Jason C. Stanley

ponderings of a dad walking humbly & seeking justice

Tag: injustice (page 1 of 2)

YouTubevotional: ‘Mully’ Trailer

YouTubevotionals are designed to be used in personal devotion time, with small groups, youth groups, or Sunday school classes. To see other YouTubevotionals, click here

Introduction

Mully is a docudrama based on the life of Dr. Charles M. Mully. Mully will be shown in select theaters nationwide for three consecutive nights, October 3, 4, and 5, via Fathom Events.

Dr. Mully is often referred to as “the father of the world’s largest family.” Having been abandoned at the age of 6 himself, Mully has dedicated the past twenty-seven years, along with his wealth and resources to rescuing abandoned children in the slums of Kenya. His own story of surviving insurmountable odds and becoming one of the most respected humanitarians, is an inspiration to the young children he rescues.

Dr. Mully and his wife Esther formed Mully Children’s Family (MCF) – the world’s largest family – in 1989 to provide for the children whom they rescued.

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YouTubevotional: Justice

scale_3960cYouTubevotionals are designed to be used in personal devotion time, with small groups, youth groups, or Sunday school classes. To see other YouTubevotionals  click here

Introduction

The word “justice” is being used a lot lately. We use the phrase “justice for all,” but what does that mean? For some, justice is building a wall. For others, justice is tearing down walls. The way we understand justice too often finds itself in alignment with our politics and not our faith. “What does the Lord require?” the prophet Micah asked.

The answer? “To do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.”

aJustATL is a non-profit, multi-platform social media campaign to connect Atlantans with various non-projects in the city. On their YouTube channel, they ask Atlantans, “What does justice mean to you?”

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Comic Review: Green Arrow Vol. 1: The Death & Life of Oliver Queen (Rebirth)

Green Arrow Vol. 1Green Arrow Vol. 1: The Death and Life of Oliver Queen (Rebirth) is written by Benjamin Percy and illustrated by Otto Schmidt and Juan Ferreyra. It collects Green Arrow: Rebirth #1 and Green Arrow #1-5.

The Story (aka from the Publisher)

The way the Emerald Archer lives his life will change forever, as Green Arrow is betrayed by those closest to him!

A budding relationship with Black Canary forces Ollie to confront the fact that you can’t fight “the man” if you are “the man.” And one by one, all of his friends leave him, and all the money in the world won’t bring them back when he needs them most. The events of “The Death and Life of Oliver Queen” will rattle Oliver’s status quo so much, his choices as a superhero will never be the same again.

The Pursuit of Justice

Oliver Queen is a socialite playboy who is the CEO of Queen Industries. While he leaves the company in the trusted hands of his CFO, he is a philanthropic do-gooder. As he glides through the dark streets of Seattle as Green Arrow, his legacy of charity bears his name. The children’s hospital, the homeless shelter, and a home for battered women.

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The Rum Diary (2011)

rum_diary_ver2_xlgPaul Kemp (Johnny Depp) is an American journalist who has relocated to San Juan, Puerto Rico as a freelance writer in the 1950s.   He’s hired by a not-so-great American newspaper to write the daily horoscopes.   At first he thinks it’s a joke, but alas, it is not.

As the film unfolds, there’s a tension in the air, and I don’t mean the rum-aroma air that almost seeps through the screen.  There is a tension existing inside Paul Kemp.  As he sits at Al’s bar with Chenault (Amber Heard) he tells her, “I don’t know how to write like me.”   From the beginning of the film, we see this struggle.  After witnessing his first Puerto Rican cock fight, Paul wanders off with a camera.  He snaps some pictures of the local children in a trash dump.  He then writes a story about the children eating in the dump.  He wants to draw the attention of the reader to this great injustice.  It’s rejected by the editor, Lotterman (Richard Jenkins).  “Nothing will change,” Lotterman reasons.  “You underestimate me,” Kemp replies.

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Time-Out

Read Genesis 9:8-17.

washing_3262c-2“When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” (Genesis 9:16)

The rains came. The waters rose. The ark floated. The sun appeared. The dove flew. The ark landed. Noah worshiped. The rainbow appeared.

The story of Noah’s Ark is well known and well filmed. From Russell Crowe to VeggieTales, we have seen Noah depicted in a wide range of ways.

I imagine the flood as a massive time-out for humanity. God the Parent had had enough, and it was time for humanity to have a time-out. As an educator, whenever time-out is used, the general rule of thumb has always been one minute for each year of life. So a three-year-old, for example, would sit in time-out for three minutes.

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Beyond the Hashtag

from catchwordbranding.com

from catchwordbranding.com

You have probably seen, or even tweeted, the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. It has been used in response to the kidnappings of Nigerian school girls at the hands of the terrorist group Boko Haram. Celebrities, politicians, the First Lady, and everyday people like you and me have tweeted the hashtag. In all, over a million tweets have beckoned for the return of these Nigerian girls.  And that’s a good thing. The more voices that rise up, the more awareness there is about an issue, like how selling girls into slavery is not okay.

And the use of the social media has reached the attention of those that can indeed do something about this. The U. S. government has since gotten involved to aid the Nigerian government in locating the over 200 kidnapped girls. It took the hashtag, first tweeted by Nigerian mothers, to get the worldwide attention it has today. Unfortunately, this kind of thing happens all over the world, including the United States, every day. The hashtag got our attention.

Blogger Merrilyn Akpapuna, a 20-something Nigerian, recently wrote this about #BringBackOurGirls:

We may not be able to physically save these girls but what we can do is talk. Our voice is our power and if everyone is talking about this, we increase the likelihood that something will be done about it.

Our voices are important. Our voices, like that of the Baptist in Mark’s gospel, are crying out in the wilderness for repentance. Our voices, like that of the whale-swallowed Jonah, are calling for a change in evil ways. Our voices have power.

But it occurred to me that maybe the hashtag is too easy. Not just #BringBackOur Girls, but any social activist kind of hashtag. Maybe we hide our voices behind the hashtag instead of truly raising our voices against an injustice like sex trafficking. There is a level of comfort when we tweet a hashtag from our smart phones while not disrupting the normalcy of our lives.

The work of justice is disrupting.

In the process of pondering these thoughts and writing this post over the last few weeks, Caitlin Dewey wrote an article titled “Is tweeting a hashtag better than doing nothing? Or about the same?” in the Friday, May 9 edition of The Washington Post. In the article Dewey raises some of the same questions I had been pondering. She also outlines how hashtags have become a form of “slacker” activism.

Is hashtag activism just being lazy? Well, it’s debatable, as Dewey highlights. As a Christian, I accept that I am called out of my comfort zones to pursue justice with peace and compassion. But, I also recognize that for some tweeting a hashtag with social justice implications (#JusticeforTrayvon for example) may be coming out of a huge comfort zone. But for the rookie or the veteran tweeter, it seems to be easier to tweet a commonly tweeted hashtag to show support for something and call it activism, justice work, or a good deed. Whatever we call it, it becomes comfortable and easy.

The other week I was in Washington, D. C. stepping out of my own comfort zone by advocating for bills or changes in bills that were before the Senate and House. I never imagined that I would end up on Capital Hill doing something like this. But when an issue or an injustice becomes deeply personal to you and people you care for, it moves you beyond the hashtag.

Injustice moves us beyond our comfort zones.

One of the things I was advocating for on Capital Hill was the Adoption Tax Credit Refundability Act of 2013 (S 1056/HR 2144). While the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 became a permanent fixture to the tax code, the refundable portion of the credit which was made permanent for two years (2010 and 2011) is no longer in effect. This new act will restore that refundable portion creating financial flexibility to families who are interesting in building their families through adoption. 

Here’s more information from a press release after the bill was introduced in May 2013:

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, one-third of all adopted children live in families with annual household income at or below 200 percent of the poverty level.  Despite the common misperception that only wealthy families adopt, nearly 46 percent of families adopting from foster care are at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.  Many of these families’ tax burdens are so low that they cannot benefit from the adoption tax credit at all unless it is refundable.

While I could have stayed in Lynchburg in the comfort of my home and hashtagged my heart out, there is something to be said about stepping out of your comfort zone. And going to Capital Hill was way out of my comfort zone. We were meeting with staff of Senators and Representatives from Virginia. We maneuvered through the labyrinth of the basement hallways of the Capital. We ate lunch in the Senate offices cafeteria. We awkwardly waited outside of the offices of politicians.

All of this stuff we did on a casual, normal Wednesday, that I never dreamed I would ever do, made a difference in me. It gave me some experience in how politicians become aware of bills that could indeed make a difference. It challenged the myth that our voices matter (they do, by the way). I grew in understanding about advocacy, but also from hearing the stories of others. And none of it would have happened it had not stepped out of my comfort zone.

Stepping out of our comfort zones is a good thing.

But, it is also something that requires a little bit of responsibility on our part. We do not just simply raise our voices. If we are going to go beyond the hashtag and step out of our comfort zones to raise awareness, we need to be aware ourselves. Merrilyn Akpapuna, the young Nigerian woman I mentioned earlier offers some great advice:

So, do more research about this incident and talk about it on social media using the hashtag #bringbackourgirls. If you are a global citizen [something I continually strive to be] who is altruistic enough to care about not just the citizens of your country but the human race, you will agree that these are Our girls. So let’s start talking and say hey better me!

So, let’s get passionate, let’s tweet some hashtags, and let’s raise awareness of injustices around us. Let us also do our research, be aware of what we want others to be aware of, and let’s be courageous enough to step out of comfort zones beyond the hashtag.

Sermon: Savior, Like a Shepherd

A sermon preached April 21, 2013 at Peakland United Methodist Church the Sunday after the Boston Marathon bombing. The texts for the sermon were Psalm 23, Revelation 7:9-17, and John 10:22-30.

Philadelphia (1993)

philadelphia_xlgIn the 1980s, AIDS emerged as the leading killer of young adults. By the mid-1980s, it was the leading cause of death in men ages 25-44. In 1990, over 100,000 deaths were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Today we know that AIDS cannot be transmitted by a handshake or a hug, or by breathing the same air as someone who is HIV positive. But in the first decade of the AIDS epidemic, those things were not known. When someone came into contact with AIDS or HIV, they were cautious, as if they were in a leper colony.  This is why Philadelphia is so important. A decade after the disease was identified, Hollywood took a risk in making a big-budget film about the disease.

It is the story of Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks) who is a rising lawyer in a major and high profile law firm. The audience is given the privilege of knowing that Beckett is being treated for AIDS. The law firm, however, does not know. The senior partner of the law firm gives Beckett a case that involves the firm’s most important client.

A lesion on his forehead, however, seems to give him away. Though he claims it is a bruise from playing racket ball, it is not long before he is terminated. Beckett is pretty certain that he is being fired because of his sickness.

Beckett is not wrong in his suspicion, and he decides to take a stand. No attorney in town is willing to go up against Wheeler and his law firm. Until Beckett goes to Joe Miller (Denzel Washington). Miller is “the guy from TV” as people throughout the film say as they recognize him from his TV commercials.

The only thing is Miller does not like homosexuals. He admits it his wife. He shows it when he awkwardly reacts to Beckett when he finds out that Beckett has AIDS. But after watching a librarian in the law library strongly suggest that Beckett use one of the private rooms, Miller is filled with compassion. Prejudice is prejudice.

After a costume party at Beckett’s flat, Miller sits down with him to go over questioning for the courtroom drama. In the midst of this, Beckett asks Miller, “Do you ever pray?” Beckett is somewhat taken off guard. He answers that he does, and Beckett asks him what he prays for. Miller replies back that he prayers for his wife, his daughter, for the Phillys to win.

Beckett has opera music playing during this conversation. It is one that Beckett is able to identify with his dying state, which he opening talks about over the music. Miller is visibly uncomfortable. Opera is not his thing. Beckett explains what the opera means to him.

Do you feel the pain, Joe? . . . . . . It’s filled with hope.

There is a change in Miller. He sees Beckett as any other man who loves life and fears death. The film swiftly moves to Miller’s home where he is sitting in the darkness. Miller comes out of that darkness fighting stronger for Beckett, and seeing Beckett more as a friend than a client.

Some have described AIDS as the modern-day leprosy. That may be the chance. In Jesus’ day, people with leprosy had to yell out “Unclean! Unclean!” to announce that they were coming through. It was so that others would avoid them. Yet, Jesus touched the lepers, repeatedly throughout the Gospels, Jesus touches the untouchable.

Philadelphia reminds us that there are untouchables with us still. There are those whom society has deemed unclean. Andrew Beckett was deemed unclean by his law firm and fired for it. Wheeler tells his fellow partners, “He brought AIDS into our offices – into our men’s rooms!” However, Jesus’ actions towards the untouchables of his day was a moment of radical love! As Christians – “little Christs” – we are called to face the prejudices we hold and transform those thoughts into actions of radical love.

He Suffered

jesus_9087c“Look, my servant will succeed. He will be exalted and lifted very high. Just as many were appalled by you, he too appeared disfigured, inhuman, his appearance unlike that of mortals. (Isaiah 52:13-14, Common English Bible)

He was born into a broken world full of sin and hate. He grew learning and teaching that hate is not the way. He lived showing the world how love really works.

Because he loved us.

Yet, he was betrayed. He was arrested. He was denied. He was beaten. He was flogged. He was stripped. He was nailed to a cross.

He suffered.

Because he loved us.

Us – who betray and deny him.

Us – who beat others with his words; who flog those who disagree with us; who strip away the rights of the oppressed; who nail others to their crosses instead of picking up our own.

He suffered.

Because he loved us.

Even though we do not always love.

We chose hate over love. We chose malice words instead of words of respect.  We chose to ignore rather than to participate.

His generous act of sacrificial love was an act of justice.  He laid down his life so that we – who are broken and full of sin – may have eternal life.

And, yet, we have been shown love and justice, we continue to neglect love and abuse justice.

We turn the other cheek to avoid the piercing glare of the poor and the hungry; to turn away from the ringing of the hammer of systemic injustice; to demand forgiveness rather than to forgive.

He loves us.

Loving God, we give you thanks for your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lived and died so that we may have life. May your Holy Spirit dwell in us, around us, and through us as we strive to live this life we have been given as Christ lived his, with love and justice for all. Amen.

You’re Next (2011)

Ponderings - You're Next ReviewAs far as horror films go, Adam Wingard’s You’re Next is mild. It is by no means Saw or Nightmare on Elm Street. But it is still a horror film, though it beats to its own drum. Wingard’s approach is strike and go. He does not linger on the blood or violence. There is more to this story than that.

In You’re Next, a wealthy couple invite their grown children and their partners to their isolated estate. As the family gathers, it is a very typical dysfunctional family dinner. Old rivalries that have resided in deep resentment surface. During a heated argument at the dinner table, one boyfriend notices something outside. He stands up to look out the window. He is the first of this family to fall fate to the animal masked men outside the home. Ironically, the boyfriend is a documentary filmmaker who is portrayed by horror film maker Ti West.

The message “You’re Next” is scrawled around the house. So, we the humble horror film viewer, know that there is more to come. The film, however, has a few plot turns that are unexpected. Mainly the character of Erin, the girlfriend of one of the sons. Sharni Vinson is by the far the best part of this film. As Erin she is a strong, independent, leader and survivor. When all the mess hits the fan, she goes into survival mode. She does what she learned to do growing up in Australia. It is natural for her, unlike her boyfriend who runs off. This sets Erin apart from this family that she marry into.

Erin is the only one who does not give up. She is only one who does what she must to survive. She will not allow this darkness, this violence, this injustice, to win. And it’s not easy. She sets up traps and arms herself with an axe. The true difficult moment comes when she figures out who is behind all of this violence.

Vinson as Erin

Sharni Vinson as Erin

At the heart of this film (do horror films have hearts?) is family. The problem that the film presents for us is that the darkness, the violence, the injustice that we experience can be at the hands of our family. It quickly becomes clear that the family reunion has been hijacked to ensure that one son gets an inheritance much sooner than planned.

It is hard to believe that family would do this to family. Paul Tillich taught that the thing we care about the most – the thing that motivates us to do the things that we do – becomes our ultimate concern. And that ultimate concern becomes our religion.

And, let’s face it, people do crazy things for their religion. Even kill?

Perhaps.

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