Tipping Point?

Every day new public figures are outed for sexual harassment.  Harassment rooted in an abuse of power.  We see this abuse reflected in a society which objectifies women. We see this abuse institutionalized in limited access for women to positions of influence and power.

Have we reached a tipping point?  A willingness by enough people to say ‘no more’?

tipping points (plural noun)
  1. the point at which a series of small changes or incidents becomes significant enough to cause a larger, more important change

Are we at a point where men stand with women,  in calling out those who exploit?  Will we men be willing to explore and wrestle with the cultural bias’ we’ve acquired and profit from?  Will we name and let go of attitudes and behaviors that contribute to the wider culture that objectifies and oppresses?

Will men join forces with women in demanding equal treatment under the law and hold those with power accountable?   From school campus’, to military bases, to halls of Congress, to the White House, to business, to religion, to households… have we reached a tipping point where we demand more of ourselves as a society?

Imagine a tipping point that affirms our best intentions as a nation.  Imagine women and men, girls and boys, affirming our inherent equality,  that every person as Thomas Jefferson put it, ‘is endowed by their Creator with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’

True, Jefferson didn’t fully grasp the implications of his words.  His world view didn’t include people of color and women in his listing of who was worthy.

Yet, Jefferson’s words continues to offer a vision we aspire to.  A vision that says everyone, female and male, native-born and immigrant, rich and poor, gay and straight, young and old are ‘endowed by their Creator’ with inherent worth and equal rights.

This is not simply good public policy.  It’s also good theology.

This is who we strive to be,  when we are at our best.  The floodgate has opened with stories of harassment, oppression, abuse.

Such stories reflect a decision by enough women and enough men to say ‘we will not be silent, we will not be complacent or complicit’ towards those factors that have created and reflect an oppressive culture.

Have we reached a tipping point?  The answer rests with women and men like you and me.  Imagine what our society can be as we live into our core values.

 

 

 

 

 

Moving Out

Elizabeth O’Connor was a co-founder of Church of the Savior, a radical church formed in the 1950’s in Washington D.C. She along with Gordon Cosby put into practice the core words of Jesus in Matthew 25: 40 “Whatever you do unto the most vulnerable of my sisters and brothers you do unto me.”

Never focused on brick and mortar this church opened free medical clinics, summer camps for inner city kids, workshops on leadership development, a hospice for street people, micro loans, and the list goes on and on. Always their work was rooted in the radical teachings of Jesus to love and include those of us on the margins. For this church, works of compassion and advocacy became a mystical place for meeting the risen Christ.

Evelyn O’Connor wrote: “When the church starts to be the church, it will constantly be adventuring out into places where there are no tried and tested ways. If the church in our day has few prophetic voices to sound above the noises of the street, perhaps in large part it is because the pioneering spirit has become foreign to it. It shows little willingness to explore new ways. Where it does it has often been called an experiment. We would say that the church of Christ is never an experiment, but wherever that church is true to its mission it will be experimenting, pioneering, blazing new paths, seeking how to speak the reconciling Word of God to its own age.”

It’s been said that we live in a post-Christian era. In part this refers to our increasingly diverse culture that finds meaning in many places both religious and secular. The church is just one of many voices competing to be heard. In many ways this is good. It is easy to become complacent even arrogant when you are in the majority.

In many ways for the Christian movement the twenty-first century is similar to that of the first century. First century Christ followers like Paul, Peter, Lydia and Silas realized that they were but a minority voice and fueled by their passion went out into the public realm to share their story.

Two thousand years later we are once again a minority voice. The question is will we stay hidden away in isolated enclaves? Or will we like the early church, (and like Church of the Savior) be willing to let go of what is comfortable and familiar and become a part of the wider community where we can serve, learn from and share with a wonderful mix of perspectives and traditions.

photo of church aisle with open doors

It takes courage to leave the familiarity of what is. It means having clarity that you have something of importance to share. But it also requires a spirit of humility, that those with a different belief have something of value to offer as well.

In the fourth century, a bishop in the fledgling way of Jesus, Augustine of Hippo in North Africa said this:

“Do not think you must speak the truth to a Christian but can lie to a ‘pagan’. You are speaking to your brother or sister, born like you from Adam and Eve: realize all the people you meet are your neighbors even before they are Christians; you have no idea how God sees them. The ones you mock for worshiping stones … may worship God more fervently than you who laughed at them…. You cannot see into the future, so let every one be your neighbor.”

For those of us who love what the church can be and love the way of Jesus, this is a challenging and exciting time. The days of waiting for people to come to us are over. Are we ready to leave the safety of our buildings? Are we clear on what we have to offer? And, are we open to the blessings, the wisdom that other traditions and voices have to offer to us?

To say ‘yes’ is to be open to being changed. To say ‘yes’, is to know that we don’t journey alone. It was true in the first century and it is true today.

Smashed Windshield

His windshield has been smashed twice.  He says to me:  “I think it may have to do with my bumper sticker.”  The sticker reads:  Proud Parent of a Conscientious Objector.  He says, “I’ve had people confront me in the supermarket parking lot and demand I remove my sticker.  One angry father said, ‘my kid is risking his life for your kid, and your kid is a coward’.   I try to put myself in the shoes of the other parent who worries over their son or daughter far from home, risking their life for a cause they believe in.  I just ask that my son’s conscience is respected and that my right to stand with my child is respected too.”

“My son says that I should remove the bumper sticker.  He says, ‘Dad, this is my choice, not yours.’  He reminds me that I served in the first Gulf War.  Yet, I remind him, that courage is courage, whether it is expressed on the battlefield or by standing apart because of one’s conscience.”

He pauses and rubs the exhaust and dust off the bumper sticker:  Proud Parent of a Conscientious Objector.  “It’s worth a few smashed windshields to stand with my son.  Courage is courage.”