Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Community Can Be Strengthened Even During Challenging Times

Much that has recently transpired gives us reason to be outraged. The rights of women are being compromised and invalidated by Congressional fiat. By now, there is no need for me to mention them again. Other posters, columnists, and commentators have eloquently taken stock of the situation and discussed its potential consequences. I find myself unable to do much but agree with their assessments, conceding once again how easy for it is for some to thoughtlessly terminate the ability of women to make their own personal decisions.

Earlier in the week, I was given a particularly rich piece of advice that I’ve been contemplating within myself. I’m a feminist reformer, but I am also a Quaker reformer. Both of these identities regularly influence the other. I cannot manage to separate them, nor would I even if I could. I live my faith, but I also live my Feminism. Within the whole of my own faith group, as well as where I worship on Sundays, an equally great need for action and change exists. Feminism is evolving to fit new times, and the same is true for organized religion. But neither is a painless process. As might not surprising you, small-minded, short-sighted attitudes are present within religion as much as within Congress, and with similar abundance. Resistance has been fierce. People grow accustomed to old ways, and often view new ones with great suspicion.

The advice of which I spoke at the beginning urged me to consider reevaluating my general strategy. My usual course of action, for whatever cause it may be, consists usually of pushing and shoving with great force, then standing back for a time to observe the result. In some ways, it reminds me of lobbing a hand grenade several yards ahead, bracing myself for the blast, then advancing forward to observe the results of the explosion. It makes for great pyrotechnics, but has its limitations. The guidance provided me suggests I ought to instead apply slow, consistent, unyielding pressure to a troublesome area, but to also mind not to push too hard, nor too fast. “People are small-minded”, she said, implying that this is the nature of humans, and simply cannot be removed from the mix.

I write this not to criticize anyone’s leading or their own particular view. There will always be a need for people to agitate and mobilize, to call attention, and to raise consciousness. If I were speaking to a religious audience, I would note that all believers are part of the Body of Christ, and that each of us play an important, essential role within it. Though I know I am writing now for an audience of different faiths than my own, and sometimes no faith at all, this basic message has a greater application.

For we have many parts in one body, but these parts do not all have the same function. In the same way, even though we are many people, we are one body in the Messiah and individual parts connected to each other. We have different gifts based on the grace that was given to us. So if your gift is prophecy, use your gift in proportion to your faith. If your gift is serving, devote yourself to serving others.

If it is teaching, devote yourself to teaching others. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

Turn a tragedy upside down. Take this opportunity to grow together, to appreciate, acknowledge, and validate everyone’s unique contribution to the community. Recognize that there is great purpose here for all who are seeking. If we were not in search of something, we would not be here. Some of us seek ourselves. Some of us seek to be informed. Some of us seek to instruct others. Some of us seek to open the way so that we might all proceed into the light. Some are still unsure, but grateful for a forum to be heard and not silenced. Above all, be people of the light. For the whole of our lives, there will always be darkness.

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