By Brent Andrews
Social justice is a part of everything we do, every person we meet, every interaction we have. Our perspectives have been formed by millions of observed and experienced oppressions or privileges that shape our language and subsequent behavior. We are exposed to family, friends, acquaintances, strangers and media who build stereotypes of things and people we don’t know. We hear groups being told that their mere existence is illegal, we see wars against color, and we witness the death penalty being issued for speeding violations through violent shootings.
As a white, cisgender, middle-class, able-bodied, educated male, I have not experienced oppression like many other people have. In fact, by virtue of my privileges I have been the beneficiary of many cycles of oppression. With these privileges comes a responsibility to be deeply present with other people because bringing heaven to Earth doesn’t involve capitalism or cyclical oppression. To be successful allies, we are all called to end the oppression that we might benefit from because an injury to one is an injury to all. We must all practice listening to learn how to actively love others well, and participate in social justice. We have to be consistent in our undertakings and not only show up when we think it matters most.
I think God calls us to realize that, as his children, we should love one another with no bounds. As Bruce Marshall said, “the young man who rings the bell at the brothel is unconsciously looking for God.” I think in our darkest moments we are looking for something deeper, and that we should try to understand that the oppressor is often seeking truth. Even when they might not realize it. And it is in that difficult space that we are called to love unconditionally and listen well.
I wrote the following poem in response to the Paris attacks last November. In writing it, I do not want to leave out the killing of 41 people in Beirut, Lebanon, or the bombing in Baghdad, Iraq at the funeral of a “pro-government Shi’ite Muslim fighter” where 18 people died and 41 more were injured. Or the two earthquakes that occurred in Japan and Mexico. To me, this day in history showed that, as a global population, it is time to start asking difficult questions about what it means to promote social justice worldwide.
It was her brother and his mom. It was their daughter and his wife,
who woke up on a busy Friday in Paris,
completely unaware of the event that would interweave their recently separate lives.
A single page in the next day’s paper would describe,
Hot lead and shrapnel piercing their fragile skin turning flesh into a statistic.
A statistic I read on my laptop as I clicked,
It was his son and her dad. It was their uncle and her husband,
who woke up to a day they knew might be their last,
eyes heavy from weeks of unrest and anticipation,
wishing that they could spend just a few more hours with the ones that they love,
and wondering what led them to this hour.
Hopelessly bound to fact,
I keep clicking
Instead let the tears stream down my numb face as I scream into the impenetrable air that is unresponsive to my aimless cry,
let me mourn alongside the soul of those who lost love they held so close,
and search for what their daughter and her husband left behind.
help me build a mosaic formed by each of their lives and the memory of loss,
God, show me Heaven on Earth.
Author Bio: Brent Andrews is from Nashville, Tennessee and is currently a freshman at Western Kentucky University where he studies Foreign Affairs and Mandarin Chinese. He loves to spend time outdoors rock climbing, hiking, camping, etc. This is a very transitional time for him and he is excited to be able to lean in and share with Ignited as he continues to grow.