Hello! I’m currently on the train headed towards my second real day at Broad Street Ministry.
Day 1 consisted of a tour, given by Andy, a bunch of jobs from Liam (such as emailing organizations, compiling lists, picking pictures for a poster, etc), and setting up for and attending a fantastic performance by the Native American dance troupe Red Crooked Sky. I’m attempting not to write as much of a novel as I did for my introduction, so here’s the good stuff:
Andy introduced the concept of theological good and evil to me yesterday morning in the bottom room of the church by bluntly saying that he sees it in a different light. He spoke about how the world, to him, is not based in good and evil, but beauty and brokenness. The bottom room of the church is a large room, falling apart in many ways but engaged in the arts and made beautiful by the tiled mosaics decorating the six pillars. On one side, there is the image of a person engaging in dance, song, or another art, and birds flying around them. On the other, there are columns and words put into the mosaic, embodying the main pillars of BSM’s mission: compassion, candor, humility, imagination, risk, etc. This broken room holds so much beauty, through the art on the walls and the people who are inside.
Anyway, that idea really stuck with me throughout the day. It came full circle when, during one of Red Crooked Sky’s dances, the idea was introduced that one of the dances symbolized the space between good and evil when the two eagle feathers on each man’s head touched as they danced around each other in a traditional warrior dance. I considered good and evil, and beauty and brokenness, and I immediately was struck with the thought that through the broken nature of Native American culture, the hardship that exists on reservations and the way that the US has stripped them of so many rights, these men are sharing with us, teaching to us, the beauty that exists within their culture, and through their brokenness shines even more brightly.
So what does this mean? For social justice, for the role of religion within social services and political landscapes? It’s a hard topic to explicate, especially because within my own social situation, an agnostic white girl from a wealthy background, I might seem as if I don’t know broken. But brokenness does not exist only in economic situations. Emotionally broken, mentally broken, spiritually broken, the list goes on. And I can relate to those, and I think that each of those problems speaks to social justice just as much as economic brokenness does.
In the worship service on Sunday, Erica spoke about “loving your enemy.” She stressed the fact that this part of the scripture does not mean that to be a good Christian, you must love those who abuse you or accept abuse as just. Don’t allow yourself abuse, but attempt to be empathetic to your abuser and do not engage in abuse towards others. It’s the idea that within brokenness, within a broken relationship, your own broken mind, or the whole broken world, there is a way to see real beauty within the chaos, and to live within that beauty instead of engaging in the destruction. It is a moral approach to social justice.
I don’t know yet what effect a moral approach has on social justice. You might say, what does it matter that these Native American men are here to share the beauty of their culture with us? Does it change the fact that on reservations, problems run rampant? The lack of education and health care, poverty, obesity, sexism within politics, gambling. I think it’s important to remember that this concept isn’t a proposed plan of action. Being able to see beauty within brokenness is reminiscent of Liberation Theology’s theme of hope, which is not so much a vehicle of social change as it is a motivator to change people’s mentality towards social issues.