Friday, January 27, 2012

Fighting Social Justice Snobbery By Samantha Bender, ACT:S Fellow

On a day when I am prepping for our clean water event tomorrow and excited to see some cover designs for my book dealing with the topic of social justice, I needed to read this piece of writing from the national ACTS many ways it profoundly exposes the struggle and sin I feel so very often as a self-proclaimed global issues and justice guy...

To whom it may concern,

I’m about to do something I hate doing…I’m going to admit that I was wrong.

I used to pride myself on being the one in my family who “cared about justice”. I was the one demanding my mom buy me fair-trade Christmas presents, or that my aunts gave money to charities instead of birthday presents. I was the girl arguing with anyone who suggested we take a family vacation to a resort on an impoverished island, I was the one who “got it”. Obviously none of those things are evil or wrong. I, however, distorted these good decisions because I felt so superior by ‘caring’ about everything. I knew about every injustice, and I wanted to do something about it. I was the definition of awesome.

While I was a Sophomore in college, strutting around in my “Save Darfur” shirt with my fair-trade coffee, my sister was a junior in high school. Her and her friends began organizing an event called “Mini-Thon”. Mini-Thon was a smaller version of a fundraiser put on every year at Penn State University that raises money for an organization dedicated to fighting and treating childhood cancer. My sister’s heart was broken by a family friend who was suffering from childhood cancer, and she couldn’t rest until she did something about it. They spent the year getting ready for the big event and ended up raising over 75,000 dollars!

Was I ecstatic? Was I so incredibly proud of my sister, or happy that such an awesome organization had been given so much? No. Foolishly, selfishly, I was not. The whole thing felt so “over-done” to me. “Suburban families and housewives raising money for charity… real original,” I remember thinking. My sister told me the amazing news and all I could do was chastise her for wearing a shirt from the Gap, which I added, was inevitably made in sweat-shop. “She just doesn’t care”, I told myself. My Super-Bowl-sized ego could be seen from space.

It’s alright, you’re allowed to hate me.

Eventually, through sheer grace, God was loving enough to kick me in the face. How dare I think that this amazing act of love wasn’t enough? How dare I think I was above it? At the end of the day, how dare I completely slander the name of God?

I’m afraid that more often than not, I’m not alone in this.

I’m afraid that it has been far too easy for us to group ourselves into exclusive clubs, those that “care” about justice, and those that don’t.

All it takes is for a social justice chapter to throw a moderately attended event and suddenly there is an assumption that everyone who wasn’t there could care less about starving children. Frustration from feeling like there isn’t a dent being made transpires into pawning the blame on those who aren’t “trying”. This on-going frustration turns into a strong sense of exclusion, and a belief that we are not only the only ones who care about justice, but the only ones who know how to do it right.

We will become immobile in this fight against injustice the moment we believe we’re better than anyone else. No matter how many campaigns you craft, no matter how many signatures you get, or how many hours you volunteer, Jesus reminds us again and again that we are no better than anyone else. We were all designed to change the world.

You get the picture here.

Today, remember that justice isn’t sexy, it’s not a label, and it’s not some indie band that you “heard of before it was mainstream”, it’s a way of life. Live justly in your actions and you may be shocked by how difficult it is and by how much you can learn from others… even from those who shop at Wal-Mart.


With love,
A humbled self-absorbed activist

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