Tuesday, March 18, 2008

a proposed plan

Here is the plan to foster a sense of justice particularly around border issues:

Take a group to Mexico for one day in April. We will go to Miracle Ranch. We will intentionally make efforts to learn and receive as much as we give and teach.

Plan a follow up trip to Mexico for a weekend in the summer. This will be for folks who would like to further their experience and delve deeper into the issues of justice around the border.

Create an enduring form of outreach ministry that opens our hearts and minds to our brothers and sisters from across the border.

Possible ministries:
Breakfast for day laborers
Childrens event or program for cultural exchange

Hoped for outcomes:
Solidarity with immigrants
Advocacy for just immigration reform
Stem the tide of hate crimes directed to immigrants
More just and humane laws for immigrants

Thursday, March 13, 2008

easter egg hunt fun and fair

Today at our church and school our day care provider is having an Easter Egg hunt. She was tired of having the older faster kids trample over the younger ones and take more than their fair share of eggs. So she devised a creative way of making the game fair.

All kids lined up on a starting line and on "go" they went on got one egg. They returned to the starting line for another round. Then once again everyone ran and got just one egg. This continued until everyone had quite a few eggs and treats within. Everyone had the same number. This system allowed for the youngest or slowest to have as many as the oldest and fastest. The kids had a great deal of fun!

Once the hunt was over we had read a passage from Acts 2, "...and they shared everything..." In just one game we can learn what it means to be just.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

sweet justice

In response to a suggestion of our definition of "Justice" I would like to add that the Justice we seek is about more than equitable distribution of resources and fair trade practices. While those are HUGELY important and integral to the work of justice, there is nevertheless a deeper reality behind justice. We ask ourselves the question: "Why is there injustice in the first place?" "How did we get here?" The question becomes personal - What is wrong with me that there is such injustice in the world? A compelling response to these questions resides in our relationships. If I love you, honor you, am aware of you, how could I stand idly by while you suffer? And if you do suffer unjustly and I am in a position of power to do anything then our relationship suffers. You might fail to trust me. I might lose trust in myself. We might lose our trust and...faith in God. But, God is faithful to us. God is just. God honors our relationships. So as we work for justice we work for "Right relationships with God, with each other, and with creation." (quote from George Johnson.)

I am also drawn to consider that if God is just and faithful to us and all of creation, then there already is more than enough justice intrinsically in the universe. We don't have to go creating justice - we need only use the abundant justice that surrounds us! God's justice permeates us. Let us use it extravagantly!

Another benefit of thinking of justice in this way - right relationships is that it is much easier to put your head around than say fair trade practices and the effects of globalization. Any child knows when there is a good healthy relationship and a bad one. If we are to engage young people in the pursuit of justice - right relationships is a good place to start. It also helps keep us in check from beginning to feel like high and mighty purveyors of justice throughout the land. It cannot be unilateral. It must be multi lateral. That is what relationship is.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

hate on the rise?

Yesterday I saw on the news and read in an article that the number of hate groups in America is rising. Many of these are focused on immigrants. In fact, there is a correlation between an increased number of anti-immigration groups and an increase in hate crimes toward Latinos--who may or may not even be immigrants.

See Hate Rises from the Washington Post.

Also see USA Today.

What is interesting about this, is that just a couple of weeks ago a news piece came out that among all crimes committed in California...a disproportionately large amount are committed by legal citizens. See NPR story "Do Illegal Immigrants Burden the Justice System?"
The answer is no.

So why do we hate? Fear? Insecurity in ourselves? Because we are taught to? Perhaps the answer is all of the above. I am inclined to say that if there is to be a Youth Justice Network, then this is an area we should focus.

  • What ever happened with immigration reform?
  • What medical provisions are there for the undocumented?
  • Who looks after their rights?
  • Do enough people understand the causes behind immigration?
  • What can be done to strengthen community ties with immigrants?
  • What can the church do to stand in solidarity with immigrants?

Sunday, March 9, 2008

a local network

The more I think about this network I feel that there should be a local expression, a pilot program, a working example. So I would like to form a network in the San Clemente, CA area. I would like to invite youth and adults from various backgrounds to be a part of a network. This network would be tasked with furthering awareness of justice issues in San Clemente among youth which will hopefully lead to action.

Perhaps this will look like an educational event.

I have also been giving thought to the differences between networks and committees. A committee has a specific agenda and structure that is different than a network. A network is open. There is no set agenda. What there is, is a coming together of people and groups to share resources. So perhaps what is needed is a group of committed individuals who will plan a network meeting. These folks will invite groups to participate in a network meeting and educational event. The idea here is that we do not want to tell people how to do their job. Many churches already do amazing things toward the end of justice. Many youth already are engaged in helping the poor and bettering their communities. What we need is to bring these people together to learn from one another.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Why the Youth Justice Network?

Vision: a Just World

Mission: To engage young people in issues of Justice

What do we mean by Justice?

We are generally talking about "distributive justice." That is, fair and just distribution of resources. That sounds cold and dry. We are also talking about sweet justice, divine justice, justice that rolls down from heaven. We are talking about a faithful religious justice that is empathetic and concerned for all of God's people, about right relationships with God, one another, and all of creation.

We are not talking about, generally, "retributive justice." Also known as the proper punishment for a wrong committed by someone. Although there may be times when this does enter the conversation, it is not our primary focus.

Who are youth?

I am Lutheran. We have a rich tradition of working for justice. Yet, I believe we can do a better job and involving more people and in particular young people in the cause of justice. By youth we mean young people, but we also mean all people whose hearts are young! We need and seek participation for all of God's children and youth to be full partners in the cause of justice.

Why a network?

A recent article in the LA times featuring the "Founder's Brunch," highlighted the "subtle network effects" that happen when people get together around the same cause, even without a formal agenda. The article focused on Silicon Valley technology entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, and how they gather for breakfast on Sunday mornings to network. While their aim is primarily to make it rich, the lessons learned are clear: network network network. This network is peculiar. We hope not to profit off anyone. We hope for a just world. Though you might find us gathered elsewhere on a Sunday morning.

Other reasons and preliminary thoughts on a Youth Justice Network:

Down in the Valley
Many youth and adults go on church mission trip or servant trip and experience transformation. People return home fired up to serve. There is often little guidance and opportunity for people once their experiences are over. This network would be a way of engaging people in the ongoing struggle for justice. This a way to continue the journey of justice.

More than charity.
Charity is good. Giving is good. Sharing our resources is good and essential. But a deeper sense of justice challenges individuals and communities to a better world. A network of justice seekers will help move people beyond charity to lasting justice. Charity is a one time act. Justice is a more complicated relationship we enter together. We care for one another. We stand up for one another.

Faith formation
For some of us, we are passionate for justice because we are passionate for Jesus. Our faith has led us into a relationship of compassion for others. For others, passion for the poor, the marginalized the least, the lost, and the last may grow out of other spiritual experiences. But there is something fundamental spiritual in the pursuit of justice. It is an essential practice in the faith formation.

Accompaniment in the Developed World
A model for mission and development in the the developing world is that of accompaniment. That means we don't descend upon a people and tell them what they need and how we will provide. It means we walk beside people and listen to their needs. We share resources to enhance their own God given capacities. Perhaps we need to accompany our neighbors in our own churches and communities to increase their capacity for compassion and justice! This is what the Youth Justice Network is all about!

"Bread for a Hungry World"

Today we went to a hunger event sponsored by the Southern California West Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. What does that mean?

The "synod" is a geographical area in our national church. This one covers LA county mostly. John Nunes spoke. He is the head of Lutheran World Relief. I attended a workshop on Jubilee: debt cancellation. There were so many resources. There were some young faces in the crowd. But one has to ask the question: if this is the whole synod, then where is everyone? If this is our concerted effort to give bread to a hungry world, then we feel like there should be some more people involved.

How do we do that?