READERS OFTEN ASK US: How can I incorporate a hunger for justice into my child’s spiritual formation? How do we help the youngest members of the church understand the gospel’s call to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves? Sojourners asked five Christian parents engaged in various forms of justice work to share their best tips for helping children put their faith into action. Here’s what they said. - The Editors
1. Look for Teachable Moments
by Kate Ott
MANY PARENTS FEEL unprepared to talk about sex or faith with their children. I was one of those parents until I realized age-appropriate sexuality information could empower my children and keep them safe. I also realized that teaching my kids about sexuality meant more than talking about “sex.” After all, if I didn’t talk to my kids about how Christian values of love, justice, and mutuality guide the care of our bodies and our relationship choices, who would?
So rather than planning for a single “big talk” or waiting until I know all the answers, I practice parenting through teachable moments. For example, in our house we talk about how clothing choices and hygiene reflect our thankfulness for our bodies as part of God’s good creation (including remembering to brush teeth!). As a parent, when I take a picture of my kids, I ask them for permission before posting it on social media; this encourages thinking-before-posting and consent as an active yes. And when we’re watching TV or listening to a song in the car about attraction or a relationship, I ask questions like: How would you feel in that situation? Do you think that person values their body? Does that seem like a mutual decision/relationship? Is that kind of love balancing God, neighbor, and self? In the short conversation, I always say something like, “Being in a relationship takes a lot of work and requires communication, honesty, commitment, and mutuality.” This models how to use one’s values to assess relationship choices.
But if the truth be told, black Americans do not have a monopoly on social justice exhaustion, or “justice fatigue,” as Dr. Teresa Fry Brown describes it. The fact is many people of goodwill that make up the broad rainbow coalition of those who fight for justice and inequality find themselves increasingly tired and overwhelmed these days. With all of the intractable issues in our society that seemingly won’t get right or can’t get right, many justice workers and seekers of all kinds are finding themselves in need of a refreshing well of renewal.
This raises the important questions, who cares for the care-givers? Who shows love to those who seek the expansion of love in public policy and democracy?
Sisters from the Dominican Sisters of the Sick-Poor (also now Dominican Sisters of Hope) sent representatives to marches. They saw systemic injustice firsthand in their ministries as they provided nursing services to residents of Harlem, the South Bronx, and other communities that struggled to afford healthcare.
Years after participating in equal rights and peace marches, Sister Bette Ann Jaster joined LifeWay Network, one of two organizations in the New York Metro area that provides safe housing and education for women survivors of human trafficking, as a representative for Sisters and Catholics in general. Her involvement on the committee has since declined, but Sister Bette Ann is as bothered by the issue as ever. “I keep wondering, ‘What more can we do?’” she said.
This week marks 25 years since the horrific U.S. bombing of the Amiriyah shelter in Iraq. At least 408 women and children died.
As we consider what has helped fuel the rage and hostility of extremists like ISIS, we can point to concrete events like the bombing of Amiriyah. It clearly does not justify the evil done by ISIS, but it does help us explain it.
Peace studies combine research, analysis, and practice in an attempt to answer questions of what peace actually requires, why accepted wisdom has failed to move civilization away from violence and toward peace, and how people have successfully reformed social, economic, and political relationships to achieve sustainable peace. And through this study, real-world answers are emerging.
The narrative of a retail event like Black Friday weekend is broken.
What if we could embrace a new narrative? What if that new narrative is really an old narrative just seen with new eyes?
This weekend, the global church is starting Advent, which is a time of preparation for the coming of Jesus. However, we live in a world where Jesus has already entered. How should our lives look different in response to that and as a church be part of bringing the kingdom of God to earth in this Christmas season?
After seven long years of review, the White House plans to reject the request from a Canadian company to build the Keystone XL pipeline, according to The New York Times.
Envrionmental groups across the United States, including 350.org, have begun celebrating the news as a victory for climate activists. Sojourners has long spoke out against the construction of the Keystone pipeline and celebrates this news a win for all those advocating for the protection of creation.
Francis’ road to humility was like the rest of ours: long, hard, and prideful.
“For black people, there is an unspoken script that demands the humble absorption of racist assaults, no matter the scale, because whites need to believe that it’s no big deal. But Serena refuses to keep to that script.”
We think it's wrong for a woman, much less a mother, to be angry. And so when anger inevitably, righteously, hits us — with its cousin fatigue and its brother frustration — we don't know what to do except to bury it beneath a smile that gets thinner and weaker as the day winds on.
We all get angry, though. It is a function of being human, and I daresay without anger we would never have won women the right to vote, school desegregation, or any other host of advances that came about when people got righteously angry and unleashed the power of justice and the Holy Spirit.
So be angry when you are angry. The Bible says so. Do not be ashamed to say, in the moment, "This is not right. I'm angry."
ONLY SOCIAL MOVEMENTS really change history. Developing, nurturing, and supporting a new generation of leaders is central to the long-term success of these movements. As leaders like me get older and look to the future, mentoring young leaders is particularly important. More and more of my time is spent doing that mentoring, not only broadly but in relationship to particularly promising young leaders whom I have met. It is some of the most important and enjoyable work that I do.
For many years, Sojourners called together large conferences on biblical justice and peace. Thousands of people came year after year, and many positive things happened—new relationships, connections, projects, and organizations—even marriages and families! Now, several other groups are having justice and peace conferences, which is exactly the kind of “competition” Sojourners has always hoped for.
Last year, some of our younger staff came up with a great idea—to have a leadership “Summit” for people already providing leadership for the biblical vision of justice and peace. All the participants would have to be nominated by credible leaders doing this work, and instead of Justice 101 with big speakers and standing ovations, this would become a new, creative environment for moving justice agendas forward—Justice 202. We didn’t publicly advertise these gatherings—instead, the invitation spread by word of mouth as leaders, especially younger ones, were drawn together by experienced justice leaders who nominated them.
THE KILLING OF 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., last year and the events that followed sparked protests by the community in the St. Louis area asserting that black lives matter and ignited a discussion on race relations in the United States.
On the heels of non-indictments in the slaying of Brown and other black men, our nation focused its attention on the drastic inconsistencies inherent in our judicial system. To many observers, black lives had less standing in our nation than white lives.
Rodney King, Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, and the churchgoers in Charleston, S.C., are part of a long list of black victims of violence. They are victims of an American narrative that devalues black souls, black lives, black bodies, and black minds. In response to these tragic events, particularly since the non-indictment of the police officers who killed Brown and Garner, many evangelicals have been calling for a biblical practice that is often absent in American Christianity—the call to lament.
On one level I am thrilled that evangelicals are discovering the importance of lament in dealing with racial injustice. However, I am concerned that the way lament is being used by some white evangelicals is a watered-down, weak lament that is no lament at all.
Lament is not simply feeling bad that Brown won’t be able to go to college. Lament is not simply feeling sad that Garner’s kids no longer have a father. Lament is not asserting your right to confront the police because, as a white person, you won’t be treated in the same way that a black protester may be treated. Lament is not the passive acceptance of tragedy. Lament is not weakly assenting to the status quo. Lament is not simply the expression of sorrow in order to assuage feelings of guilt and the burden of responsibility.
The Comedy Central duo has long been using comedy to challenge injustice. Now they’re tackling education.
The new skit portrays Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele as primetime anchors of “TeachingCenter,” a show meant to mimic ESPN’s flagship athletic program, SportsCenter. The two hosts obsess over new teaching trades, a live draft for teachers, and an in-depth analysis of pedagogical technique. We even get a glimpse at a BMW commercial starring an educator.
For the past thirty years my family has vacationed in Charleston, S.C. I spent eight years living, going to school, and working in Charleston; I met my wife there, got married there, and it is still a place we count as home when people ask.
The shootings at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston let loose a flood of memories long shoved into the recesses of my mind. One of these was when I was the youth director for a large white affluent congregation, and the youth groups at Mother Emanuel and my church performed a joint Youth Sunday service in the late 90s.
Driving from Asheville, N.C, to Charleston shortly after the shootings, my heart grew heavy as I wondered what to do when we arrived. Nothing I envisioned captured the heaviness I felt; the need to be useful. I decided to sleep on it.
But what does it mean to wait on the Lord? We are actually waiting, in a chronological sense, because as humans we are bound by time. But was there more to what the prophets meant by this?
When asked about the prophet's insistence on waiting on the Lord my father's response was, "...In general they are imploring us to not get our desires ahead of God's intentions. Alignment between our will and God's design is critical for our work to bear fruit. Therefore, it is not a temporal wait, but a plea to put God's will first."
This perspective frees us from the bondage of our impatience, because it becomes less about when and more about how. Waiting on the Lord is not something done passively. Much action is demanded from us. The Hebrew words used to mean "to wait" in passages such as Isaiah 30:18, Micah 7:7, and Habakkuk 2:1-3 could also be used to mean "to put hope in."
Douglas writes in response to the murder of Trayvon Martin, tracing the intellectual and cultural genealogy of a “stand your ground” culture — one that polices our public ‘white’ spaces, and kills men and women of color who are in them. Sadly, as the deaths of Michael Brown and Freddie Gray show, our cops and our culture are still killing innocent people of color. We aren’t a post-racial culture at all.
Stand Your Ground takes a cruciform shape: we face the death of the cross in her depiction of the despair of a culture that kills its citizens, before rising in the resurrection hope of a black faith.
We’ve lost Leonard Nimoy. Justly famous as Star Trek’s iconic Mr. Spock, he was also a poet, musician, and photographer. And he was my role model.
I was 10 when I discovered Star Trek—and I immediately gravitated toward the taciturn Vulcan who embraced logic and science even as he wrestled with deep human emotion. The resemblance between Spock and the pre-teen me would have been startling had I recognized it as such; instead, I only saw a character who embodied the conflicts I felt—intellectually and emotionally.
Nimoy was a supporter of equal rights. For example, he convinced Paramount to end the pay inequity Nichelle Nichols experienced during the original Star Trek series. Later, he refused to sign on to the animated Star Trek series until Nichelle Nichols and George Takei were hired to voice their own characters. Away from Star Trek, he challenged “definitive” elements of beauty with The Full Body Project photographs.
But why did Nimoy—why does any man—work to end sexism and discrimination?
Simply: It’s the right thing to do. That ought to be all anyone needs. At the very least, he did it for co-workers whom he respected.
Men who want to “Live Long and Prosper” work to make that possible for everyone, so that their claims to value justice for all have integrity.