According to Escobar, an individual on a spiritual journey cannot skip over any of the phases; however, one does not have to progress beyond a certain stage. In fact, most Americans Christians tend to get stuck around stages 2 or 3. Escobar also talks about what happens after stage 3 and before stage 4. We hit "the Wall." This is a time when a person believes "there's got to be more" and the phase is characterized by "confusion, fear, loneliness, ambivalence, [and] resentment."
Bingo. That's where I've been. Earlier this year I said I would talk more about the Quaker testimony, which includes simplicity, peace, integrity, community, and equality. I've been posting a lot about sustainable living as part of my testimony. Now I will be turning towards another issue that connects with it: social justice.
Hitting the Wall has been painful, but also has inspired me to work on social justice issues. A big part of my getting to this point is the fact that I was not raised in church, just with an awareness of Christianity. As a result, when I decided to take seriously what it means to be a Christian and to follow the teachings of Jesus, I often felt out of place in church. Not having been raised in the institution, I was often puzzled by the rituals and the language and by the contradictions. There have been times when I've been talking to a fellow Christian and realized I had no earthly idea what they were talking about. One incident really stands out. I met a woman through the homeschool group who talked to me about son's potentially having a learning disorder. But then she abruptly said, "I'm not going to claim it," and proceeded to tell me she wasn't going to do anything about it. Huh? What was she talking about? Does "not claiming" it have something to do with Christianity? Am I missing something? All I could think was, would she be saying the same thing if she suspected her son had a physical disease, say, like cancer?
There's a lot of other Christian-ese that I won't go into - mainly because I can't speak the language. (Not speaking the language often makes me look like an impostor.) All along, I thought being a Christian meant following Jesus and doing what he said to do. Things like loving my enemy (not ever easy); caring for the poor, the orphaned, the widowed (and other people down on their luck); and turning the other cheek (non-violence). So imagine how puzzled I've been over the years as I tried to do those things and realized many in the church are not really concerned about those things. It's all about church programs and celebrations and your prayer life and your personal relationship with Jesus. Oh, and pointing out other people's sin.
If I had grown up in the culture, I wouldn't notice these things. It would be like a fish having an awareness of the surrounding water. But it has been a different journey for me so it's not invisible to me. I also think that many people who come to the Christian faith as adults come from very broken places - addiction, divorce, abuse, poverty - and grab onto the language and the culture like a lifeboat. But that wasn't the case for me. It was just a gradual awareness.
So over the last few years, I've been at the Wall. Sometimes I get past it and sometimes I back away from it. But it's there and I keep running into it. The biggest issue that returns me to the wall over and over again is social justice. There is so much wrong with the world and I feel that American Christians, for the most part, turn a blind eye to it because recognizing it would require a change in heart and lifestyle.
I know I've become overly serious but I think about times when our nation has faced tough issues, such as the Civil War, the Depression, World War II, and 9/11, I know there was not the gaiety and frivolity that I witness. It's as if we only need to be serious and somber when the ugliness affects us on our shores.
Over the next few weeks I'm going to be blogging about injustice in the world, trying to bring awareness to the fact that most of the people in the world do not live like we do and, in fact, suffer a great deal - sometimes as a result of our actions. After a recent discussion about a social justice issue, I discovered that sometimes it's not a matter of people putting their heads in the sand. Rather, some people truly aren't aware of what is going on outside our borders (or even in them) and have no idea how to dig deeper and learn more. I hope my future posts help enlighten some and spur many to take up a cause.