Friday, January 21, 2022

Growing into a Vision: Reflections on Restorative and Transformative Justice

    I have been quite critical of my religious upbringing in other talks, and all of that is quite true. Of utmost significance to me was that, rather than having access to quality mental health and medical care, I had to rely on religious books and ideas to help me cope with and try to recover from the abuse I experienced as a child. So I want to be clear that I am not erasing any of those criticisms when I say that it is also true that I don’t know if I would have survived adolescence without the powerful vision of peace and justice that I found in the lives and teachings of Jesus and the prophets. 

    I was probably around 12 years old when I first began reading and studying the Hebrew Bible and the Christian scriptures. I encountered plenty of confusing stuff, but there was also this persistent, insistent plea for us to make things right, to create a world where we could live without exploitation, injustice, or oppression. And it felt realistic to me; these values were often aspirations, a vision of how things could be. Only false prophets lied and said everything was okay when it wasn’t okay. I appreciated that honesty, because the world I grew up in was certainly not safe, just, or particularly kind – but I wanted it to be, and these readings helped me hold on to the vision that this was possible. One of these passages that happens to be the lectionary text for this Sunday, when Jesus goes to a synagogue in Nazareth and reads from a scroll from the prophet Isaiah: 

Friday, January 14, 2022

"Until Everyone Is Safe": Reimagining Social and Community Well-Being through the Lens of Vaccine Equity

“650 Million Doses Short”

Like many people whose community work involved being in close contact with vulnerable populations, I can’t adequately describe the relief, gratitude, and hope I felt when I received my first injection of a covid-19 vaccine in February 2021. In fact, not a day goes by that I don’t feel grateful, and with good reason. Natalie Musumeci reported this week on a recent research letter in JAMA Network Open that revealed, from December 2020 through June 2021, these vaccinations “prevented more than 14 million” covid cases and saved approximately 241,000 lives in the USA alone, cutting hospitalizations and deaths “by nearly half”.  ( ) The vaccines have been both life-saving and life-changing. As a fully vaccinated and boosted person, I don’t have to live with the stress of life before the vaccines and I can’t imagine facing the Omicron variant without it. Tragically, I am one of the lucky ones with this option. While the main obstacles to an adequate vaccination rate we face in the Ozarks have been related to vaccine hesitancy and conspiracy theories, many places in the world have not had that luxury.