Note: OK, OK, the title of this post was unnecessarily incendiary. I love social media, you probably got to this post via social media. Social media could never single-handedly ruin social justice. What’s happened is I noticed a trend with social justice topics on social media, and I wanted to point it out and talk about what we, with a full understanding of Catholic Social Justice, can do about it.
Already Out of Mind
Take a minute to switch tabs back to your social media feed. How many articles are there about the children separated from their families at the border? I hope to goodness it’s not none. But I wouldn’t be surprised. After all, it’s been a few weeks since the headlines broke.
You know, a few weeks. Basically an eternity.
Definitely enough time for the well-being of children to pass from our attention.
It sounds harsh. But the reality is harsh. To be completely transparent, I’m guilty too. Things slip in and out of my notice – largely based on what’s in my social media feed.
And that isn’t enough.
This doesn’t just apply to the children at the border. If our commitment to social justice is SOLELY based on our social media scrolling, if our activism is SOLELY reactionary, we are never. going. to. change. ANYTHING.
Don’t get me wrong, I was amazed by the initiatives to provide aid for these children and to work towards social justice. But we must build off of their efforts to build lasting change.
Everyday Social Justice
You may ask…is lasting change even possible? I would argue yes. But it’s going to take a mindset shift.
See, I think that social justice is more achievable that we actually give it credit for. We’ve just been conditioned to look at it completely the wrong way. In the social media age, social justice is primarily reactionary, rather than an everyday practice.
Here’s what reactionary social justice looks like: I see a headline: Children that are sleeping on the concrete underneath a blanket of tin foil. And I go “I can’t fix that!” Because I can’t. It’s just the truth.
To contrast, here’s what everyday social justice looks like: I get to know the immigrants in my community (I work at a majority Hispanic school). Within these relationships, I listen to their stories. Their experiences make me more aware of the political and cultural issues that impact their lives.
Then, I give of my available time and resources. There’s a first grader struggling to overcome the language barrier, and I advocate for him. There’s a community fundraiser to get Christmas gifts for children with parents across the border, and I participate.
And for some of you, that exact path is feasible (if so, totally let me know because I’m curious as to your approach!)
For others, it may be a different community that you have the opportunity and skills to help (and still let me know because that’s awesome and inspiring). The point is, we take small steps towards justice.
Everyday Social Justice is Catholic Social Justice
We must commit to everyday social justice. Because that’s Catholic Social Justice. Catholic Social Teaching is not based upon simply reacting and jumping on the bandwagon. It’s about incorporating the call of Christ into our day to day lives.
You’re probably familiar with the corporal works of mercy. If not, check them out here.
These aren’t every now and then ideals. These are Christ’s command to us as Christians.
Maybe it’s giving food and supplies to children at the border. Maybe it to bagging up extra baby clothes and donating them to a crisis pregnancy center. Maybe it’s serving a meal at a homeless shelter. Maybe it’s investing in the community to ensure safety and security of our kids. Maybe it’s writing a letter to someone in prison.
Whatever it is — Christ expects commitment.
“I’m too busy.”
OK, fair enough. You’re busy. We’re all busy. I’ll be the first to advocate for balance and self-care.
Yet I really feel like we need to pick through our priories. Do you really want to look at Jesus and tell Him you were too busy to help the children at the border who were not properly dressed, eating uncooked frozen meals?
For me, this ends up being more of a perspective thing than an actual “I’m too busy” thing. I can’t do the big things so I end up doing nothing at all.
To counter this, here’s my idea for an “I’m too busy” approach to Catholic Social Justice:
- Every day: Pray for social justice.
- Every week: Read an article about a current social justice issue. I would totally recommend posting it on social media and sharing your thoughts.
- Every month: Donate (within your means) to some social justice cause. This can be money or things: A food donation to a pantry, a clothing donation to a homeless shelter, a diaper donation to a crisis pregnancy shelter. Extra points for committing to one cause or organization with which you can form a lasting relationship.
- Every 4-6 months: Complete some larger service project.
You may be able to do more, maybe you have to do a little less. Start small if you have to – but start. Christ will take what you give and make it grow – He’s amazing like that.
Where are the Catholics?
Your small commitment is so essential. Because we need to be working. Every day. We need to anticipate headlines. We need to fight for what’s right even before it’s a “hot button” issue.
So that, when someone asks: “Where are the Catholics when…?”
The response should be:
“We’re already here.
And we’d love it if you joined us.”