Greetings, my name is Andrew Fassett and I am the newest staff member at The Boston Faith and Justice Network. I am excited to be joining such a passionate, inspiring, and practical organization as BFJN. I thought a great way to introduce myself would be to share my journey toward justice. Justice is a destination, but unfortunately, not one we will fully arrive at on this side of eternity. So, in a way, we all have a journey of justice, even if we might be heading in the wrong direction! Hopefully, you can resonate with some of the stories and experiences I share and be encouraged to share your story or live more justly.
My journey begins in a middle-class white Christian family in a predominately white (99%) community in upstate New York. I grew up very passionate about missions and about sharing the gospel with people far away. I wanted to bring the saving message of God to people who had never heard it. I stood up when the call to go into missions was made at church without knowing what that would really mean. I also enjoyed serving people directly but it was certainly more of a secondary pursuit. I mirrored the views of my church at the time, which was involved with missions and added a little service. For example, we would serve meals at the local city mission, which I really enjoyed. I had not yet recognized the truth of this quote by E Stanley Jones, “The social gospel divorced from personal salvation is like a body without a soul. The message of personal salvation without a social dimension is like a soul without a body. The former is a corpse; the latter is a ghost.” However, as I got older my perspective on the importance of justice began to change.
At some point, either late high school or college I heard Rob Morris, one of the co-founders of Love146, speak. I remember the story he told very vividly. He was on the baseball team at school. As the bus was pulling away, everyone on the bus saw six kids jump and begin to beat up one kid. The bus driver kept going and things continued on as if it wasn’t happening besides all the kids on the bus staring intently. Then someone yelled, “Stop the bus!” That kid ran off the bus with a baseball bat and started swinging at the six kids beating up the one kid while repeatedly yelling, “He is just one guy!” It is easy for me to picture that story because I spent a lot of time on a soccer team bus. But the most powerful part of the story is that the person telling it was not the hero. He was not the person swinging the baseball bat and saving the kid. He was just one of the kids who stared and stayed on the bus. Yet, he was convicted by his inaction when witnessing the obvious need of someone else. I felt that same way about my work toward justice when hearing him speak and realized God was calling me to do more. It led me to give to Love146 at the time but there was more to it than just opening my wallet.
There are two experiences in my college years that are noteworthy on my journey. The first is a college experience that changed my biblical perspective on justice. It came about as part of my involvement with Intervarsity which grew throughout my college years. One spring break I participated in Intervarsity’s New York City Urban Plunge. This meant going to the Bronx in New York City, living in a challenging area, and learning about God’s heart for justice. It was a rough area for sure. One morning I was doing hill runs and I ran down the hill and saw two guys knife fighting. So, I turned around and ran right back up the hill. By the time I got to the bottom again, it was as if nothing had happened. But the real impactful part of this plunge was learning about God’s heart for justice. On this trip, the amount and duration of God’s call for justice throughout the scriptures became clear to me. God judges Israel for their injustice. The prophets were unrelenting in their calls for justice. My tradition and I had simply overlooked or chosen not to notice all these justice-oriented scriptures! I realized I had been discounting God’s heart for justice and my life was not in accordance with God’s call for our lives. This realization encouraged me to put justice into action in my own life.
The second college experience I want to note is a month-long outreach and service project I did with one other guy from my church. The church was a small (~25 people) inner-city church in Troy, New York. Yet it ran a weekly meal serving 50-100+ people. But this month-long thing was essentially just the two of us. It was four weeks and four different focuses on serving the community and sharing the good news. We tried to build relationships with people experiencing homelessness. We painted the YWCA parking lot and building. We held a community BBQ. We cooked and served the meals at the church every week (with help of course). It was a powerful experience I remember well to this day. Here are a couple of standout parts. We were ministering to people living in tents that were right next to the old steps of Uncle Sam’s original house. Uncle Sam is the name sometimes used to refer to the United States like in that famous recruiting poster of “I Want You for U.S. Army.” According to history, with some dispute, Uncle Sam was the person who inspired the Uncle Sam moniker for the United States and who lived in Troy, New York. And homeless people were literally living on his doorstep. If that isn’t a symbolic reality, then I don’t know what is. The second sub-story was getting to know two guys who both served in the Marine Corps. I was in Marine Reserve Officer Training Corps at the time and I felt a connection with them. They were wrestling with substance abuse, trying to hold down jobs, and to find a place to stay. It really personalized things for me. It humanized their struggle for me in a way that had not happened before, and I think would be difficult in a one-time interaction. These experiences were important waypoints on my journey of justice.
However, I don’t want to make this blog too long so I’m going to stop here. Stay tuned for part 2.