Monday, January 23, 2017

Why I marched

On Saturday I drove my oldest two daughters up to Champaign/Urbana to participate in our local Women's March. We joined several thousand men, women, and children and met up with some female United Methodist pastor friends. Todd, feeling left out but home working on his sermon, decided to put Harper in the car and join us. The march was peaceful, inspiring, and energizing and I was glad I'd brought my family to participate. We had lunch at a local restaurant and spent time with our clergy friends. It was a beautiful afternoon, both literally and figuratively.

I've received some questions (and criticism) about my views on the march. It seems to some that my faith and position as a pastor's wife are at odds with my views on social justice. Or that it's unchristian to disagree with our leaders and that we'd all be better off just staying quiet and going along to get along.

Not coincidentally, my social justice views line up very closely with those of the United Methodist Church on many, but not all, causes I care about. But I thought I'd clarify why I marched and what I believe. I don't expect everyone to agree with me, but perhaps this post will spark a discussion or raise awareness or inspire compassion.

So here goes.

Some folks were fired up that pro-life groups were "banned" from marching. I'm a pretty skeptical person by nature, so I was watching closely for censorship or exclusion. I can tell you with certainty that I didn't see it happening and that the tone of the crowd was open and inclusive. No one was checking causes at the door. There was no door; all were welcome. That said, I'm not sure how the rally speakers were chosen; I was not part of the planning committee. What I do know was that the speakers were diverse in age, race, culture, and faith background and spoke on a number of topics like common sense gun legislation, Black Lives Matter, the environment, and reproductive rights.

Which brings me to this: the pro-life and pro-choice camps could do so much more if they could find a way to work together. We have much in common, and ultimately want the best for all women and children. I think Fr. James Martin said it best on a post on his Facebook page this weekend:

I've read a few people trying to paint me as pro abortion. This is false.
I am pro life.
That means that I'm also pro social justice. 

That means that I am not only for the dignity of the human being from the moment of conception, but also for the dignity of the human being until the natural end of life. For life does not end with birth. A person who is truly pro life is pro all life, pro every stage of life, pro every stage of life for every person. For all life is sacred, because all life is created by God. 

That means that I support anything that helps a person live a full, healthy and satisfying life, in every part of the world. So I am for care for the poor, for a living wage, for affordable health care, for adequate housing, for a humane work environment, for equal pay for women, for generous child care, for the support of the aged and the infirm. 

That means I support caring for the marginalized among us: the refugee, the migrant, the displaced person, the homeless, the unemployed, the person with disabilities, the single mother, women who are abused, minorities of every kind who are persecuted, and all those who feel left out, mocked, lonely, ignored or frightened. 

That means that I am against torture, because it is an affront to human dignity. I am against the death penalty, the most serious affront to an adult life. I am against abuse and mistreatment in prisons. I am against war as a way to solve problems. 

That means I respect the lives of all creatures, and am therefore for the care of the world in which we live, for the environment in the broadest sense. 

That means I am pro peace, pro justice and pro reconciliation.
The longer I am a Jesuit, the longer I am a priest, the longer I live, and the more I pray and listen and observe, the more convinced I am of the sanctity and beauty of life.
So, yes, I am pro life. Pro all life.
I hope you are too.

The march showed the intersectionality of all of the issues for which we marched. Environmental justice is connected to food justice and maternal/child health, which is connected to economic justice, which is connected to racial justice, which is connected to gender justice. No single issue drove this march. And as much as people wanted to say it was anti-Trump, it wasn't. We won't accomplish much if we march for what we're against rather than what we're for. And if we wait to march until we all agree, we'll never leave our homes.

I deeply hope that the numbers of folks who came out for the Women's March will also take the the streets the next time a black body is shot without cause, or when the water protectors at Standing Rock are assaulted, or when our common land and water is degraded by yet another oil spill, or when our government takes away programs that serve the most vulnerable among us in favor of tax breaks for the wealthy.

I hope that white men and women begin to understand their privilege and reach out to their brothers and sisters of color to listen and try and understand how different their experiences can be. I hope that instead of telling them, "Don't worry, everything will be OK", they'll really listen and ask what can be done to help. That's something I'm personally trying to work on, as I don't often hear from people of color where I live, because frankly, there aren't any.

I'm curious to hear your stories. I'm open to hearing your comments. I'd be happy to answer your questions.

But know this: even if we don't agree, I marched for you. I marched for your children. Because I know we only rise by lifting each other up.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

My #oneword365

I've been intentionally quiet on the blog lately.

I needed some space to process my feelings about the election, which deeply impacted my faith and my spirit. I needed to step back and see what God was whispering to do next. So I buried myself in work, reading, church, cooking, family, and holiday preparations. It helped. Kinda.

But I keep coming around to the reality that no matter who is in a position of power in government, I can still make a difference right where I am. And life is big in the little. I read that phrase from Alexandra Kuykendall's most recent book Loving my Actual Life, which my women's study group did together this fall. And it's really stuck with me. A phrase like that has the power to induce stress over the the weight and importance of every small interaction with my kids, friends, or family. But instead of feeling stressed I feel empowered that my actions add up to make a difference.

As is my tradition, I began reflecting on what my #oneword365 would be for 2017 (previous years here, here, and here). Because so much of my life and work feel uncontrollable and uncertain right now, I wanted to focus on what I could control, simply and right where I am. So my word for 2017 quickly became clear: REACH.

I want to reach in several ways this year: toward people I don't understand, toward greater understanding of concepts I don't understand, and toward those I love the most. Through my work at Faith in Place and United Methodist Women I get to meet a lot of people, some of whom I understand and some of whom I do not. So it is my intent to reach toward better listening this year, especially to those that I disagree with. To reach my thinking, I'm making a list of books I want to read and discussion groups (online and in-person) that I want to join. And perhaps most important, I want to reach out to the ones I love: my husband, my kids, my family and friends near and far, and better nurture our relationships.

I'm not exactly sure how this will all work, but I'm attempting to break free of the dangerous thinking that keeping the same habits from year to year will yield different results. To me, the word REACH means looking for growing edges and trying to make that growth happen, even when it's hard.

What's your one word for 2017?