Church Off Course – A Response to ‘The Man Jesus Called A Fool’ by MLK

I spent Friday night with my mentor, Marshall Ganz. Who recommended I read one of MLK’s sermon’s: The Man Jesus Called A Fool.

Here MLK preaches on the story in Luke where Jesus chides a man for storing his wealth for the future. In this story the wealthy man dies before he has the opportunity to enjoy or distribute all he has earned through his work. King makes it clear that this is not an admonishment of wealth in and of itself but how we interact with our wealth.

In this sermon King is preaching to wealthy blacks in Illinois and challenging them to discern if they have let the accumulation of power (their wealth) become more important than the cause of equality for themselves and their fellows. He calls out people who are focused in the results of their labor: cars, homes and status rather than remembering that those things are a resource and/or a by product but not the end goal in the fight for equality. King summarizes the problem by saying, “And so this man was a fool because he allowed the means by which he lived to outdistance the ends for which he lived.”

It is my deep concern that the current Christian church risks becoming a fool. We have forgotten our charge to free captives, heal the sick, restore the broken. Instead we are focused on maintaining our property, our status, our power, our presence in the world. Rather than proclaim a message of love and justice we would rather preach something ‘safe’ that keeps people ‘happy’ with the church.

The result of this is that oppression still exists: people believe they are not gods children because we reject their very being and deny others the basic goods necessary for a satisfactory life.

The church exists for the sole purpose of freedom in Christ. That is it. The buildings and liturgies and programs and services are beautiful but only to the end that they being us closer to this purpose. It is my prayer and hope that we would not be a fool, that we would examine the ways we prioritize the mans and release them in any instance that they prevent is from offering freedom to our fellows.

Walk With Me – A Response to Leveling Playing the Field by Advancing Women Professionals

A Reflection on Leveling the Playing Field by Shifra Bronznick, Didi Goldenhar and Marty Linsky of Advancing Women Professionals (AWP)

It’s 11 p.m. you’re about to go to switch off the TV and head to bed when suddenly a thin child, face dirtied and surrounded by dirt appears on the screen.  She is hungry. The good news is that for only $25 a month we can offer her food and education for the next month, what to do? Do you give, knowing that next month there will be another $25 and that there are millions of other children just like her in the world? Or, frustrated with the enormity of the situation do you hit the power button and walk away?

We have all faced this dilemma.

What I love about our work in Kenya is that Be the Change gives people a third option, supporting the growth of structures in the community that feed hundreds of children …  contribute $25 to Be the Change and you support the development of Kenyan-lead feeding programs which reach a whole home of children.

You would think logic, these numbers and success stories would result in a desire to shift the way people support development in Africa but as an organization we face a severe challenge in ‘convincing’ people this new sort of work. Why?

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The Global Challenge of Broken Systems – A Response to The Allure of Order by Jal Mehta

A Reflection on Jal Mehta’s, The Allure of Order, Part 1

In the past two years I have traversed the borders of the US and Africa five times. With each crossing I am more aware of the parallels between the challenges faced between the two nations. Though appearances and circumstance may cause them to appear different on the surface, the core struggles that we face are strikingly similar.

This truth reared its head again during my recent reading of The Allure of Order by Jal Mehta a professor at the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University. Mehta opens with a catalog of failed attempts to fix an underperforming and inequitable US education system at the top of the pyramid, through policy: the most recent and (in)famous of these attempts being President George W. Bush’s ‘No Child Left Behind.’

Mehta’s ability to depict our human desire to control and manage broken situations (brokenness defined as, “the results we are seeing are far from our expectations.”) rather than work within them and alongside them to create long-term change resonated deeply with the challenge I experience in Kenya around child poverty.

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Happy Belated July 4th :: On Independence

Today America has less intergenerational economic mobility than almost any country in the industrialized world; one of the best predictors of being a member of the elite today is whether your parents were in the elite. The elite story about the triumph of the omnivorous individual with diverse talents is a myth. In suggesting that it is their work and not their wealth, that it is their talents and not their lineage, elites effectively blame inequality on those whom our democratic promise has failed.

From the NY Times Opinion by Shamus Khan – Shamus Khan is an assistant professor of sociology at Columbia and author of “Privilege: The Making of an Adolescent Elite at St. Paul’s School.”

Yesterday morning I heard a TV pastor brag about America’s long overdue victory over slavery. While I can agree with the point that slavery as an institution has been largely abolished in the US – I know for a fact that America continues to uphold practices and systems which severely restrict subgroups of our population.

I learned this truth as early as third grade. In elementary school I had the opportunity to split my time between my regular school, Sherwood and a school for the Gifted and Talented.  Four days a week I attended Sherwood. Sherwood was a wonderful school but it was, unfortunately, on the ‘wrong side of the tracks. It was largely populated by immigrants and most of us grew up in homes that struggled to make ends meet.  Due to our lower tax bracket/socio-eco status we were robbed of educational  resources, salaries to lure good teachers or fancy field trips. That said, I mostly didn’t mind. I was with my people. I never thought about my terribly worn clothes or wondered why I couldn’t afford drink juice boxes. None of us had money. We were also lacking in resources.

That changed on Wednesday. Each Wednesday as a third grader I boarded a big yellow school bus with my friends Scott Johnson & Alex Maya and rode off to Bendwood. Bendwood was home to the school district’s  Gifted and Talented program.  Bendwood was also my own personal nightmare.On Wednesday I was thrown into a world largely consisting of students from the other side of the track – the ‘right’ side. I for the first time noticed all the holes in my pink jacket – along with the holes in my basic education. I’ll never forget the shame I felt when one of my GT teachers murmured a frustration that “Sherwood kids never did it right.” I knew she was right. I knew we didn’t have the work ethic or capability of the others. I knew my handwriting was a bit sloppier, my effort lesser. It was evident to me that something was happening over there on the other side of the tracks to which I was not privy.

The startling fact is that I experienced this dichotomy in schools no more than three miles away from each other.

I now bear witness to this inequality in schools 10,000 miles away from one another. In Kenya we work to  provide pencils, in the US we mandate that they are number 2 lead. In Kenya we hope  lunch arrives, in the US we regulate what students pack in lunch boxes (no peanuts). In Kenya we share spiral notebooks, in the US we thrown them way if the first pages are soiled. I wonder, How will these two worlds ever be equal? Deeper still I question my ability (as an American)  to moan about my ‘disadvantaged upbringing.’ All of a sudden my childhood experience seems abundant.

Instead of wondering I throw myself into the work of creating opportunity. As an organization we foster mobility and as an individual I continue to support true freedom. However, despite my best efforts, I continue to run head on into social barriers that remind me that the American dream really is still a dream and that despite our recent celebration of independence we remain quite unfree — here and there.