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Julia Stronks calls for acting globally and locally

Assuming participants in the Eastern Washington Legislative Conference understood the connection of faith and justice, God’s concern for the poor and the call to sacrifice, Julia Stronks, political science professor at Whitworth University, challenged them to act.

Julia Stronks
Julia Stronks, Whitworth University

She said the conference’s theme from Matthew, where Jesus says, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s,” is often misunderstood, either as saying people need to pay taxes or people need to resist government.

“Jesus avoided the question meant as a trap, because he believed everything belongs to God, who is sovereign over governments, markets, the global economy and individuals,” she said.  “The right wing says government is bad and markets are good.  The left says markets are bad and governments are good. Christians understand that everything is under God, markets and governments.”

In today’s global world, most U.S. problems have a global tie, Julia affirmed.  Terrorism, immigration and trafficking, for example, would not be problems if the economies of all nations were healthy.  Similarly, pollution and global warming cannot be resolved by the United States alone.

“We need to think and act globally and locally,” she said, noting that even when people try to act responsibly, their actions may have unintended consequences.

She encourages people to be aware of consequences of their actions and consumption and decide one thing they can do locally, nationally or internationally.

An example of unintended consequences, she said, happened a few years ago. Churches, aware children were exposed to disease by mosquitoes at night, sent thousands of mosquito nets to mission areas.  As a result, local mosquito net makers were put out of business.

Another example was that two authors, who learned young women were sold into prostitution by their families to pay $100 debts that grew to $400 with interest, decided to rescue two girls and paid $400 to free them.  However, with $400 in his hands, the neighborhood lender offered $100 loans to other families, setting up more girls to be sold into prostitution.

Julia challenges Whitworth students who want to change the world and do justice that change will have a cost to them.

For example, many students buy diamond engagement rings. So the call to justice requires purchasers of diamonds to be aware that many are mined by child labor in Africa and are sold by gangs to fund violence and injustice, she said.

“What caused the global economic crisis?” Julia asked. “Unregulated, risky loans and mortgages by institutions were part of the cause, but with interest rates going down, people decided to buy larger and larger homes and make more risky investments.  Excitement about the stock market and retirement funds going up is tied to the crisis.  It’s not just pointing our fingers at bad acts of others.  Many people benefited from the rising values and we are indirectly connected to the crisis that resulted.”

“People wonder what they can do given the complexity of the global economic crisis.  Whatever action one picks, there are local, national and global interests and elements that require each person to change behavior,” Julia said.

Last year, students she worked with chose to tackle problems related to bottled water.  They learned that companies are digging one huge well in Michigan, draining water used to irrigate farms and putting the farms in jeopardy.  One action that the students chose was to reduce their own consumption of bottled water.  This year they are addressing sex trafficking. 

As they explore an issue, they seek to learn how changing their own actions could have influence.  They evaluated where they went for pedicures and which beauty salons to use.

Julia shared a poem attributed to assassinated former Bishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, calling for people to take “a long view,” aware that what one accomplishes is “a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.”

He wrote:  “Nothing we do is complete,” no statement, prayer, confession, pastoral visit, program or set of goals.  Instead, he said that people plant and water seeds that “hold future promise” and lay foundations that need to be developed.  What each does is a beginning, a step and an opportunity for God to “enter and do the rest.”

For information, email jstronks@whitworth.edu.