The Church and Social Justice
“What do we want?” our leader yelled through the megaphone, “Justice!” we responded. “When do we want it?” she yelled again, “now!” we answered, our voices echoing off of the tall walls of the Grand Hyatt in downtown Seattle. As the UCC Social Justice intern for The Church Council of Greater Seattle and Plymouth Church, I have been participating in a lot of actions (protests, strikes, vigils) with community, union, and faith groups in the last few months. I have learned during that time, that while chanting you never quite know if you’re going to be crying out for worker’s rights, human rights, or justice, but it is always something that is needed “now!” It is humbling to realize that Jesus was asking for justice and basic human rights for those who are ignored by society over 2000 years ago. It was something that he was calling out for “now” and it is still a calling that we must carry out today.
Housekeepers are asked to do back breaking work, lifting heavy beds and sheets over and over with less and less time being allotted to clean each room. I have heard stories from women who work two jobs and commute great distances in order to just barely make ends meets. This is dramatically different for housecleaners who are unionized and therefore protected from these injustices. They are able to tell a story of hard work leading to a stable life that they enjoy.
I walk by these hotels on the way to Plymouth Church a few times a week and I wonder how many people understand all that is going on within those walls. I would like to think that if only people heard the stories of the workers, that they would support them, stand with them, and use their own privilege to create change. I know that this is not the way that the world really works, however. I know that there are demands on everyone’s time, passions, and energy. This is when I come to the challenge of what I believe Jesus calls me to do. The parable of the Good Samaritan is a story of how those who are supposed to help are often the ones who just walk by. I wonder if the Priest and the Levite had already helped someone that day, or were on their way to help someone else. I wonder if they didn’t think that this man was the one they were meant to help.
Jesus never answers a question in the way that people expect. He gives us a clear message, but part of our faith journey is finding out how to live that message in our daily lives. Coming together as a community of faith, we can help to define the message for ourselves, unite behind a cause, and create real change in the world.