This is the first in a series of posts about Nurturing Lovers and Doers of Justice.
I was privileged to address this issue in a plenary session for the Vancouver Island Professional Development Day in 2014. I used the STORY told in the Scriptures to make the case that nurturing lovers and doers of justice should be a key goal of Christian education. I ended the address with this question:
Could it be that educating lovers and doers of justice is a mark of a truly Christian education – an education that encourages young people to love what God loves, that creates space and opportunity to celebrate God’s work in the world, that equips them to see and grieve over injustice, and that nurtures in them with the will and courage to do justice?
For me, current events have added a sense of urgency to the case I made in that address. You can read the article (2016) adapted from the address here.
In future posts, I intend to build on the question I posed and to cite resources for teachers and students.
But first, it begins with us: are we hungry and thirsty for justice?
“We teach who we are” (Palmer, 1998, p. 2) “As I teach, I project the condition of my soul onto my students, my subject, and our way of being together . . . teaching holds a mirror to the soul” (Palmer, 1998, p. 2). If we want to teach for justice we need to ask ourselves if we love justice as God does and if our hearts are broken by what gives God sorrow. We need to ask ourselves if we are really hungry and thirsty for justice. “. . . to become genuinely hungry for justice makes it more possible to join with the poor and oppressed in a common struggle. It is our own hunger, not somebody else’s problem, that begins to drive us to action” (Wallis, 1994, p. 195). As teachers we are important mediators between the learner and what is to be learned – a “living link in the epistemological chain” (Palmer, 1998, p. 3). We cannot teach for justice unless God’s agenda for justice is an integral part of who we are.
Equipping young people to be lovers and doers of justice requires a community of professionals. It is not the work of the lone teacher here and there. Shaping what we hope students will come to love requires that we work together to provide models of integrity and coherent, authentic messages. Working together is not just an effective way to educate young people, it is mandated by our created nature. Human beings are “inescapably neighbourhooded” (Seerveld, 1988, p. 59). “ . . . neigbourhooding is a glorious gift to human nature” (Seerveld, 1988, p.63), a gift that must be nurtured in the community of professionals if we hope to nurture it in our students. Learning and practicing neighbor love begins in the learning space of the community of teachers.
Lack of awareness is often a barrier to teaching for justice. Communities often have an unofficial ‘reading list’ that may not reveal the range of wounds in the world that cry out for healing. As a community of professionals we need to commit to building awareness among ourselves, an exploration that may take us beyond our comfort zones. As we do so, we will discover that we don’t always agree. Issues of justice and injustice are not always or even mostly clear-cut. Prior experience may cause us to see things differently. While it is easier to talk with people who agree with us, if we hope to shape our students as lovers and doers of justice, we need to covenant together to sustain the dialogue among ourselves, allowing space for creative tension and paradox. We should approach these dialogues as learning conversations, not battles to win. We don’t have to agree but we do need to sustain the dialogue. This is necessarily a prayerful process that requires a mutual commitment to return often to the witness of the Scriptures and the life and work of Jesus. If we are faithful to God’s agenda for justice and committed to learning together as a community of teachers, we will be more effective in mirroring the process with our students.
How are you building your awareness as a community of teachers?
Palmer, Parker J. (1998). The courage to teach: exploring the inner landscape of a teacher’s life. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Seerveld, Calvin (1988). On being human: imaging God in the modern world. Burlington, Ontario, Canada: Welch Publishing.
Wallis, Jim (1994). The soul of politics: a practical and prophetic vision for change. New York: Orbis Press.
elaine brouwer, Alta Vista