Defining terms, I'll take "social" to be all or most of the people in a given geographical area or population cohort. Such as? Everyone in Current City, since for the most part, people are most interested in local concerns. I'll run with "justice" mostly as distribution of goods and services (implying also bads and disservices) in terms of who gets what, when, how, why... however, at least this time, I'm not equating justice with equality.
Hebrew bible scholar Walter Brueggemann tells us, "Justice is important, but food is essential." How powerful it is that we celebrate the fullness of redemption with a literal "Holy Communion," coming together around a table that's a festival of thanksgiving, a Eucharistic meal, a foretaste of the "Messianic Feast"? A time and a place where the land has been healed, crops are healthy (non-GMO), everyone contributes in some way to the food on the table, and everyone enjoys the feast. The gospel accounts – especially Luke's – tell about Jesus eating and celebrating with friends, disciples, strangers, and outcasts. And about giving his body for the life of the world.
Basic human needs include food, potable water, sleep, breathable air, and community. For the past year I've been participating in an ongoing weekly Thursday evening story about food freely offered to all comers at Church Around the Corner. Some of us arrive early to help set the table, make lemonade, slice, dice, sauté, bake, and grill. Lately we've been serving rather than having guests serve themselves. For a couple of hours, non-church neighborhood folks, usually some from one or more of the nearby homeless enclaves, regular church participants, and anyone else who stops in becomes part of this "family meal," as the sign in front of the church building describes it. Most everyone already has access to safe water, some place to sleep, air that's not actually toxic, and sometimes a ready supply of good food (although sometimes not so ready and not so good). Each Thursday we also offer that essential of community, a place of safety and belonging—if only briefly.
Who gets what, when, how, and why? Anyone who stops by gets a multi-course meal, conversation if they want to talk, an invitation to return, even questions about why we're doing this answered. We let them know they are so very welcome at Sunday worship, also! Why is Church Around the Corner providing good food for everyone? Partly to follow the example of Jesus, as part of their desire to live a Eucharistic lifestyle beyond weekly Sunday morning liturgy, partly because their position in that neighborhood mandates they reach out and serve their neighbors—all or most of the people in that particular neighborhood.
Justice is important, but food is necessary. Social justice is about getting a little more than those essentials, but making basics easily available helps begin freeing people to seek, to be open to opportunities for other aspects of justice.
Other October Synchroblog Participants:
- K.W. Leslie – Social Justice and Social Darwinism
- Jeremy Meyers – Did Jesus Teach Social Justice?
- Glenn Hager – Notes on Not Saving the World
- J.A. Carter – The Gospel Truth About Social Justice
- Sherri Huleatt – Sex Trafficking: the Story of a Young Girl, the Problem of a Generation
- Edwin Pastor Fedex Aldrich – Social Justice or Social Programs
- LIz Dyer – A Social Justice Story
- Carol Kuniholm – Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places
- Kathy Escobar – Justice is More Than Equality