For me, the thing that distinguishes progressive and/or evolving Christians from conservatives and fundamentalists is the imperative of social justice. For people who follow the Way of Jesus, it’s not an optional extra, not an add-on to a set of beliefs and dogma we adhere to; rather, to be a Progressive Christian is “to walk as Jesus might have walked in this world with radical compassion, inclusion, and bravery to confront and positively change the injustices we experience as well as those we see others experiencing” – from the 8 points of Progressive Christianity.
While this is, I trust, implicit in all my liturgical writing, some resources address specific issues of justice and inclusivity; the extracts will give a flavour of the piece.
Affirmation of Faith: living as if we matter – “Faith is supporting restorative justice and a living wage; ensuring girls in developing countries are educated; restoring the mana and resources of indigenous peoples; providing clean water and rescue helicopters, creating micro-finance loans and green spaces… This is our faith: living as if we matter. Being the salt, the flavour, the zest.”
Allies or Traitors? Reflection at Waitangi weekend, about Covenant, Treaty and relationships between privileged and indigenous – “But have you really listened?” asks Jesus. “When I talk about the treaty and how to fulfil it, do you believe me? Or do you still want to do it your way, and feel hurt when you hear, ‘That’s not what we really needed’?” And then an argument broke out, over who’d been the best allies. They betrayed the Covenant between friends, because even if they heard him, they didn’t listen.
It matters what we do – reflection on the story of Moses: “Whatever position Moses attained through his palace upbringing, and whatever challenges to his identity, it doesn’t save him from the wrath of Pharaoh… Think of the challenges for Māori children taken from their mothers and fostered by Pākehā. Think of the Black children adopted by people with a “white saviour” attitude, detaching them from their people and culture. Think of the delicate balance Pasifika kids face in a Euro-centric education system…” that expects impudent behaviour from them: making eye contact, questioning their teachers, valuing individual achievement over community learning.
Where is my place? Who are my people? – reflections at Matariki as tangata tiriti and a descendent of settlers and colonisers
Dorcas Prayer – “may we never tire of doing good, and helping those in need”
Prayer at Pentecost in Aotearoa – “May we speak in tongues that all understand: loving action, warmth of friendship, justice for all, and integrity”
But where are the others? – Reflection at Christmastime: “Here they are! The jailbird cousin and the crazy aunt. The depressed daughter who’s dragged herself out; the edge-of-hysteria, manic sister; the autistic grandson behind a haybale, rocking; the transgendered, the cis-gendered, the queer and the straight, the birth children and adopted children and fostered children; these fragile families of blood and of choice.”
Rainbow trinity prayer – “Oh Christ who manifests in rainbow ways, as ancient wisdom and holy fool, as genderqueer, cis and bi, ungendered, straight: diverse and beautiful; as rabbi, story-spinner, joker and sage”
Transgender Remembrance prayer – “We hold in our hearts all those struggling with misunderstanding, rejection and abuse for being the way they are; the way they were created; for transitioning into the whole and beautiful selves they’re meant to be.”
Prayer of Journeys, homecoming, manaakitanga, dismantling racism – “May the people of the land and the people of the Treaty together show the world we are a place of mutual respect and manaakitanga.
As the rabbi and healer Jesus taught us, may we treat others as we would be treated. May we never fall back into complacency. Let us never again wander into the wilderness of “not all kiwis” or “not all pakeha” or “not all allies”.
Love is Love – 30 years on prayer on the anniversary of homosexual law reform
More Rainbow resources
Put on your glad rags and break the rules! Reflection on stories of Ruth, Naomi & Boaz, and the persistent widow: “The most significant thing about Ruth is her foreignness. She seeks and finds refuge ‘under the wings’ of the God of Israel, she marries one of the great men of the city, the marriage is formally approved by all those in authority and by the people at large. The child of the marriage is adopted by Naomi, and that child’s grandson is David the king. A genealogy added to the book makes the connection between Naomi and Boaz and Ruth’s child, tracing the family tree from Obed, to Jesse, to David—a family tree to whose branches a later storyteller added the ultimate birth story: Jesus, born in Bethlehem, to another unconventional young woman, a stranger to the town—Jesus, the ultimate rule-breaker.”
Mothering God: a reflection – “Welcome to motherhood, Mary, Mother of God. Welcome to fatherhood, Joseph, descendant of King David, reduced to borrowing swaddling cloths and a water bucket and something to hide the bloody, messy sheets in until they can be washed… Welcome, newborn baby, to the back seat of an unregistered car on a relative’s street, and a diet of the cheapest white bread and bottles of sugary drinks that are cheaper than water, and takeaways cheaper than fresh vegetables even if you owned a stove and pots and pans. Welcome to temporary stays in damp and mouldy state houses; to pain-blotting alcohol misuse and memory-numbing drug dependence. Welcome to the kingdom we’ve prepared for you, with our needs-based assessments and welfare ‘reforms’ and under-funding of community education programmes and health services.”
A New Prayer – “The ground on which we stand is holy, Whenua Tapu, a place of mana tangata, where we show leadership in our care for the rights of all people; a commonwealth of justice and liberation.”
An evolving response (part 1): a partial and ongoing response Friday’s terrorist attacks on mosques in Christchurch – “And will we still be saying, ‘They are us’ next year, when someone in a burkha wants to leave it on in court; and when a turban-wearing guy sits down beside us with his backpack; and in ten years’ when clothes shops stock a wide jilbab selection? And in twenty years when that young boy affected by the trauma thinks his elders are too soft for their accepting and forgiveness…”
An evolving response (part 2): “What if we intervened as soon as indicators of emotional and family issues arose? Then maybe we wouldn’t produce and nurture these disenchanted, antisocial, bigoted and aggressive men who feel the need to assert their dominance… What if we challenged EVERY racist, sexist, homophobic remark in comments sections, and reported them as hate speech? What if we refused to minimise the impact of bigotry with euphemisms like alt-right and white supremacy, and name what it is: blatant racism?”
Easter hymn: We walk the way that has no end = “We walk in solidarity, and sing of hope that never dies. We march to end disparity; graves open as our spirits rise…”
Angel messages: a reflection for Christmas Eve / Day – “In this sacred space, we allow ourselves a vision of goodwill: that good blokes will take the car keys off drunk mates, that drivers won’t overtake on dangerous corners, that the police and fire fighters and medical staff and undertakers might—just once—have a silent night, a new and glorious morn; that women’s refuges, and men’s, might be empty, and food banks full.”
Easter hikoi: Litany for Palm/Passion Sunday – “We hear the stones cry out for the destruction of our temples, for knowing what is needed and still not giving peace a chance; for trying to quiet those who shout for justice in languages or accents foreign to us, for closing our ears to those whose causes we don’t understand… Blessed are we who come in peace…”