Let's Talk "Social Justice"...

10 Comments

Let's Talk "Social Justice"...

As long as we can identify demographics within society that have higher potential to gain access to wealth, education, safe living environments, healthy food, and other varying benefits of what could be considered base standards of modern life, there is a need for social justice work.

The compound term social justice can be defined by simply considering what the two individual words mean. “Social” has to do with a collective group of people, and “Justice” is fairness and impartiality. Social justice is fairness and impartiality in regards to how access is granted to privileges and opportunities within society. The work of social justice ranges in the form it takes, but always serves to address address inequality in an effort to eliminate it. Specifically in relation to where I live in Rochester, but all over the United States and abroad, the quality of education that children receive is often predicated by their zip code. With access to learning being dictated by where a child lives, the residual effects of poorly educated communities lasts generations and spills into every aspect of life, perpetuating both poverty and negative stereotypes about the demographic. Those miseducated people have limited access to wealth, limiting their access to proper medical care and healthy food choices, bringing them into a downward spiral.

For Christians and people of faith, considering that God made humanity in God’s image means that a demographic’s race, gender, sexual orientation, level of education, nor any other factor should cause intrinsic value to decrease. Sinner or saint, Christian or nonbeliever, poor or rich, authentic Christian faith promotes the worth and value of every human being, and as long as societal structures say otherwise, this work has a place in our midst.

While the tendency to “get mine” is so prevalent, where the concern for one’s own well-being can be so great that it overshadows any concern for someone else, I appreciate the words of Isaiah 1:16 &17.

16
 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
    remove the evil of your doings
    from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
17
   learn to do good;
seek justice,
    rescue the oppressed,
defend the orphan,
    plead for the widow.

The word of the Lord comes to the people to:

1) stop doing evil and

2) learn to do good!

We can heed those instructions today to see a change in our society. Acknowledging and ceasing the evil that is a play from our behavior or the behavior of people we could influence, then taking the time to learn to do good, could have a positive effect on the communities in our societies that are oppressed.

While social justice is needed in many areas of American and world society, the issue of education being a privilege versus a right that everyone has is an area where I think social justice work can have a positive, residual effect on other areas of life. The weakness that so many demographics have in society can be reversed with education. Knowledge is power!

As communities and congregations, we can empower those who we have access to through learning enrichment and tutoring. Even without assistance from other agencies, if the church would intentionally supplement the work that teachers do in schools, students would have a consistent place to get the help that they need, and the result could be entire communities rising through generations of properly educated people. A potential plan to achieve this could include community GPA friendly competitions and an intensified presence of church leadership in schools.

Social justice work includes giving a voice to the voiceless, and speaking truth to power against the powers within infrastructures that oppress people. Yet, social justice work can also be done by reversing the negative trends through empowering the oppressed in society to overcome.

We owe it to God, to our sisters and brothers, and to ourselves, to serve one another as we continue to work to achieve social justice. What are your thoughts?

10 Comments

On Ministry: "It's Not About You"

2 Comments

On Ministry: "It's Not About You"

On Ministry: It's Not About You.

On Ministry: It's Not About You.

Mahershala Ali won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor at the 2017 Acadamy Awards for his role in the feature film Moonlight. I’ve not yet seen this movie, but I appreciate blackness being celebrated on major platforms like the Academy Awards. What struck me more than Mahershala Ali’s win was his acceptance speech. Before he thanked anyone who helped make his participation in the film possible, Ali referenced one thing his professors constantly told him:

"It's not about you. It's about these characters. You are a servant. You're in service to these stories and these characters…"

This is a humble acknowledgment that there is a bigger purpose being served in his work as an actor than being honored and awarded for what he has done. For him, the recognition is not the accomplishment, the service is. Artistry is his service to others.

Here’s a necessary reminder in a culture where branding and marketing so often take precedence over serving and making an impact:

Ministry is solely, only, exclusively, and entirely about serving! 

When your ministry is celebrated, it’s not about you.

When your ministry efforts are successful, it’s not about you.

When new doors open and opportunities become available, it’s not about you.

For Mahershali Ali, his work is about serving the essence of the characters he embodies. For Christian ministers, the work we do is about serving the essence of Jesus Christ. The essence of Jesus is love. Not fame. Not wealth. Not status. Ministry is the embodiment of love. When we embody love, we become servants and live in service to the greatest story of all, God’s gift of love through the life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

In her book Salvation: Black People and Love, bell hooks says that love does not bring an end to difficulties, it gives the strength to cope with difficulties in a constructive way. She defines love as a combination of care, knowledge, responsibility, respect, trust, and commitment. The embodiment of this kind of love, the love of God, must translate into clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, consoling the hurt, speaking for the voiceless, and continuing the work of Jesus towards all humanity. Apostle Paul says If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing (1 Corintiahins 13:20).

You prefer to just preach in a pulpit?

You prefer to just minister on a stage with a microphone?

You prefer to just do your “service” in the latest church fashions to church people?

Guess what?! Your preferences are inferior to God's purpose. It’s not about you. When we commit to growing beyond our personal preferences, we will most effectively minister “in Jesus’ name”.

To rephrase Mahershali Ali’s acceptance speech:

It's not about you. It's about Jesus. You are a servant. You're in service to the people who are broken, hurt, and in need of an encounter with the love of God.

2 Comments

Introducing Junior's Journal: On Manhood, Ministry, & More

3 Comments

Introducing Junior's Journal: On Manhood, Ministry, & More

Junior's Journal: On Manhood, Ministry, And More

Junior's Journal: On Manhood, Ministry, And More

New things need introductions, right? New businesses use advertisement. New relationships use Q&A sessions. New students go to Orientation. Well, I’d like to introduce this blog by introducing myself and what you can expect from “Junior’s Journal”.

My name is Rickey Harvey, Jr. (affectionately known as Junior), and as a young man in ministry, I often consider and reflect on the lessons that I'm learning regarding manhood and ministry, among other things, and I think many of these lessons are worth sharing. The subsequent journal postings are my efforts to give as I gain. One similarity I find in both manhood and ministry is that the mark of success is not in what one is given, but it is in what one gives. Sharing this journal is one way that I hope to give for the betterment of others.

In no way am I assuming a position as authority or know-it-all, but I realize that my experiences and perspectives may be enlightening or encouraging to others on the same or similar journeys. In the words of Mahalia Jackson, "If I can help somebody as I pass along, then my living shall not be in vain".

Please know that as my journey is in process, this journal is a reflection of where I am on my personal path. I'm well aware of those who have gone before me who have far exceeded the subject matter that will be discussed, and while the aforementioned may find this journal helpful, it is especially intended to impact those who are along-side and behind me in manhood (my brothers) and ministry (my sisters and brothers).

The various posts to this journal will reflect the various sides of who I am. This is important because vantage point can be everything! For example, multiple people may be viewing the same object from different vantage points and see contrasting features of the same object. So it is with life. Each of our experiences give us a frame of reference that is ours alone, and sharing them with one another can help to give a more comprehensive view of life. Hopefully, this journal will be a place where my vantage point is an additive to yours, and vice versa.

You'll be invited to comment on the upcoming posts and have conversation revolving around the subject matter. I look forward to what will become of "Junior's Journal"!

3 Comments