Tuesday, May 3, 2011

MFSA: Social Holiness

Shhh…don’t tell my pastor, but I skipped church last weekend for a protest. Sunday (May 1) was May Day, a day which for over a century has been recognized both domestically and internationally as a day of celebration of the labor movement and a day to rally in support of workers’ rights. Annual rallies on May Day were first called for in 1890, 4 years after what has come to be known as the Haymarket Massacre in 1886, when a workers’ strike in Chicago was fired upon by the police after an unknown individual threw a bomb into the crowd. In the US, the rallies have expanded to include immigrants’ rights. I went to Chicago’s May Day march with a contingent of students from my school, DePaul University; this was my second time attending the march, and I looked forward to it as an outlet to exercise my faith. Since I came to DePaul, I have had many significant opportunities to reflect on the theological imperative for my activism, and it has shaped me substantially.

I am currently serving my second quadrennium as a board member of the General Board of Church and Society, and my tenure on the board has certainly been a learning experience. In fact, it has radically shaped my life (influencing my choice of majors, International Studies and Peace, Justice, and Conflict Studies, and my life goals). It gave me a scriptural understanding of peace and justice, introducing me to the radical implications that my faith can have on my living and being in the world, passages such as Micah 6:8 (seek justice, love kindness, walk humbly with God), Isaiah 2:4 (beat your swords into plowshares), Matthew 25:31-46 (feed the hungry, give a drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned), and the like. It has opened my eyes to issues both local and global to which I might not have otherwise had such deep exposure. However, it was my tenure at DePaul University which really caused me to pause and reflect on why I do what I do.

I became involved in activist work on a number of different issues during my time at DePaul, doing international human rights activism through Amnesty International and working as a student organizer on DePaul’s Living Wage Campaign (targeted to guarantee living wages for all subcontracted workers at DePaul), so my attendance at the May Day rally was a natural fit. My time to reflect on my activism and service work while at DePaul has introduced me to the Vincentian (in the tradition of St. Vincent DePaul) understanding of this work; at DePaul, we talk about what we call the three ways of VIA (Vincentians in Action): awareness, dialogue, and solidarity – be aware of the context of the justice/service work, ask questions and talk with marginalized communities on a human-to-human basis, then act on that knowledge and understanding. Additionally, DePaul has given me the framework of human dignity as a rationale for such work; our Christian faith mandates that we respect and work for the promotion of dignity, and God requires that we seek justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.

As I have come to discover, I found the richness and beauty of my Wesleyan/Methodist identity mediated through my Vincentian identity. Wesley cared about and reached out to the poor and the oppressed, the worker and the marginalized. The first Social Creed (adopted in 1908 by the Methodist Episcopal Church) dealt exclusively with labor rights, and the tradition continues today through our Social Principles, the work of the GBCS, and the work of MFSA. My involvement in and support for labor and immigrant rights is very much part and parcel of my Christian faith. And this is why MFSA matters to me. It gives me and many others an opportunity to exercise our faith in what may be considered an unorthodox way, but in a way that is is both personally and socially significant. For as Wesley said, “there is no holiness but social holiness”.


Kara Johansen Crawford is a senior at DePaul University, graduating in June with a BA in International Studies and Peace, Justice and Conflict Studies. Kara has been actively involved in both activism and community service while at DePaul and is particularly passionate about labor justice, issues involving Latin America, and engaging faith communities on social issues.

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