Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Doing Justice

I just got back from a tutoring session at Reid Elementary School, a Title I school in the Richmond City Public Schools (almost all of which are Title I schools). As a church family, we've adopted them in order to bless them, no strings attached. So the staff is leading the way by going in first to tutor and help them get ready for their SOL's (a very poorly acronymed name, btw) later this month.

Today, DaTaj, Micaiah and I tackled long division. Since I so completely rocked my way through 4th grade, I was able to actually be of some help (I think). In case you were wondering 601/6 is 100 with a remainder of 1. Please don't ask me what 678/8 is.

Here are some stats on Reid.
**70+% of the 580 students are on free or reduced lunch (which means their family is barely over the poverty line)
**75+% are from single parent homes (mostly run by moms).
**They register kids virtually every day of the year.
**One criteria (and I've researched this fairly thoroughly) for building jails is 3rd grade reading levels.

Turn those stats into a story and it sounds something like this:

A single mom with 1-4 kids--who've maybe been fathered by anywhere from 1-4 different men--is working a minimum wage job (let's say, making your french
fries at the local McDonald's). Because of her erratic schedule, there's very little time for her to tuck her kids in at night, read to them, spend time playing with them, in short, be a mom. Which means those same kids are often hungry, tired and without a mother's love.

When she can no longer pay her bills and/or is evicted from her apartment/rental unit, she uproots them all and moves them to another apartment in another part of Richmond. Since kids have no point of reference, they think this is normal.

Whatever your politics are, you can't argue that these kids start life at a disadvantage. And while this isn't the story of every kid there, it is the story of many.

This is fundamentally, from Scripture's perspective, an issue of justice. Of making sure that every has access to basic resources. Of creating the conditions of shalom. And it goes a lot deeper than I care to post here. I'll also be the first to say that it's not the whole gospel (as those on one theological spectrum might), but it's certainly an implication and outgrowth of the gospel. Paul did say we were saved for good works.
We aren't better than them, superior to them, of a higher caliber than them. They are part of the human family God "so loved" (just like us). So we don't go patronizingly, or from a position of superiority. We go in humility, willing to be taught as much as to teach.

For a brilliant summary of why we should do justice, download the talk by Tim Keller on "Doing Justice" here.


Josh said...

this is great to read.

and that talk by tim is awesome to hear too.

Jeano said...

Hi Scott!
I just found your blog. Awesome!
Just wanted you to know, I was one of these kids. PTL He sent families in to show me His love.
I hope it goes great for you!

Scott Dooley said...

Thanks for the good word on social justice. So many issues impacting a life from minimum wage levels to the implications of the current sexual ideas of modern times. Our culture and country is what we make it collectively, it is a shame so many Christians choose to "opt out" of doing what Jesus did - getting involved in the lives of the disadvantaged and poor. Too often the conservative Christians have been the voice of judgement rather than love. Let us be a force for reconciliation.