March 19: Seek the City's Welfare

Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel,
   to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon:
Build houses and live in them;
   plant gardens and eat what they produce.
Take wives and have sons and daughters;
   take wives for your sons,
   and give your daughters in marriage,
   that they may bear sons and daughters;
   multiply there, and do not decrease.
But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile,
   and pray to the Lord on its behalf, 
   for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
Jeremiah 29:4-7

You will be glad to note that, technically, the Sunday of Lent are not fast days; they are considered feast days, and thus, you do not have to observe your fast on Sunday. We don't have that luxury; since we are practicing the fast that God chooses, we can never cease the work of justice.

Instead, each Sunday we will focus on one positive and inspirational example of a person who is actively working for justice. 

I first met Dr. Lydia Bean for lunch at a Macaroni Grill. She was running late, because … well, she’s always on the run. At the time, she’d just been tasked by the PICO National Network to get a faith-based community organizing project off the ground in Dallas. 

At the time, I was learning about community organizing from Dallas Area Interfaith, and thought perhaps there might not be enough interest in another organization. 

Boy, was I wrong! A few years later, Lydia’s project has become Faith in Texas, which has offices in Dallas, keeps busy a staff of nine, and is supported by a large number of area churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples.

Even more importantly, the agency has won significant victories in the metroplex around payday lending practices. Faith in Texas has also recently launched campaigns around police reform, immigration, and public education.

Lydia cut her teeth in the fight around racial justice. Her father, Alan Bean, led the campaign for justice in Tulia, Texas, after an infamous drug sting in which 47 people, 39 of them African Americans, were arrested on the basis of false testimony by an undercover agent.

She received her PhD in Sociology from Harvard University, and teaches at Baylor University. She has also published one book, The Politics of Evangelical Identity.

We are fortunate to have such a passionate advocate for justice in Dallas. She embodies Jeremiah’s call to “seek the welfare of the city.” She understands intuitively that to work for the welfare of others, is to work for our own good. Our communities are networks of mutually enhancing relationships.

I happened to run into her just this last week at a neighborhood coffee shop. She was in the middle of a meeting with some staff members, but she waved and chatted with me briefly.

And then she was back to work. 

Prayer: God, thank you for the witness of Dr. Lydia Bean. May we all seek the welfare of our cities. Give us hope that the future of our communities is bright. Amen.