Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Paradox of Kids

If you happened to catch Facebook Live Prayer last night, I’m sure you saw the paradox.

My kids were driving me crazy. They read prayers in funny voices. They made unrelated comments. They made the sound and video quality low. They played with the camera and made faces. They threw what I think was a sock across the room at me. They made me the “hot mess mom” in a time when I really wanted to just be a “pastor mom.” I was at my wits end.

Then in the middle of that train wreck, they ask important questions about prejudice and racism. Lately adults have been fighting about these issues. White people, of which I am one, seem to be putting their fingers in their ears when they are not pointing the finger back at the people of color who are pointing out inequality and injustice.

But not kids. They ask the right questions. They are curious. They don’t mind when you point out the evidence that something is wrong. Lydia made the same statement as many white adults have, “but you aren’t prejudice,” but she said it without being defensive. When I pointed out that I don’t have local friends who are black, she stated the obvious response, that is because there aren’t many people of color in our town and community. Then she let me ask the question that gets to the root of our problem in Indiana and the United States as a whole. Why are there no people of color in our community?

It is because of our history of racism. It is because of systematic prejudice, where people are not safe because of the color of their skin. It is because they were not free to have a house in certain communities. It is because houses and land are left as inheritances, so they are trapped in the history of racism and prejudice that is no longer legal.

So here is the paradox. The kids make everything more chaotic, but also much more meaningful at the same time. So, despite my declaration after the camera was off that we will never do that again, we probably will. Because I know they will ask the hard questions and bring up the white elephants.

This is why we need to make room for them in our congregations. Not so we feel young again. Not as a sign of our growth and future. We need them to say the truth without any political agenda, no matter how ugly it is. We need children because Jesus says the kingdom of God belongs to them. If we want to understand it better and be a part of it as well, we need the chaos and honesty of children in the room. That means they can’t just be seen and not heard. Because what they say is often the truth we need to hear most. 

Monday, September 11, 2017

Meeting Malala

For most Hoosiers and for most nine year olds, the name Malala doesn’t hold much weight. For Lydia, my nine year old, it does. She read Malala’s story of being a young girl trying to get her education in the midst of the Taliban’s ban in Pakistan. Lydia started wearing her scarves as hijabs as she pretended to be a brave girl fighting for her education. So, when Malala, a Pakistani national living in England, came to Indiana, a three hour drive didn’t seem so long.

Around 5pm, the line behind us.  Malala spoke at 7:30.
So Lydia and I set off for an adventure. We arrived three and a half hours before Malala was slated to speak, and found a place in line behind women and girls all holding Malala’s book in anticipation. This college of 2,500 students welcomed 5,000 people into their gymnasium to meet Malala. It is still incredible to me that she would be willing to come to this place, a tiny university, in a tiny town, in a tiny state.

I need to share that I didn’t have Lydia read Malala’s book to hear about the bravery and leadership Malala took. I didn’t have her read it to hear how young women can impact their society. I didn’t even have her read it to remind her how important education is and how it is a privilege to go to school. I had her read Malala’s story because Malala is Muslim. Malala is a girl of faith. Her deep faith in women’s (and girls’) rights is rooted in her study of the Quran. Malala is a practicing Muslim who believes deeply in peace and justice. 

That is the Malala who stood on stage at DePauw on Monday night. When she was asked about her regrets, she said, “I hope everyone knows I am a woman of faith.”

There are so many things we want for our children. But what I want most is to have a girl that lives her life according to her faith.

As a woman, and as a pastor, I know this is a challenge. I am told often to silence my voice. To not speak about issues of justice because they are too political. To ignore those outside of the church for the benefit of those within. But my faith tells me the opposite. It tells me to stand up against evil in all its forms, even the nice ones that show up properly and politely.  It is a long consistent pattern that whispers us into silence. But Malala reminds us that faith can help us to speak out against the voices that would silence us. God’s whispers have more power than the world that tries to silence us.

Thank you, Malala, for sharing your faith with us women in small places. Thank you for sharing your story with girls like Lydia. May your faith move us all to act out our own faith in daring ways