People of the Underside
I attended a protest last night.
My community passed an ordinance that, whatever the intention, effectively criminalizes the homeless in our community. We heard from several community members and human rights workers on the practices that this procedure creates and how it is misguided. We heard several impassioned pleas for solidarity, that what affects one of us affects us all. We heard practical suggestions as to how we as a community can move forward in helping rather than trying to "sweep them under the rug." In the ordinance, brushing teeth in a public restroom was cited as a breach of conduct, so many a protestor was there with toothbrush in hand. It was very much a peaceful protest, and one that, for the most part, effectively communicated what is at stake here. I don't know how many Christians were at the rally, I do know that I didn't see any that I recognized. That attendance to this one event isn't what matters most, however, but the rally reminded me of a felt calling, that we who identify with Jesus are to be people of the underside.
Jesus identified with the poor, the outcast, the sick. Jesus broke all kinds of social customs in his relationships with women and with other outsiders in his day and enflamed the powers that be with his inclusive sense of God's reign that is open to anyone and everyone. In a world that, even then, structured itself in a top-down way, Jesus saw things from the bottom up. He could look at life through the underside. In fact, this vision of inclusivity and empowerment may have led to his death at the hands of the church and the state. What can we do with that?
What does it mean to be a people of the underside?
We have open eyes, aware of both beauty and injustice of our neighborhood.
We stand in solidarity with those at the margins of our society and our neighborhood.
We listen, seeking understanding of those who do not have political or economic power or may be different from us.
We see the Powers, the forces at work behind our societal institutions and we pray and work to see them support the thriving of each and every person in our community.
The strategies and practices will be varied and unique from person to person, but one binding element is the same:
We are called to be people of the underside, seeing life and thriving grow from below.