A couple of days ago, I wrote a post called “Believe Out Loud“. It referenced an ad campaign about LGBT inclusion in church, an ad that Sojourners Magazine declined to run. I told you that decision ignited a firestorm of protest against Sojourners, but that I wasn’t going to talk about it. I managed to stick by that resolution for a whopping 48 hours. I swear I had every intention of keeping my mouth shut on the subject, but I was undone by Jim Wallis’ response to the controversy. It loosened my tongue because Wallis says in the article that Sojourners is too committed to its “core issues” to become involved in “the controversy that such a major ad campaign could entail, and the time it could require of us”. Sojourners has become the pre-eminent social justice publication in the U. S. and it would seem to me that the inclusion of everyone is most definitely a core social justice issue. Evidently, Wallis and the good folks who work with him disagree. Maybe they have a reason to feel that way, I don’t know. But, to make my point, I need to give you a little background.
Now, all the recent fuss has been about Sojourners, the magazine and website. These two entities are publications of the Sojourners Community, an “intentional community” dedicated to social justice issues. Here’s their mission statement: “Our mission is to articulate the biblical call to social justice, inspiring hope and building a movement to transform individuals, communities, the church, and the world.” Again, we see the phrase “social justice” coming up in literature about Sojourners. Now that brings up the question: what is social justice? If you believe Glenn Beck, it’s something that’s going to destroy our country by forcing the redistribution of wealth, do away with property rights and turn us all into communists. Sounds like some the bullshit I used to hear the John Birch people spewing when I was growing up. If you’d like a better definition, try this: social justice is “The fair and proper administration of laws conforming to the natural law that all persons, irrespective of ethnic origin, gender, possessions, race, religion, etc., are to be treated equally and without prejudice” (from BusinessDictionary.com). But, for a Christian, it’s more than that. Social justice is about love, the bedrock the Gospel is built on. If you take a serious look at the ministry of Jesus, it was all about loving the oppressed, the downtrodden, the poor and the marginalized; in short, social outcasts. And, these days, LGBT folks fit that bill rather nicely. So, how can you style yourself as THE VOICE on social justice and not take a stand on the hottest social justice issue of the day? That’s like the Wall Street Journal not talking about the mortgage meltdown because it might take away from their coverage of other economic issues. It just doesn’t make sense.
Perhaps the best response to the whole sorry mess comes from the Seeking Sophia blog, written by my friend Kimberly Knight. This woman knows whereof she speaks because, as a gay person who grew up Southern Baptist in Georgia, she’s lived it. Her words:
“Jim Wallis – I am not an “issue” or simply a campaign of controversy. I am a woman, a daughter, a mother, a sister, a friend, a writer, a Christian and a child of God. I will not wait any longer for my rights in this country to equal yours. I should not be afraid to hold my partner’s hand in my own city, neighborhood or church. I should not be afraid to tell the doctors caring for our children that I am ALSO their mom – afraid that my daughter will receive less or no care in moments of critical need. I should not have to worry if someone will take my children from me because I am too controversial right now. I REFUSE to keep watching and reading of children taking their own lives because “good Christians” look the other way while their own children bully babies to death.
We are not an issue Jim, we are not a monolithic “lifestyle” or label. We are Children of God, beloved by our creator and ready to take our rightful place in a society that is groaning toward justice.”
Wallis ends the final point in his response by saying “At Sojourners we always try to ask what would Jesus do and will continue do so with these issues as well.” I can’t say for sure, Jim, but I’m pretty sure He would’ve run the ad.