Mike Cope's blog

Saturday, November 05, 2005

I appreciate Larry James's words about a conference Matt helped organize in his blog today. I can't imagine anyone better than Larry to encourage and challenge that crowd. Movement and Hope "Breaking Barriers to Health Care: Working for Social Justice" was the theme for the 2005 American Medical Students Association Regional Conference in Houston at the Baylor College of Medicine over this weekend. Matt Cope, son of my good friend Mike Cope, is President of the local chapter in Houston and led the organizing efforts for this gathering of some 300 medical and pre-medical students from across the South. Thanks to Matt, I had the privilege of speaking to the group twice on Saturday, once in a plenary session and once in a smaller breakout group. Talk about bright people! I always enjoy the opportunity to speak to the group here in Dallas at UT Southwestern Medical Center where I observe the same level of smart coupled with amazing heart for those left behind. It is very clear that these students are on a mission. Simply put, they intend to change the world! Gives an old man hope, I tell ya! On Friday evening among the first events of the conference was a rally for universal health care for the nation. Later on Saturday, the students planned a mass "call in" to contact their congressional representatives about the Global AIDS Fund and the role of the United States in fighting HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria around the world. These young people are serious. What I observed while among them was nothing short of the beginnings of a movement toward a more just society. These students believe we can do better as a nation and as a people. I have no doubt they will help us get there. A new moment has arrived. Hope lives! Thanks for the invitation, Matt. I needed to be with you.


  • Injustice is really bad. I think it should be against the law. In fact....it sounds like it probably already is. Do you think you could tell us the names of these jerks that are guilty of the injustice so we can start locking them up?

    By Blogger c hand, at 11/06/2005 01:30:00 PM  

  • c hand, I have a feeling that we would lock up different people. Don't know why, just a feeling.

    By Blogger julie, at 11/06/2005 03:22:00 PM  

  • Social Justice.........Hmmmmm.......
    There was no social justice in the days that Jesus was physically walking around on this the earth.
    Social justice sounds good to man's ears in theory, but it's actually an individual heart issue. When hearts are changed we respond to things from a different perspective than just being involved in a "social" issue.

    By Blogger Snapshot, at 11/06/2005 07:02:00 PM  

  • A couple of these responses make me very nervous. Have we reduced the Bible to a pietistic, individualistic me-n-God manual? Have we excised the prophets, John the Baptist, or the inaugural words of Jesus in Luke 4? The reign of God is breaking in, and social justice is very much a part of the message.

    By Blogger Mike, at 11/07/2005 04:18:00 AM  

  • This quote made me think..quote from Walk On by Bono.."The irony is that some church groups are straining every spiritual sinew to convince the world of their authenticity by conjuring miraculous healings and extraordinary manifestations, while the miracle that the poor need is the ordinary sharing and justice of very everyday things".

    By Blogger Tammy M., at 11/07/2005 05:40:00 AM  

  • Instead of social justice, what about golden rule behavior. Treat others the way we would want to be treated if we were born under different circumstances.

    By Blogger Steve Duer, at 11/07/2005 05:41:00 AM  

  • The Bible isn't reduced by believing that social change is birthed when God transforms individual hearts. It is magnified. I don't believe that is pietistic, individualistic or a me-n-God mindset. It's simply the understanding that it's the sum of individual heart changes that move societies. I just happen to be of the opinion that contemporary views on social justice focus too much on government forced changes and less on individual heart responsibilities and changes. I certainly can't expect the government to achieve the social justice that individual man is unwilling to believe. If we don't believe it we won't achieve it. (cliche but true)
    I don't believe that this view is negated by Luke 4, John the Baptist or any of the other prophets.
    God must work in me before I be used to work in others.
    The same is true within our micro societies like churches and families. It's generally one person's changed heart that begins the process of changing the way churches or families respond to different issues.
    It all begins with one person. And that person is Jesus.
    But that's just one girl's opinion.

    By Blogger Snapshot, at 11/07/2005 05:52:00 AM  

  • Of course, there is that other tradition of Christian action -- represented by Wilberforce in England and Martin Luther King in the USA.

    Thank goodness there have been bold prophets/leaders who have refused to just reduce justice to what happens in a heart one at a time (as important as that is).

    Richard Foster has pointed out that this stream of Christian spirituality, which he calls "Discovering the Compassionate Life," has three arenas: the personal, the social, and institutional structures.

    Good resources for understanding this "stream" are www.sojo.net and Larry James's blog.

    It is, of course, possible that too much confidence be placed in government. But can't people of faith insist that living wages be paid (as in the prophets) and that children not be sexually abused? Was it wrong for Christians to insist (over against many more Christians, of course) that slavery be outlawed? Did that have to just happen by changing individual hearts? It seems that the Emancipation Proclamation did a fairly good job. Yes, there is much more work to be done. You can't outlaw racism, but you can limit its social effects.

    By Blogger Emily, at 11/07/2005 07:29:00 AM  

  • I appreciate Kelley's comments, but unfortunately, they represent a mindset on "salvation" that is short-sighted and has been many Christians' views since Luther.

    Salvation is more than just "individual hearts being saved/transformed." In fact, salvation has never really been about that. In Moses' day, God was saving his people (the whole community), the Israelites, in order to call the nations back to himself. Even today, God's concern is the salvation of the entire cosmos to himself. This reality means that in the "upside-down kingdom," injustices are made right, God's creation is cared for, and God's people are called (and re-called) back to Him. When we reduce anything in Christ-following to "the individual's responsibility", we have missed the point.

    By Blogger Steve Jr., at 11/07/2005 07:43:00 AM  

  • If being a Christian is not about achieving justice for those who cannot achieve it for themselves, then we need to completely toss out the book of Amos, as well as Jesus statement in his prayer, "Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven."

    By Blogger Phil, at 11/07/2005 07:53:00 AM  

  • The "system" must be changed as well as our hearts turned to God. The Year of Jubilee, "Gleaning" Amos, Micah (to name a few) - all speak to a system that embraces the ideals of social justice.
    We have to be brave enough to stand up and speak against injustice because that is what God requires of us (Micah 6:8).

    By Blogger Arlene Kasselman, at 11/07/2005 07:55:00 AM  

  • Maybe a good question to ask ourselves:
    Am I more concerned about what I am doing as it relates to me or am I more concerned about what I am doing as it relates to you?

    By Blogger Beaner, at 11/07/2005 08:01:00 AM  

  • Ooh, good post about Amos, Phil. That book changed my life. I think Amos might be prophecy for modern-day America.

    By Blogger Steve Jr., at 11/07/2005 08:22:00 AM  

  • I think that Jesus was all about social justice. The Gospel of Luke was all over it.
    Some other areas that the Church neglects on this issue is Domestic Violence. We just don't seem to have an area that this fits into.

    By Blogger Lori Ann, at 11/07/2005 09:07:00 AM  

  • Steve Jr., my comments on social justice have nothing to do with my "salvation". That reminds me of the years of a legalistic upbringing that I chose to turn from. The only way that social justice affects my salvatation is if I turn my back on others. I'm not saying turn your back on others. I'm saying don't put your faith in government to care for society. Ask the folks along the gulf coast who has done a better job loving them and caring for their needs, the government or faith based groups?
    Posts made that God's concern isn't really about an individual's heart are freightening. Kind of lonely to presume without the salvation of my whole society, I'm nothing to the Lord?! Yikes! What about the one lost sheep? What about Noah, what about Lot? I have faith that He does love individuals.....and societies too!
    If that isn't true, one of our bloggers here better toss their hat into the race for the 2008 Presidential election!
    Are we to be concerned about the state of society? Of course, when you have a heart that is seeking after God's will you will automatically be concerned for others. I just believe that turning to the government for the solutions to society's problems is the wrong direction to turn. The Lord is the answer in ALL things.
    Beaner, I am concerned about what I am doing as it relates to me and how that relates to others as well. To me it's one in the same. But before others matter to anyone there must be a transformed INDIVIDUAL heart by the magnificent grace of God. My point is that this is where societal change starts, not where it ends.
    Whew, hope I cleared that up.

    By Blogger Snapshot, at 11/07/2005 09:10:00 AM  

  • those in the Kingdom acting in socially responsible ways as described in the OT and by HIM, is not the same as demanding a socialist govt. Govt's can't do it, they mess up more than they fix. The govt demanding you give them X% isn't the same as the bibical model. What HE wants is HIS people to be seriously unselfish, voluntarilly. If all believers were unselfish, non-materialistic, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

    By Blogger racheat, at 11/07/2005 09:14:00 AM  

  • RACHEAT! Praise God! You understand where I am coming from! Thank you thank you for posting a response! I was feeling like the lone ranger here!
    You summed it up!

    By Blogger Snapshot, at 11/07/2005 09:20:00 AM  

  • Kelley--Couple of questions.

    You say that "turning to the government for the solutions to society's problems is the wrong direction to turn". Just curious about how you feel about some other issues. Do you believe that abortion, gay marriage, and terrorism are societal problems? Is the government the "wrong direction to turn"?

    By Blogger Matt, at 11/07/2005 09:26:00 AM  

  • In the place where I live, I know several "non-Christians" who are concerned about social justice.

    They do not have to have their hearts "transformed." They can recognize what the right thing to do is and act on it.

    They do not know and sometimes do not care from where this "urge" to act came. They see oppression and it moves them to act. They do not need precedent.

    We see it too, but we run it through several holy purification filters and then decide if it is the most appropiate thing to do which lines up with our theology.

    We are becoming irrelevant (not in Abilene but elsewhere) by our inaction.

    By Blogger L, at 11/07/2005 09:29:00 AM  

  • Good questions. Government is the reason that there are many of these societal issues to deal with now. The government wasn't meant to do the things it is now expected to do. If the government would stay out areas that the constitution doesn't call for, I believe we wouldn't have many of the societal problems that we are scrambling to deal with today. As far as terrorism, that is a whole other issue because government has the constitutional responsibility to defend us. God's will is the answer. The government has the constitutional responsibility to defend us, but God's will is where the ultimate solutions lie.
    I just choose to put my faith in God and not government. Government will likely disappoint, God will never disappoint those who put their hope and faith in Him. We may not always understand, but we have faith in who He is. I also have faith in who the government is not.

    By Blogger Snapshot, at 11/07/2005 09:39:00 AM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger c hand, at 11/07/2005 09:50:00 AM  

  • I just read Leland's comment. We are becoming irrelavant because in so many cases we are waiting on the government to do what is our own "INDIVIDUAL" (I know some people don't like that word) responsibility. Our society cannot afford to depend on government to do God's work. We must act. We must do what we know Luke 4, John the Baptist and the other prophets were calling us to do. That is to seek God's will and be called to act! ACT like a child of God, not a government robot waiting on someone to push the button labeled "Care".

    By Blogger Snapshot, at 11/07/2005 09:52:00 AM  

  • Thanks for the response. My question is not really about what the constitution says, though. It is about what is the right thing for a government to do. I assume that you would agree that the government doing the right thing is more important. If we are not concerning ourselves with governmental documents (which we can always modify) and are solely focused on what role a government SHOULD have, what do you think about my questions?

    Should the government outlaw abortion or should that be addressed as individual hearts are changed across the nation?

    Should we turn to the government to outlaw gay marriage or should we try to work on their hearts?

    Should we send armies to the Middle East or should we send missionaries?

    Thanks Kelley. Just trying to understand your viewpoint.

    By Blogger Matt, at 11/07/2005 09:53:00 AM  

  • I read a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. today that says "The belief that God will do everything for man is as untenable as the belief that man can do everything for himself. It, too, is based on a lack of faith. We must learn that to expect God to do everythin while we do nothing is not faith, but superstition."

    Google martin Luther King Jr. quotes if you want to hear 1 really awesome man's view on social justice!

    By Blogger Beaner, at 11/07/2005 09:57:00 AM  

  • Leland, good thoughts. It is always amazing to me that those who call us most clearly to the plight of the world are often musicians, filmakers and alike - those we perhaps at times would not describe as "Christian" but are incarnational in their lifestyle.
    My experience has shown that it is ofen Christians who do not embrace the idea of thinking globally with the compassion of Christ. Blind patriotism prevents them from sometimes seeing with the eyes of Christ or feeling with His heart. And so we go on sometimes scorning those who treat the Creation with the respect it deserves; or treating all races and genders like they are truly made in the image of Christ and fully extending ourselves to the disenfranchised or marginal in our cities.
    We can argue all day about who is responsible govt. or church but the bottom line is "who do we belong to and where is our citizenship." Are we taking pride only in the fact that we are Christ's and not some (fill in the blank) nationality and are we living in such a way that we are making a difference and bringing hope to the ones who Christ paid most attention to?

    By Blogger Arlene Kasselman, at 11/07/2005 10:04:00 AM  

  • Matt, Your questions represent the dilemia we are all in due to the fact that government has overstepped it's bounds for far too long.
    Before I respond directly, I need to pray that my words will be led by the spirit of God.
    Beaner, your quote from ML backs up my belief that we simply can't wait on government to do it for us. We must act....driven by the heart of God. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

    By Blogger Snapshot, at 11/07/2005 10:09:00 AM  

  • In politics, the conservative approach has tended to focus more on the interior transformation of the individual. The liberal approach has been to focus more on the transformation of the exterior structures of society.

    Guest what? They're both right. We need both at the same time and we can't have one without the other.

    Ken Wilber writes eloquently about this in "A Theory of Everything."

    By Blogger Wade, at 11/07/2005 10:41:00 AM  

  • Guacamole anyone?

    By Blogger SG, at 11/07/2005 11:38:00 AM  

  • SG - you are a hoot!

    Amen to Wade - thanks for your comment. My book list was already too long so thanks alot!

    By Blogger Amy, at 11/07/2005 11:42:00 AM  

  • Is guacamole the new creamed corn???

    By Blogger Beaner, at 11/07/2005 12:10:00 PM  

  • Mike,
    Forgot to congratulate Matt on his leadership in such a worthy cause. I know you're proud of him!!

    By Blogger Amy, at 11/07/2005 12:27:00 PM  

  • I really like what Wade said. I need to get that book. Mike, I know you are filled with gratitude to God for giving you a son such as Matt!

    By Blogger annie, at 11/07/2005 01:18:00 PM  

  • Late, as usual, but feel the need to add a couple of thoughts.

    Jesus said He will call those to Him in eternal heaven that have given a cup of cool water in His name, have fed, clothed and housed those in need. Martin Luther King began with individuals, touching their hearts, moving them to social changes, AFTER one sweet lady, Rosa Parks, decided to do something as an individual and go against the local government's ruling about where she could sit on a bus. As the the gathering together of individuals grew, the clamor grew louder for change, the federal government then began to move to give the backing of civil law to the movement for this part of social justice.

    IMHO, it's a good [and biblical] order of things. Individual hearts are changed, as well as their actions toward those in need. As the number of changed hearts grows, so does the clamor for governmental support, forming laws to support the demanded changes. Legalizing the individual actions, if you wish to put it that way.

    As the cliche goes, you can't mandate a change of heart, but a change of heart can mandate change.

    It has so often been one individual with a vision/dream and acting on it, that has brought earthshaking changes in our society; Luther, King, Mother Teresa, and the greatest of all, Jesus. Larry James as said as much in his blog via questions of where the church has been in feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, etc.

    So, let's begin looking at our heart and actions driven by its change - joining others in our individual actions until there is sufficient clamor that we need a governmental backing of what we are accomplishing individually, but together, don't ya' think? Let's 'give a cup of water' in His name to those that need us. It requires time and dedication on our part. It requires keeping eyes open to others' needs, to keeping ears open to the cry of the needy, it takes time. We really need to dedicate the time to do it.

    By Blogger Kathy, at 11/07/2005 03:56:00 PM  

  • I've considered the term social justice all day. Rolled it around in my mind. And a particular childhood memory keeps coming back to me. I was about 6. I had a beautiful doll named "Timey Tell". She wore a pink print dress, had bright yellow curls and had a plastic pink watch on her wrist. You could move the hands around on the watch. But the coolest part of this doll was that she came with a pink plastic watch that I could wear too, just like hers.
    My mom found out that a little girl that I went to school with was poor. So poor that she wasn't going to get anything for Christmas. Nothing. So my mother said that since we had so much that we needed to share. She gathered up some things to give to the mom and dad and then told me what my part would be. I would be wrapping up "Timey Tell" to give to this little girl. You see, at the time we didn't have much either, so we couldn't afford to go out and buy all new things for them. But we had nice used things that we could share. I was distraught. Floored actually. How could I give up this doll I loved so. I cried while we wrapped her up in a big box with dark green bow. The mom and dad were so glad to see us. They hadn't known we were coming. I remember the little girl coming down the hall into the wood paneled living room which was lighted with a single light bulb and a pull string. I handed her the box and told her "Merry Christmas" just like my mother told me to. She opened the present and her eyes got so big I thought they would pop right out of her head. Sheer joy! She kept running her fingers over the bright yellow hair. She whispered thank you and then gently laid the doll back in the box and gave me a hug.
    On the way home, mother told me Jesus was proud of me and so was she. I remember all that like it was yesterday.
    My mother knew this family needed to be cared for, but she didn't run and contact DHR about making sure they had gifts. She gave of herself and in turn taught me a valuable lesson.
    When we see a need, our first thought should be what can I do? So many times, the first thing people think is "Why isn't the government doing a better job at providing for their needs."
    And yes Wade, there are times when both can be used.
    Matt, that may not answer your questions, but it has answered the questions rattling around in my head today.
    And I prayerfully follow the tradition of my mother and teach these lessons of community service and "social justice" to my own children as they learn the joy of giving.
    Sorry this was such a long post. My apologies Mike!

    By Blogger Snapshot, at 11/07/2005 07:48:00 PM  

  • Mike,

    The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. I praise God for you and Diane singing to Matt that "Jesus loves the little children, ALL the children of the WORLD." I am even more grateful for you showing Matt how that looks.

    I am also felt God whisper to me as I read your blog, "Meagan".

    I wouldn't put it past God to use Meagen's pain to produce the compassion in Matt's heart that will result in "little children" being loved better.

    I love the Cope's!

    By Blogger Joel Quile, at 11/07/2005 08:04:00 PM  

  • Kelley, The reason I asked those questions is because (after glancing at your blog-particularly the Oct. 27 post) I suspect that you would advocate for government involvement in all three situations I mentioned. Assuming that (correct me if I'm wrong), I don't see how this is compatible with your statement that "turning to the government for the solutions to society's problems is the wrong direction to turn". Perhaps you should insert a "some of" in front of "society's problems".

    We must pick and choose where we as a society deem it worthy for a government to intervene. I just don't understand how so many in our country can advocate so strongly for overturning Roe vs. Wade and outlawing gay marriage with the trumpet call of "Christian values" while forsaking social and economic justice issues. I can understand where Christians are coming from when they want to outlaw abortion and gay marriage. But when they push for government intervention in this area, while proclaiming that government is not the answer to our society's problems and thus we should tackle poverty one heart at a time, I am a little confused. The fact is, you do believe in government intervention to promote Christian values, just certain ones. Fair enough, but let's be forthright about it. To be successful, the push for social and economic justice today must involve an expansion of our "values" language. Kelley, you are right, this must begin on an individual level and in churches. As more and more individuals get on board with this, we can unite on these issues at the governmental level (while not forsaking individual responsibility). Let's work together on the systemic nature of poverty and economic injustice. It seems that Jesus (and the Bible in general) has a lot to say about these things. Way more than gay marriage.

    By Blogger Matt, at 11/08/2005 06:09:00 AM  

  • Picking and choosing is a way to determine where the battles are necessary and where things can be dealt with on a individual basis. I'm not one for battles on all fronts. It's not a necessary tactic or even a successful one.
    When the government messes things up, it's important that the government correct it. When it's a societal problem that the government has been smart enough to stay out of, they should be smart enough to keep staying out of it. And from your previous words, it's obvious that we will disagree on what those problems would be and whether or not the government made a mistake or not. And that's ok, and probably won't change via this blog.
    Your confusion on my stance is a bit confusing to me. I reveal my heart and if that is confusing I can't help that. While you think I should be more forth right I believe I have been.
    I do what I can after much prayer and plea for the Lord's guidance.
    Your comment about "Fair enough, but let's be forth right about it" is a bit testy, but remember it applys to both sides of the argument.
    All I can say is that I'm thankful that God made all people different. Just that fact alone makes it more likely that problems will be addressed.
    Keep doing what you can with what you have and I'll keep doing what I can with what I have. And God will be glorified in both lives. Have fun serving Him!

    By Blogger Snapshot, at 11/08/2005 10:26:00 AM  

  • reminds me of how I defined the difference between a republican and a democrat to my daughters when they were really young.....democrates think the government should make sure that the poor are taken care of.....republicans think that the church should make sure that the poor are taken care of.....NOW if the poor are taken care of directly by our hands or indirectly by the hands of our government because of our pressure to do so, I don't see any difference. Our hearts just need to be with the poor.

    By Blogger reever, at 11/08/2005 10:54:00 AM  

  • This kind of reminds me of when I was telling my young girls about the difference between republicans and democrats.....democrats really love the poor and so they want the government to take care of them. Republicans also really love the poor and so they want the church to take care of them. I still think these are good definitions, but the poor are not getting taken care of either way......repubs are fighting demos and neither are taking personal responsibility for taking care of the poor. We need to lead the way as Christians--either demo-Christians or repub-Christians. We need to see that if the government is not taking care of the poor.....we are.

    By Blogger reever, at 11/08/2005 11:03:00 AM  

  • "This post has been removed by a blog administrator. --By c hand, at 11:50 AM"

    No explanation for why c_hand is being censored?

    By Blogger extremist, at 11/08/2005 08:43:00 PM  

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