Braving the atrocious winter highways from Lac La Biche to Edmonton, my pastor and I successfully trekked to the first #JusticeYEG: A Local Conversation, held at First Baptist Church in downtown Edmonton this past weekend.
Knowing that evangelical churches have dropped the ball — indeed many balls — over past decades in terms of justice issues, this project was birthed by local Christians after a couple years of prayer, planning and research. What are the issues people are facing in the Capital Region? How have Christians responded in the past? How are we responding now? What are turning points we need to make? What are the underlying issues we have not addressed that fuel the issues we are addressing? Who are other key players in this world?
Not only did evangelicals show up… but Lutherans (aka: my pastor… I don't ascribe to any one denomination myself)… Catholics… Anglicans… Sally Anns… and any number of denominations who would not otherwise gather together in the same space. That in itself was a balm to my cynical heart.
There were young hipsters with their beanies, skinny jeans and glasses (please hear the humour here!), hippies of all ages in 100% organic cotton clothing, scarves, baggy pants, varieties of facial hair and dreads, and there were the ones needing hips — seniors starving for the world Christ promised, understanding that we're not living it as we ought to be.
There we were.
Some a bit richer.
Some a bit poorer.
All a bit chillier with the definite onset of an angry winter. 😉
And ALL desiring to not only emulate Christ in His death, but also His life… taking the Beatitudes seriously, taking the example of listening to one another seriously, taking the need for self-examination even more seriously.
It is, after all, far easier to blame the poor for their own circumstances than it is to dig deeper to the underlying causes and reasons for poverty. "You made your own bed. Now lie in it."
You have to have a bed first before you can lay in it.
Rick Tobias was the primary speaker and he said something rather audacious Saturday morning:
"We can't claim to be 'biblical Christians' if we don't care about justice issues."
How often have we heard that attention to justice issues are only outflows of the Gospel… or that it's a works-based gospel… or that it sounds like a social gospel (said in suspicion and derision)?
I'll admit that as soon as he said "biblical Christians", I just about shut off. Such language often carries with it a sanctimonious innuendo that if Church X is "bible-believing", it believes the Bible more correctly as opposed to Churches Y & Z. Rather than recognizing that "bible-believing", more accurately, describes a church's stance on doctrine based on decades and centuries of interpretation about the Bible, it becomes a catch-all phrase to describe one church's comparitive stance of betterness on Scripture than another's.
In the meantime, homeless people wander our streets;
children are sold for sex;
aboriginal people are still blamed for being lazy and greedy;
taking care of the earth is NOT our business;
and evangelism is preeminent, rather than the care of widows and orphans;
being "unpolluted by the world" has come to mean insulation and isolation from all suspicious behaviour (forget sinful… even the suspicion of sin is some sort of just cause for insular behaviour)…
… and we don't see that North American culture — the "world" for all intents and purposes — insulates itself against the poor, the marginalized, the grief-stricken, the hurting, the oppressed, the ill, the imprisoned…
… and we do not see that we ourselves have absorbed the world's view of the poor(s), rather than dwelling amongst our brothers and sisters. We preach that we're not like the world because we don't associate with certain groups.
That's the world taking.
And we say it's us.
We're the puppets.
We're the dummies.
Being unpolluted by the world means getting dirty with the dirtiest… living it… not just having menial contact at Christmas or Thanksgiving.
At #JusticeYEG, we were a small but diverse group.
Did we change the course of the universe.
Did we gather in a way that perhaps many of us hadn't gathered before?
We learned from one another.
We listened to one another.
We challenged one another.
We recognized a collective weakness in ourselves: the declaration that our communities were spiritually dead, when in reality our communities are spiritually humming. Instead of embracing people with souls and bodies wide open and ready for peace, love and the Spirit of God, we have turned them away… waiting…
… waiting until 'they' got it together doctrinally.
The life of Jesus Christ is as every bit as powerful and saving as his death and resurrection. Those people in need are our brothers and sisters. Our weaknesses and downfalls of the past can be reconciled and redeemed.
There are new ways springing life in our lives… right here in #yeg, #AB.