This blog post has been working itself out in me for quite sometime. And as the next post in the Beyond Inspiration series touches on faith, I wanted to share a bit about my own perspective and thoughts here on the blog before delving into someone else's.
I was raised Catholic and went to church every single Sunday, regardless. My parents always brought me and by high school, I actually enjoyed going. I participated wholeheartedly in a very active and engaging state-wide youth ministry program, which I still believe was one of the best in the nation because every aspect was planned and carried out by the teens themselves. I made bunches of friends, learned about leadership and grew in my faith.
I chose Boston College because it is a Jesuit university and I loved that about it. With a strong focus on "men and women for others," I began thinking about service and what my faith would look like on a grander scale, beyond the gates of the enclosed campus.
So, after college, I signed up for Mission Year. What I liked about Mission Year is that it emphasized service and community living, rather than flash evangelism. For a year, I lived in one of the absolute roughest, and often overlooked, neighborhoods in Chicago. In that neighborhood, I lived and worked and went to church and bought my groceries and did my laundry and met my neighbors. It was certainly one of my most trying years as I did my best to make sense of who I was, who God is and how I wanted to live.
Since then, I moved to another rough and overlooked neighborhood. The job where I volunteered during Mission Year has since hired me full-time and I've now been there for six years. This job is located in the same neighborhood where I live. When Adrian and I go for walks around the neighborhood, I almost always run in to students. And I love that.
My attendance at the church in my neighborhood has fallen off in the past few years. I have a hard time reconciling the things I hear in church with the realities of my neighborhood. A few years back, there was a hard push for a marble altar. In this neighborhood, there are many needs. We need afterschool programs and safe havens and job training and English classes and pre-natal care and decent, affordable groceries and honest immigration legal counsel. But we do not need marble altars. It's been hard for me to go to church and to see firsthand the disconnect.
I am a strong proponent for social justice because I believe that in twenty years, my kids will ask me, "Mom did you support immigrant rights?" And I will say "Yes, of course I did. Remember how I lived in an immigrant neighborhood and how I taught immigrant students and how I worked so hard to provide them a decent education and how I spoke openly about immigration so that others would know the injustices that routinely divide families?"
And then they'll ask me why I would do that.
And I'll tell my kids that it was because I lived among immigrants. I worked beside them. I ate dinner with them. I prayed with them. I believed that each person deserved to be treated with dignity. Because I thought Jesus would have done the same thing because he knew that when you know people, it's hard not to have your heart break when their's break.
When I began blogging, I chose not to speak much about my faith because I did not have the answers. I still don't have the answers. But as I read more and more faith-centered blogs, this little fire quietly burns in me. To share more of who I am and how what I believe changes how I live.
I am more than the loves I list here regularly and more than the photos I painstakingly edit and the words I write to inspire. I am a passionate advocate for immigrant rights and a teacher who believes wholeheartedly in the freedom education offers. And I am also a Christian and a Catholic.
So I have always been interested in talking about faith and in writing about it on the blog. But I rarely do anything half-heartedly. And if we are to talk about faith, then we must also talk about social justice and equality and racial reconciliation and better distribution of resources because they all go hand in hand. To follow Jesus means to care about the things He cares about. And I believe He cares about injustices and poverty and ridiculously high homicide rates and gang violence and inequality in education and segregation and paying people living wages. But sometimes, people don't want to talk about these things.
Throughout the New Testament, Jesus routinely spends time with the marginalized people in society. The prostitutes and tax collectors and all those undesirables. And he knows them. He counts them among His friends. So what if that's what He intended for us to do as well? To place ourselves alongside the marginalized and forgotten. To not just know their heartaches and sufferings, but to choose to suffer with them. To advocate for them. To count them as friends.
You know the questions in Matthew? When did we see you hungry and feed you? When did we invite you in, clothe you, visit you when you were sick or in prison? And you know the answer, too. Whatever you did for the least of one of these, you did for me.
What if He meant that literally? And what if He meant not just once in a while, but daily? And what if He meant not in another country, but right here in this country? And what if He meant directly, not through a donation to a charity?
I understand this may not be popular. I'm not totally sure I like to think about all this myself. Makes me question myself and what I do. Or mostly don't do.
And perhaps that is why I have refrained from sharing my thoughts on faith and Christianity and where I stand. Because I am hesitant to put myself out there to be held to the standard that I believe a Christian woman ought to hold herself to.
This is all to say that I still don't have all the answers and I'm fairly certain I never will. But I love a good conversation. A conversation where we share ideas and thoughts and beliefs and questions because I'm sure you have them, too. And while I'm interested in talking about what my faith means to me personally, I'm much more intrigued by what my faith means to those around me and how it effects them.
So then. Thoughts? Ideas? Questions to discuss?