of Christ, as people with abilities, as disciples on the Way.

What is disability? This simple question is not easily answered. There are people living with impairments, a loss of expected physiological form or function. A person missing a leg. A person whose optic nerve did not develop correctly. A person who has sustained a brain injury. The disability refers to the consequences of an impairment: loss of walking, blindness, memory issues. Handicap, in turn, refers to the societal disadvantage resulting from an impairment.

But when talking to people living with disabilities, those clear-cut categories become muddy. Some embrace the term “disability” as a simple aspect of who they are, a way of describing their lives and advocating for societal change. Others reject the term, saying they perceive no negative consequences from their impairments, only positives. Others fear the term and simply do not use it.

Lani Prunés 02-05-2015

4 Questions for Anastasia Uglova

Lani Prunés 01-18-2015

Human trafficking is an overwhelming and complicated issue. 

(Actually the root causes of human trafficking are complex. But there’s nothing complicated about treating people like people, not property).

Yet, how can those with little time to volunteer or a burgeoning desire to make some kind of difference do so?

Support socially responsible businesses! Here are five groups dedicated to helping sell the products of at-risk women and girls, as well as trafficking survivors—supplying them with work and the means to provide for their families.

Engage in smarter buying—invest in women, in their work, and in their futures.

Casey Fleming 01-05-2015

A pregnant feminist reflects on the need for good male mentors in a society loaded with damaging masculine norms. 

Brian E. Konkol 08-11-2014
Dennis Cox / Shutterstock.com

Dennis Cox / Shutterstock.com

When I ask people to describe a typical “missionary,” the usual response includes that of a young man with black pants and a white collared shirt (with a name tag attached) that knocks on doors, or perhaps an evangelical preacher who stands on (and shouts from) street corners, or possibly one who travels the far ends of the earth to help the poor and plant new churches. But just because some are more vocal and visible than others, such missionaries should not be acknowledged as the totality of all that exists, because:

All people in all places are missionaries, for all people in all places participate within a particular mission in some shape or form. Missionaries are as diverse as the human community itself.

While most missionaries do not self-define as such, the world is filled with them, many of whom serve with a high degree of commitment and faithfulness. For instance, if a missionary is – by definition – one who participates within a particular mission, then those who consume Coca-Cola are not merely consumers, but they are – by definition – missionaries of the Coca-Cola brand and its corporate mission. Similarly, there are countless political missionaries in all corners of the globe. As election cycles draw close, such missionaries multiply in mass numbers, and their energetic zeal often rivals – and sometimes far exceeds – the determination of many religious clergy labeled as extreme.

The world consists of countless missions and innumerable missionaries. As stated from the onset, all people in all places are missionaries, so not only should we hesitate to assume we know what a “typical missionary” is, we should also attempt to distinguish who a Christian missionary is to be within the context of countless other (complementary and competing) missions and missionaries. So what follows is a brief reflection on what the focus of God’s mission might be, and an exploration of how Christian missionaries may be able to function as a result.

Lynne Hybels 08-05-2014

Lynne Hybels, center, with Syrian refugees and staff at the Za'atari U.N. camp. (Photo by Christine Anderson.)

The Za'atari refugee camp is the fourth largest city in Jordan.

Diet and fitness bundle, Mariusz Szczygiel / Shutterstock.com

Diet and fitness bundle, Mariusz Szczygiel / Shutterstock.com

A post making the Facebook rounds claims that “a mix of honey and cinnamon cures most diseases.” Mix honey and cinnamon together and your arthritis pain will vanish, your lost hearing will be restored, the flu virus ravaging your body will be killed, and your eczema and ringworm will disappear!

I know I should ignore this stuff. But I can’t. Every outrageous health claim I come across online (and there are many) cuts me to the quick, because of what they say about me as a person with a disability, and about us as God’s beloved creatures.

The Internet fosters a populist environment in which regular folks’ life wisdom, assumed to be more valuable than professional or conventional wisdom, is rarely questioned, despite obvious logical fallacies. For example, while many foods, including honey and cinnamon, indeed have therapeutic potential for reducing inflammation and boosting immunity, that’s a far cry from curing arthritis or hearing loss. Yet people click and share, apparently without pausing to consider how outlandish it is to claim that two common foods can cure — not ameliorate, but cure — a long list of health problems that have affected people for all of human history.

Catherine Woodiwiss 05-28-2013
Photo courtesy BEELDPHOTO / shutterstock.com

A figure walks towards the light. Photo courtesy BEELDPHOTO / shutterstock.com

Though the church remains stuck in a culture of silence on sexual abuse, advocates are steadily building the platforms for individual voices to change the narrative. The depth of reconciliation that plays out upon these platforms can be profound. Rachel Halder, founder of Our Stories Untold — a blog that hosts stories from survivors of sexualized violence within the Mennonite church — has witnessed such moments happen in real time.

Curt Devine 05-11-2013

Kristin Hart, photo provided by family

"I never imagined humanity could be stripped from a person like that."

Lynne Hybels 03-14-2013

Congolese surgeon and activist Monique Kapamba Yangoy (courtesy of Christine Anderson)

We're seeing a slow but sustainable transformation of cultural attitudes toward gender and sex.

Julie Polter 02-11-2013

Pursuing Justice: The Call to Live & Die for Bigger Things by Ken Wytsma / Girl Rising / Summoned from the Margin: Homecoming of an African by Lamin Sanneh / Old Monk by Mary Lou Kownacki

Nyambura J. Njoroge 11-27-2012

Adapted from "Women as Compassionate Champions: The Doers and the Leaders," by Nyambura J. Njorage, in Women, HIV, and the Church: In Search of Refuge.

Beth Newberry 11-27-2012

A small congregation in Kentucky demonstrates how your church may have more money—and power—than you think.

Jason Howard 09-01-2012

The cast of "A Song for Coretta," by Pearl Cleage - an Agape Theatre Troupe presentation at the Lexington (Ky.) Opera House

Kentucky theater company founder Cathy Rawlings lifts up black culture.

We may be tempted to quarantine our children from the scary world out there—but it's better to nurture an incurable, chronic, and healing passion for justice.

Lynne Hybels 01-01-2012

I'm grateful to the men who use their power, money, and influence on behalf of women.

I confess: I used to cringe every time I heard the "R" word.

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