When I started school at Trevecca, there were many things I was unsure of. However, I knew one thing. I had decided to leave NNU, a school in Nampa, Idaho I had left Nashville for just a few months prior, to pursue a film degree in their film school. Coming back to Nashville, and back to a school I had sworn to never attend because of how familiar it had become, I struggled to find my place. I decided to change majors, from mass communication to multimedia journalism. I also decided to be a social justice minor, because I wanted to use stories to help give marginalized people a voice. Unsure of what my real passions were, I started the semester with a childlike ignorance of my own ignorance. Let’s just say, I was in for a total shock. The information I received from social justice, social work, and sociology courses completely transformed how I viewed people, politics, and everything about the world around me. Information about the injustice of the world is what awakened me. Simply knowing about injustice gave me the calling to give a voice to the voiceless, and work towards equality for all people, regardless of race, gender, and sexual orientation.
Environmental destruction and racial discrimination are two of the main issues that have taken ahold of my heartstrings. In this course, Christian Life & Ministry, I easily find myself using the information from the texts and discussions as further reason to combat injustice. The course began with discussing the idea of neighbors, found in The Mockingbird Parables. This ultimately led me to believe that our neighbors are not just the people who live next door. Our neighbors live miles away, in prison cells, in government housing, and in other countries facing unstable governments. It’s impractical to think that every person you will have to love and support will look just like you, or be dealing with something that you can handle. Most of the time, the people we are meant to love mostly are the ones with the most challenging stories. Christians should know that their neighbors aren’t just there to burden them, but can help carry the weight with them. In the book, Compassion, it says further that the ever-increasing access to information can bombard the senses. Knowing can be difficult, but this weight is not meant to be carried alone. It’s important to remember that you are not the only one who knows.
One of the first things I learned about environmental justice is that it is important to not consider the environment as something that is separate from people. It shouldn’t be called “the environment” as if it is not our responsibility. Christians should think of the Earth as God’s gift to them, a gift that should be cherished and maintained, not destroyed. The biblical basis of care for creation comes from the book of Genesis, wherein stewardship of plants, animals, and soil is emphasized. Creation was meant to be watched over like a child, but people have taken it out of context and abused it. There are many issues facing our environment, and most are caused by mankind. Industrialism exploits, and extracts the people and the land of all potential resources. People think that industrial food can feed the world and that it offers more choices. But, industrial food cannot feed the world because that’s not the intended result. Over-fishing, pollution, and the privatization of water are threatening clean and abundant water supply all over the world. Some people consider these threats to be necessary evils, but the direct exploitations of humans by slave labor is also leading towards environmental destruction. Because of the lack of enforcement of the law in countries like the Congo, slave labor turns into the destruction of the environment by deforestation. For example, the Amazon is being turned into palm oil plantations. The slave owners are already breaking the law by owning slaves, thus making it simple to not abide by environmental laws. It’s important to demand transparency, but it’s also important to care and nurture for the Earth in small and practical ways in your own community. All of this was brought back to my memory when we read about Miss Maudie tending to her Azaleas in The Mockingbird Parables. Just as Miss Maudie cares for her flowers, we should care for the home we have been given.
In the discussion about Tom Robinson from The Mockingbird Parables, racial prejudice in terms of overpopulation in prison via unjust incarceration was mentioned. However, I also think it’s important to mention the historical roots of this racial prejudice. Since the formation of the United States, African-Americans and other minority groups have been oppressed by the sense of superiority held by a White majority. The Emancipation Proclamation “freed” slaves in 1863, however, nearly 100 years later African-Americans in Southern states were being persecuted against by oppressive Jim Crow laws and race-inspired violence. Thankfully, the Civil Rights era brought about great change for African-Americans in this country. However, the African-American community still faces racial prejudices. A very apparent and pressing issue regarding racism is police brutality. Numerous cases of brutality have made African-Americans scared for lives just because of the color of their skin, and because they are afraid they would not receive the justice they deserve in our courtrooms. God calls all Christians to seek justice for those who need it, and the people who need justice are the oppressed and the minorities in our country.
I’ve wondered for a while why I am a person with such a heart for social justice issues. I thought maybe I was an exception, that maybe it’s not everyone that is born with this capability. I didn’t think this way to make myself feel superior or different but instead was trying to figure out why we as humans in 2018 are still allowing these horrible injustices to occur. In the book Compassion, gratitude was shown to me in a way I had never considered. “Whether they confront evil in the world or support the good, disciplined actions are always characterized by gratitude.” This began to make a lot of sense to me when I realized most of my activism stems from an injustice happening towards someone else, and I am not directly affected by it. This doesn’t mean that I have no struggles, but I am grateful and aware of my own privilege which drives me to seek justice for those being mistreated. Some people are not able to consider their privilege when it comes to social issues and therefore won’t consider someone’s lack of privilege as a reason they are not able to succeed. This reminded me of the concept of seeing our neighbors as “others,” which was brought up in the discussion of the missionary tea from The Mockingbird Parables. In the discussion, I mentioned that there is a major belief in America that those who are in poverty are to blame for their own poverty. So, instead of blaming social issues or lack of privilege, they blame the people for not taking better care or for not “choosing the right path.”
To conclude, I wanted to mention the concept of compassion, which began the course and was carried throughout it. As Jacqueline said, “…compassion means to genuinely want to take someone else’s suffering and make it my own.” As Lexie said, “…compassion is having a power over someone and not using or abusing it.” As Cassey said, “It means caring for others and about what is wrong with the world, and making sacrifices to make it right for nothing in return.” I think compassion is seeing people as people, as equal, and difference in experience and culture as something that is beautiful. Compassion is essential to working with and for other people, thus making it essential to social justice work. I plan to work towards being more compassionate in the future, as I strive to make the world a better place for everyone to live and enjoy.
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