Helping and Hurting, post-Katrina

Good thoughts on balancing how we help and may hurt after disasters and suffering, from Covenant World Relief Director, Jim Sundholm:

While the desire by concerned donors is to move quickly to offer homes for housing displaced families, that offer of help often needs to come once the affected families have come to grips with the reality of their situation – accepting the fact that they may never be able to return to their former neighborhoods and will need to move on with their lives. “That is something that each person has to work through at their own pace,” Sundholm says.

One must also be sensitive to the other emotions that are at work in these situations, including the feeling on the part of many displaced people that they are losing control over their own lives and destinies. “We offer assistance with the best of intentions, but we must be careful that those affected do not see the offers of relocation and other assistance as another potential loss of control over their own futures,” Sundholm observes. “It is a sensitive time.”

Full article on ECC involvement after Katrina and CWR’s response.

Race and Peace Prayers Site

Please read today’s great entry on this blog – she’s a friend of a friend I recently “met” online. Her entry deals with race and poverty after Katrina, and she has a great two-screen summary of the history of affirmative action that has propped up our country and benefitted majority races to balance the conversation. To top it off, after pain and righteous anger over stereotypes and racism in the reflection, the conclusion is a prayer for humility and peace. It’s beautiful – thanks Lisa!

Whose Justice?

Of major interest to me are the areas of compassion and justice – how these concepts are rooted biblically and theologically, how they are lived out in community and in local ministry, and how acts like these can actually transform the church (as well as the world), as they help us understand and embody God’s call to discipleship.

My understanding of “justice” as an idea, action, and goal has meandered for some time – and I’m grateful for both my “in the trenches” experience with injustice in urban cities and through relationships, and my more academic studies pulling apart various “ology-s” that deal with justice. Its helped me not just react or label “justice,” but feel it and live it and wrestle with it and think it over. I am in no way done with that journey – but it of course can affect daily life and choices we make, from the smallest way we choose to treat another person, to the largest sense of how we participate in society.

Below is an excerpt from a talk Scot McKnight (former Prof of mine), gave on “Social Justice” at North Park. He brings up many of the issues I’ve studied in the last few years, including what is justice, whose justice, what is the telos (or end goal), of justice, and he writes some of how this interacts with the U.S. political sphere and its notion of “justice.” One of my strongest critiques of both “leftist” and “right” Christians doing political speak since the last election is their over-reliance on party lines while mis-using words to speak of issues like faith, values, life, freedom, etc. Ultimately, as much as I believe in and am engaged in redeeming social life through the political stuctures, my motivation for this work and my ultimate definition is “Christian”, not American citizen, nor Liberal, not Conservative nor Democrat. I’m first and last a citizen of the kingdom of God – whose borders aren’t totally open for new residents yet. Of course what this means for current political debates that affect the welfare of millions, and the way we use our biblical language to talk with people of other (or no) faiths is important to reflect on. McKnight helps me think through this (so does Stanley Hauerwas and Miroslav Volf, for very different reasons, and so does John Perkins and Delores Williams.)

What we are facing in the retributive and reparative debate about justice then is a sense of justice that has almost nothing to do with the biblical sense of justice. The reason there is such a disparity concerns the ontology of the public square and the ontology of the Christian ethical system. In the Bible, the operative words are not equality or freedom or rights. The operative words, in their place, are “image of God,” “love,” and “grace.” I could explore all of this through the lens of one word of Jesus – kingdom – but I won’t in this context. But, let it be said that for Jesus the “condition” he was bringing was called “kingdom,” and kingdom is always about community, about society, and about relationships – and it was not about personal freedoms and individual rights. It was about an alternative society in which relationship to God and others discovered shalom.

rest of “Social Justice”