On Rights…

Yesterday, Pastor Steve preached and in part of his sermon he talked about “Rights” language. We get this idea about our “rights” from the founding fathers who put the following in the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Make no mistake, I love they included this. I believe we all have the right to life and liberty. I question the pursuit of happiness. Because who defines what that means? In talking with so many people, I have found that what makes one person happy, would make me miserable. And of course there are those things that make me happy that others would hate. I know this because I happen to enjoy weeding. I am a rare anomaly since most people who gather to talk about gardening typically all say how much they hate weeding. Weeding does not lead to their happiness. I am sure we can all think of many other examples that would make us happy, and others would find those activities tedious at best.

So, when we talk about rights, we also tend to lean into thinking about what is right for me, with little to no thought for what is right for everyone. And therein lies the issue. We think in terms of our individual wants and desires with no thought for the community as a whole. But we live in community. We are relational by nature. We are also only as strong as a nation as our weakest members. So, it is important to ensure that all members of society have access, at the very least, to their basic needs. That there is a way for them to work and afford: housing, food, clothing, and other basic necessities. We currently don’t have that.

In fact, in our nation and especially in certain states and Florida is one of them, housing is such a problem that many people, including families are living in tents in our parks and our school buses are now going to those parks to pick up children for school. Many people are doubling up in homes or couch surfing so they have a roof over their heads. Many people are just leaving the area because they are tired of spending over 50% of their take home pay on rent. Rents that the Merritt Island area begin around 1400 per month and most begin around 2500 per month. For those working at minimum wage, they would need to work around 100 hours a week in order to afford rent. This is especially apparent when you know that the median area income is hovering right around 80,000 per year. Developers are building homes and condominiums for that wage and not for the many who make around 35,000 to 40,000 per year. Half the Median area income. We are in a crisis.

The statistics surrounding the housing crisis is bleak. And you may be asking: “What can I, one person do about it?” Well, one person can’t do that much. But when many people band together to confront our elected officials, we can show them that the community that elected them does not like the job they are doing and they need to focus on the issues that are impacting the community that elected them in the first place. In gathering together, we can make a difference.  Instead of thinking in terms of rights…we are thinking in terms of justice. The same justice that we would all want in our lives. And justice makes for a more just society and in the long run that is exactly what we all want.

What can you do? In Brevard there is an organization called BRIGHT. It is a justice ministry organized through DART and they work to confront those who hold the power and ask them to change policies that are negatively impacting various people groups within our communities. Our organization is currently working on affordable housing and we are beginning to discern how we can help the children of our county to improve their reading scores. Reading at or above grade level is one indicator a child will have a successful scholastic career. If you are interested in joining us, we have our annual Nehemiah action on April 24, at 6:30p, at Holy Trinity Academy.  I invite you to join us to see what we do as we work toward justice for all.

For those who do not live in Brevard County, there are many DART affiliates throughout the state of Florida as well as in many other states in the nation that you can join as you lend your voice for justice in your communities.

Peace,

Pastor Beth

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