Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Faith Community and Social Justice: How to Prioritize Disability, Low Income, and LGBT Needs

Kris Guin

Welcome (at St. Mary's Episcopal Church)
Source: Mel Green/Flickr
[image: Church wall hanging: rectangular quilt reading
"Welcome" in blue letters, surrounded by red hearts
in white diamonds, on a swirly rainbow background.]
I think that communities and people of faith should make social justice work a priority. Not only do I think that people of faith have a moral imperative to make the world a better place, but I think it’s good for the faith community. I don’t know how non-Christian faith communities are, but I think the Church and church* are inaccessible to many folks.

Dressing up in nice clothes is a social standard in many churches because of the belief that you need to “dress up for God.” This prevents many people from being able to go to church on Sundays because some people might not be able to afford nice clothes, or some people might have sensory issues with nice clothes like suits and dresses. If a church is not accepting of queer and trans people, they might not feel comfortable wearing a dress or a suit if those clothes don’t correspond to their gender identity. Casual clothes are simply much more accessible.

Another thing churches should consider is transportation to their churches. There are a lot of people who don’t drive because of things like poverty, disability, and age (people younger than 16/17 and senior citizens). I think churches should work with their local community’s public transportation department and explore ways to improve public transportation access to their church. This helps more people go to their church, and it improves public transportation in their city which helps everyone.

A lot of churches have food banks, and I think that’s a good thing. However, something I wish the Church would engage more in is systems change advocacy to change the system that necessitates having that food bank. I think churches need to contact their local and federal policy makers to make things like SNAP (A.K.A. “food stamps”) more accessible to people. When someone is hungry, they often don’t have the energy to go to church, even if they want to go to church.

I think faith communities should advocate for wage equality, including getting rid of Section 14(c) of the “Fair” Labor Standards Act, and raising the minimum wage. Too many people have to work more than 40 hours per week to just make ends meet, which means they might have to work every day. This prevents a lot of people from being able to go to their faith community’s religious service, as they might have to work instead. If people were making a livable wage, they wouldn’t have to work so much, and could go to the religious services they want to.


*“The Church” with a capital “C” refers to the Christian community as a whole. “The church” with a lower-case “c” refers to an individual Christian community.