Speaking Truth to Our Power

IMG_0888Responding to the human cry for a more just and equitable global community, seems to me, on most days, both overwhelming  (a complicated web with the power to oppress my voice) and compulsory (an internal response that will not be assuaged). Still, or maybe always, the needs are vast and I am one. The issues are infinite and I have only one life: several days amid numbered years. I could choose to walk in the world complacent, ignoring the reality, shutting myself off from the world, or I can live inspired; boldly and courageously.

Someone I love dearly once told me, “You need to stop caring so much about the world.” On that particular day, at that particular moment, I had engaged in a fierce discussion about homelessness and I had left the room crying. This person who encouraged me to care less responded (I believe) from her own sense of compassion, care and love for me. She saw how the suffering of humanity effected me and she wanted to ease my suffering. What she failed to see was the more complicated story of suffering of others.

We live in a socio-economic-political climate of demonizing the unemployed, the poor, the black community, the worker without documents, the President. The list is endless. The blame game has become a sport, something we talk about, complain about on Facebook, tweet loudly to our followers. We pick sides, demonize the other and put up black hawk defenses to guard our positions. All a part of our frustrated response to failed systems and our inability to effect change. We create elaborate social agendas of us and them to guard our distorted ideas of success and accomplishment, and our idolization of wealth and privilege. Material acquisitions of more and bigger and better become the pastime of choice.

At the end of the day our guarded nature and our scarcity mentality serves only to keep us shut off from possibilities. Like rodents, we have been well trained to hoard away and protect our material existence at all costs including the dehumanization, servitude, slavery, persecution, and humiliation of another human being.

IMG_2063Even as a woman who “cares too much”, I struggle with the ways we have been, and continue to be, socialized into believing there is a bad person out there taking advantage of what is rightfully ours. We are socialized into believing it is the person in a hoodie with their pants sagging, the person at the counter with food stamps counting their change the person crossing the desert to support their family, the politician who voted against our positions.

Every day I have to correct the wrong thinking that plagues my mind. Left unchecked, it allows a divided system, nation, government, family to continue unchallenged. Every day I need to remind myself every person deserves dignity and I am responsible for a humane response to the suffering in the world.

For I, too, stand on the backs of generations who have persecuted and oppressed. I, too, stand on the backs of many who fought for freedom of ideas, freedom of religion, freedom of movement. I too stand on the backs of those who bring in the crop, sew the cloths, and manufacture the goods.

Truth is, it is not possible to completely disengage and get off the shoulders of those who are marginalized and exploited. This is the reality of our globalized world. This is the challenge we face as a people of the 21st Century.

Still, we must ask how will we cross the divide, break down the socially constructed barriers, lessen the impact of oppression? How will we change our way of living to reduce the destructive impact on others? How will we see, truly see, the other person with the same love, care and compassion we offer to those in our inner circle? How will we encounter a global community with a big inclusive WE?

 As a child growing up in the Christian faith, I was taught Jesus loved me. I sang the song, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the bible tells me so.” What my faith failed to teach me was “Jesus love us, this we know, for the bible tells us so.” Jesus didn’t hide the fish or reject the sick. He loved boldly, broadly, deeply. He opened his door wider and invited more in. Jesus didn’t live protecting his self-interest and guarding what was rightfully his. There was no us and them. No scarcity model to determine who would receive his bread. There was neither judgment nor practices of exclusion. Rather there was love and just living and lots of it guiding his actions and reactions to an aching community around the Sea of Galilee.

So, I ask again, how will we participate in a global community that strives for a compassionate, just, and loving embrace of all of humanity? What is one thing you can do today? What is one thing you can do next week? What is one thing you can do this year?

Might I suggest, we all begin with the regular observations of where we employ practices of exclusion that serve to divide and demonize; then consider how we might approach our judgements with new eyes, with curiosity and with openheartedness.