various issues surrounding faith and justice

dsc_5012.jpgChrissy and I have been blessed (and honored!) to be a part of the core leadership team for the Boston Faith + Justice Network (we should have a new site up shortly … I’m redesigning using a wordpress format). Basically, the short story of how the BFJN came to be is this: Several area young Christians came together (rather organically, really) and agreed that “social justice” was not being addressed — let alone practiced — in many “evangelical” churches. So the last year and a half or so has been a time of discovery for that original group, which has grown to over 400 young Christians in the Boston area, and we are currently trying to figure out what our role is in the city.

The last two leadership meetings have been especially thought-provoking and challenging. Last Sunday, the thirteen on the leadership team came together for what we thought would be a “normal” business meeting. When it was over, however, many had shared their hearts in deep and profound ways, regarding their personal hopes and dreams for the church, their spiritual walk, and the BFJN. Toward the beginning of the meeting, I shared a part of Chapter 1 of N.T. Wright’s latest masterpiece, Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense, in which Wright makes the point that Christians are concerned about issues of justice because God is at work “setting the world to rights.”

We then went around and shared the name of our current church community (my favorite question…) and something we like about our church’s participation in issues of justice. That 45-minute activity genuinely surprised me: 6 of 13 were either not currently involved in a traditional church community or were strongly dissatisfied with their community. In fact, one couple said that they felt as if their big Sunday assemblies were becoming less and less relevant to their lives, and they felt the most profound life transformation was happening in their small group (a statement I’ve heard over and over and over again in recent years…). I thought that was quite a statement about what young, passionate Christians are interested in.

We then began to talk about who the BFJN needs to be in the Boston community. Several people mentioned that we need to be a prophetic voice to a church that has forgotten about living just lives. I and a few others raised the disturbing question, however, that we might never have a credible prophetic voice if we ourselves are not first broken and begin living lives centered on the ways of God and his work in the world. This sort of silenced the talk about political and religious activism, instead turning the microscope inward. We began to talk about how we might covenant with each other to live in a more just, more God-centered way, and I’m excited about continuing this exploration. I thought this was a positive direction.

The other night, I met with a few other BFJN leaders regarding “church education,” which is the term we are using to describe our discussions of justice in the area churches. We were trying to put our finger on exactly what our message to Christians needs to be. Again, a strong sentiment in the group was that a deep theology must undergird anything we hope to communicate or live out in Boston. I shared a definition of education that I heard recently: “to draw out of someone that which lies inactive or dormant.” In a way, I suggested, isn’t our job as the “church education” team of the BFJN to teach people to connect with their Creator, listening to His leading in areas of faith and justice (as opposed to current manifestations of education that see the “students” as blank slates, ready to catch an endless spewing of information from a “teacher”)?

I feel like the BFJN conversation is moving in a positive direction, from a political activism position to a posture where we seek for ourselves lives that are more centered on our Creator and his work in the world. What suggestions would you have for the BFJN?

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