Stories and Social Justice (a sandwich)


The short answer, for why I write on this blog is because it satisfies an itch.  I get tired of ugly things. Not to say that my blog is the most beautiful piece of writing ever to grace the interwebs. It’s more that the things I care about: social justice, reconciliation, power dynamics, privilege, sociology, Jesus, holistic ministry… are usually written about in text books, or journal articles, or long, detailed articles. Which are good. We need those. Facts are good. I like facts. I don’t like all this Invisible Children “let’s just cry our eyes out over some sad thing that happened in Africa but we don’t really know what we’re talking about” stuff. 

But I was an English major. And sometimes I get this longing for something beautiful. I hear sermons on theological abstract principles that don’t inspire me, so I go home and write what would have inspired me. I read things about the need for adult father-figures in low-income communities, but it’s the stories about the iThemba mentors that I write, and then read again, and think, “Wow. These guys are changing the world.” 

But there’s also the opposite side. So, I was an English major in college, and that’s what we did- read stories, played with language, analyzed words. As I was writing, I would get hung up not on the words  and images, but on what they meant. I was interested in the point, on the social dynamics the literature portrayed, on the injustices the piece was debating. I liked pieces that some critics would call propaganda. (George Bernard Shaw, Mrs. Warren’s Profession anyone?) It was kind of to the point where I would get irritated. This isn’t just a story, people, this is real!  So I wrote my English thesis using sociological frameworks of interpretation, and now I’m doing a Sociology thesis looking at narrative. Oh well. 

I think the hard work of restoring all things involves all aspects of creation. We need both beauty and justice. Reflection, contemplation and action. But there’s still a tension. So, here’s a stories-social justice- stories sandwich to embrace that tension. Because, you know, I’ve written 100 posts now. I’ve got to start stealing from other people because I can’t think up anything new. 🙂 

Sarah Groves: Why it Matters. Perhaps my favorite song, about how creating something beautiful can itself be “a protest of the darkness and chaos all around”.

“A materialistic world will not be won to Christ by a materialistic church.” ― David Platt

“People die of hunger because we prefer to spend money on … A very disturbing question: For what are we willing to let other people die?”– Miroslav Volf

“Philosophers have only interpreted the world. The point, however is to change it.” — Karl Marx.

“Theology is not only about understanding the world; it is about mending the world.” — Miroslav Volf. 

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality. — Desmond Tutu

“Christianity does not exclude any of the normal human activities… There is no essential quarrel between the spiritual life and the human activities as such… The work of Beethoven and the work of a charwoman become spiritual on precisely the same condition, that of being offered to God, of being done humbly ‘as to the Lord’… We can therefore pursue knowledge as such, and beauty as such, in the sure confidence that by so doing we are either advancing to the vision of God ourselves or indirectly helping others to do so.” — C.S. Lewis

“Stories are light.

Light is precious in a world so dark.

Begin at the beginning. Tell… a story.

Make some light.” ― Kate DiCamilloThe Tale of Despereaux



2 thoughts on “Stories and Social Justice (a sandwich)

  1. If you haven’t, you need to read Tolkien’s Mythopoeia. It’s a poem he writes to pre-converted Lewis on the making of myth (by which he means story or, more broadly, art). His basic thesis is that in our making we image the Maker. He uses, for example the image of pure white light and then small makers who ‘make’ refracted light. It’s epic, I’m not going to do it justice.


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