Friday, December 05, 2008

I Live In America?

The UN has designated this year as a focus on human rights in communities. I was asked to participate on a panel at City Hall concerning domestic violence. I sat with 5 other professionals to talk and then participate in Q and A.

One of the panelists, who was Vietnamese, shared her story about being at a store purchasing a tent. The store was out and the sales associate called the manager over to ask what she should do since the tent was on sale. The Vietnamese woman spoke perfect English. When the manager came over she said loudly, "If youuuu come back Monday we have tent for you..." and she made a triangle sign with her fingers. Stacy very politely smilled and said, "Thank you very much, I will come back Monday to pick the tent up." The manager began to apologize. Stacey's daughter asked, "Mommy, why did that lady make a triangle sign and talk to us loudly."

Another panelist is a PhD. at OHSU and as a psychologist does research and work with women at prisons. She was born in Iran and moved here when she was 5. She shared stories of how the police have treated her and how she has been treated since 9-11.

Both these women are leaders in Portland in addressing domestic abuse among women. They are highly qualified in their fields.

I listened to these stories and thought, "I live in America for cryin out loud! How in the world can a country that prides itself in social justice, welcoming the poor and hurting, and freedom still be dealing with this issue? We're supposed to be a Christian nation."

Then I remembered the movie Crash.

Then they talked about their expeirences with churches. They talked about the victims they work with and their churches. Needless to say it was not positive.

When it was my turn to talk about faith communities and working with abusive men I had to agree with most of what the panel said. I think they appreciated it. Many of our churches are like our country--they do not listen to the little people. I think this is why Christianity is declining in America. The little people are leaving.

I hear a lot of white middle class males tell me that the most discrimitated against people in America are white middle class males. Maybe they should listen to other people, especially women, to hear their stories. I've never felt discriminated against. Maybe my responsibility as a white middle class male is to stand up for those who are oppressed. Maybe my responsibility is to confront the oppressors and make sure I never become one. Make sure my 3 boys do not become oppressors as well.

Maybe we should just listen to other people.

However, at Agape we will seek to be like Jesus. He was unique in that he held children, touched children, spent time with slaves, and interacted with women. I think that must be why Mark and Luke want us to know that crowds followed him, pressed upon him, and listened to him. In Luke 15:1 after his challenging hard sermon about giving everything up to follow him (Luke 14:25-33) the sinners and tax collectors came forward. But the Pharisees and teachers of God's law stood back and scoffed at his ministry. Why not, his ministry was growing and their's wasn't.

We need more churches like Jesus' today. In spite of what the critics think.

It really matters what the little people think. They are the brothers and sisters of Jesus (Matthew 25).

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