For a lost friend

Protocols

by Vikram Seth

What can I say to you? How can I now retract

All that fool, my voice, has spoken –

Now that the facts are plain, the placid surface cracked,

The protocols of friendship broken?

 

I cannot walk by day as now I walk by dawn

Past the still house where you lie sleeping.

May the sun burn away these footprints on the lawn

And hold you in its warmth and keeping.

Advertisements

a poem for July 4th

The New Colossus

by Emma Lazarus, read at the dedication of the Statue of Liberty on July 4, 1886.

Pilsen MuralNot like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Mural6

 

 

Marriage and Singleness – a reminder.

The other day in church, we prayed for a couple that is getting married soon. The pastor said something that really struck me – he prayed for the couple “as they are answering a calling to marriage.”

A calling.

callingA calling.

Somehow, in these two simple words, I found two important reminders that I needed to hear:

1) Marriage is a calling. It is a calling by God for two lives to become one. Marriage is not simply a choice by two people who are “in love”; as Christians we believe that marriage is a covenant between two people, a covenant that exists to model for the world the covenantal love that God has for us. In marriage Christians show the world a different narrative: one of steadfast love in spite of sinfulness and faithfulness in the face of hardship. In the words of one of my professors, “Marriage is a mission.” (Holla at me, Dr. K’s Book Group!)

2) Marriage is not the calling. God does not call everyone to marriage; sometimes it is “not yet,” and sometimes it is “not ever.” Only time will tell which of the two it is in each person’s life, but regardless of the answer, singleness is a calling too. Let me say that again. Singleness – for now or for ever – is a calling too. In singleness and celibacy Christians show the world a different narrative: that sex and love are not what this world says they are, that the love of God and the Church is more than enough, that singleness is a calling both to radically serve the Church and to radically be served by the Church. I preach here what I have to preach to myself, sometimes: singleness is a calling.

Much of this reflection comes from a wonderful little book by Stanley Hauerwas that I had the chance to study in a small group with one of my (favorite) professors in college, so I will leave you with a quote that I loved:

“Both singleness and marriage are necessary symbolic institutions for the constitution of the church’s life… that witnesses to God’s kingdom. Neither can be valid without the other. If singleness is a symbol of the church’s confidence in God’s power to effect lives for the growth of the church, marriage and procreation is the symbol of the church’s understanding that the struggle will be long and arduous. For Christians do not place their hope in their children, but rather their children are a sign of their hope… that God has not abandoned this world.”

– Stanley Hauerwas, A Community of Character (p. 191)

Do you want room for cream in that? (Coffee and Gentrification)

Bienvenidos

The word has gone out that Pilsen is getting a new coffee shop, a branch of a shop from  from Lakeview, with locations currently in Lakeview and the Loop. The news has inspired a rally of responses – “Awesome!” “Stay away!” “Good coffee, finally!” “Another coffee shop, are you kidding me?” – and shouts of “Gentrification! Gentrification!” in the tone of voice one would expect with shouts of “Fire! Fire!”

And maybe there is a some justification in that.

Let’s be honest – gentrification is a cycle. The arrival of restaurants like Dusek’s and coffee shops like Bow Truss do show that Pilsen’s market is changing – they would not have come if they did not see a market here. But once in the neighborhood they also become forces of gentrification, contributing to the changing demographics and rising prices.

The honest part of me has to admit that in the grand scheme of things, I am a culprit in the process too – I’m the cream in the Pilsen coffee. A white girl with borderline-hipster tendencies, who barely speaks a lick of Spanish; the cream mixing in with the shades of brown. So I can’t really judge the other people who came to Pilsen for the same reasons I did, taking advantage of the cheap rent and great neighborhood environment. (Okay, I did have some other reasons, in my defense…)

But all the while the snarky part is me is sassing-out Bow Truss owner Phil Tadros for calling Pilsen “underserved” in the coffee department. What about Cafe Jumping Bean? La Catrina? Cafe Vio? The Nite Cap? And now, the coffee bar in Meztisoy? The only coffee-related thing that is “underserved” in Pilsen is (as my roommate mistakenly but hilariously called it) Pour-Over-Hipster coffee, see photo below. (The thing they don’t tell you is that in that little funnel through which they pour the coffee, there is a tiny little hipster standing. They pour it over the hipster so that you get all those nice hipster juices, like sweat and hair grease. At least, that’s the image that went through my head when my roommate called it that. Let’s not even talk about the fact that pour-over was a thing long before the hipsters were doing it.) But the pour-over coffee consumer is the niche market Bow Truss is going for – and the niche does exist here. I can’t fault them for the marketing ploy, but I can call them on the bullshit. Bow Truss’s expansion is a savvy business move, not an act of mercy.

The thing is, I actually do like pour-over. To be honest, when Bow Truss opens I’m totally going to check it out. I’ll have one small coffee, with room for gentrification, please. 

Pour-over-hipster coffee

Photo via boiseweekly.com

Why We Celebrate Passover

Today the house-church I am a part of will meet to hold our yearly Passover Seder. Over the years, this tradition has come to be really important to me (as best we figure, this is our 10th year to celebrate it), and I think that I ought to explain why. This tradition means different things to all of us who participate in it, but this is what it has come to mean for me.

First, some clarifications. Passover is a Jewish festival, and I am – obviously – not Jewish. As Christians celebrating Passover, we do not mean to diminish the importance of this festival for Jews, nor to show disrespect to it or to our Jewish brothers and sisters through our admittedly untraditional use of Jewish rituals in observing the Passover. Also, in doing this I am not claiming (as some have before me) that “Christians are in some sense more Jewish than Jews are”. Though I  recognize what is meant when people say this, I understand how this seems presumptuous and (justifiably) offensive to those who do not.*

There are Christians who have made a sort of identity out of practicing Jewish customs. (Here I am not  talking about people who are part of the tradition of Messianic Judaism, a tradition that I respect a lot and do not know enough about.) I have one word of caution for these people. Though I have found a lot of value in celebrating the Passover, as I will explain later, I think that this needs to be approached carefully. From the time of the New Testament, the church fathers made it clear that it was not necessary for Gentiles to adopt Jewish practices in order to become Christians. In the early Church, the debate was a major source of contention – did Gentile Christians need to be circumcised?** Should Gentile Christians observe Jewish dietary restrictions?*** At the Council of Jerusalem, these questions were answered, and the Church concluded that it was not necessary for Gentiles to come to the Church through Judaism. Jewish traditions are not an essential element of the Christian faith, and the purpose is neither to co-opt Jewish customs for Christianity, nor to celebrate them legalistically. Though they can be a helpful, informative, and spiritually uplifting act of worship for the Gentile Christian, we must take care that we do not make them into something for us that they are not.

Clarifications and qualifications aside, celebrating the Passover has become a meaningful tradition for our house-church community. Here are some reasons why:

1. Celebrating the Passover helps us to understand the context of Christ better. 

  • It is not a coincidence that Christ’s death occurred at the time in the calendar year that it did. Passover is arguably the most important of the Jewish festivals, commemorating the miraculous deliverance of Israel from the oppression of slavery in Egypt. To celebrate this event every year in a time when Israel was again oppressed – this time by the Roman Empire – was not only a religious but also an innately political act. It was a time when emotions ran high, when Jews celebrated liberation and all the while were brutally reminded of the oppression of their occupation. 
  • Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the event that we celebrate on Palm Sunday, occurred as the city was filling with people coming to the temple to celebrate the Passover. In this time of high emotions and political frustration, is it a surprise that the people saw in Jesus the Christ that they wanted to see – a conquering king who would free them from their present-day oppressors? And, when it became clear that this was not the kind of messiah he came to be, that public opinion swung rapidly and violently?
  • A symbolic note: in the Seder, traditionally a lamb was sacrificed at the temple and eaten. According to Mosaic law, this was to be an unblemished male lamb. The lamb was to be chosen four days before the Passover feast, and was to be taken into the household to live among the family. As our Seder script says, “After four days, when the lamb had almost become one of the family, and as the children had come to love the lamb, the lamb was taken to the temple to be sacrificed, for the forgiveness of sins.” Jesus’ triumphal entry – Palm Sunday – occurred on that day, four days before the Passover, when the people were to choose the lamb that would be sacrificed.****

2. Celebrating the Passover is a way for us to better observe and understand Maundy Thursday, the day on which Jesus ate his final meal with the disciples, washed the feet of his disciples, and instituted the sacrament of Communion.

  • The Last Supper, Jesus’ final meal on the night before he was crucified, was his celebration of the Passover feast with the disciples (Matt 26:17, Mark 14:1-2, Luke 22:1-15). We have found that, when given the context of the rituals of the Passover meal, Christ’s actions during that meal take on even greater meaning. 
  • From the radical humility of washing the disciples’ feet to the symbolic placement of the breaking of the bread (the afikomen) to the meaning of the cup of wine that Jesus called “my blood, shed for you” (in Passover sometimes called the Cup of Redemption) to the gesture of giving Judas the bread (traditionally a token of affection) – celebrating the Passover gives us the opportunity to once every year be reminded of the deep significance of the Last Supper, which we celebrate throughout the year in a much-abbreviated form.

3. Celebrating the Passover has become an opportunity for us to celebrate the tradition that has become ours “through adoption,” as adopted sons and daughters of Abraham.

  • As it is written, “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:26-29)

4. Celebrating the Passover provides us with an opportunity to be reminded of God’s desire for justice, and our responsibility to be doers of justice.

  • Passover is a time when Jews celebrate the liberation of Israel (the nation of antiquity) from the oppression of slavery to the Egyptians. At the time of Jesus, it was an ironic celebration of freedom during a time when the Jews were under the oppression of the Roman Occupation. Today, Passover is an ironic celebration of freedom at a time when the current political nation of Israel (not to be confused with the ancient religious  nation of Israel, which it is neither identical to nor continuous with nor the same as the current state) is the oppressor in the region, illegally occupying Palestine and subjecting the people to foreign, unjust rule. Passover is an opportunity to remember that irony, in solidarity with the oppressed, and a call to stand against that oppression.
  •  Passover is a time to remember Israel’s oppression in Egypt, which was the foundation upon which God built His commandments to His people. “You shall not oppress an immigrant, since you know the heart of immigrants; for you too were once immigrants in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 23:9)  In our community in inner-city Chicago, Passover is a reminder that we ourselves are to identify with the immigrant, for as it is written, “On that day tell your son, I do this because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.” (Exodus 13:8)  God tells us that we observe the Passover as though we ourselves were immigrants, oppressed in the land of Egypt. How might this reality change the way that we interact with our immigrant neighbors in the year to come?
  • As part of the Passover meal, Jews look for the arrival of Elijah, for it was foretold, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers.” (Malachi 4:4-5)  We as Christians know that Elijah has already come (Matthew 11:13-14), but it seems that we have not yet seen the hearts of the fathers turn to their children. In our community in inner-city Chicago, it is estimated that 90% of children live in a single-parent home, and 1/3 of fathers in the community are in prison. In a time such as this, what would it look like for the hearts of the fathers to be turned to their children? And what are we called to do? After all, “You shall not pervert the justice due to the sojourner or to the fatherless, or take a widow’s garment in pledge, but you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this.” (Deuteronomy 24:17-18)

I look forward eagerly to our celebration of the Passover, as I have every year for the past ten years. But this year, I hope I am doing so in a spirit of thoughtfulness, as we seek to worship God and learn the lessons he would teach us as we remember the Passover as a community.

.      .      .

Notes:

* If this is you:  The saying, “Christians are in some sense more Jewish than Jews are” is a Christian-ism that, like other Christian-isms, bears meaning in our community that we often forget that those outside our community do not know. It is a simplistic and as such ill-advised way to express meaning-laden sentiments that demand a much more nuanced explanation out of respect to our Jewish brothers and sisters. If you have felt insulted or offended by anyone who said this or something like it, I apologize. We as Christians have a responsibility to be less careless and more sensitive to the way that we are understood by others, and we often fail in it. (If you would like an explanation that gets at what is meant by this at it’s best, I’m willing to try.)
** See Galatians 3 for Paul’s response.
*** See See Acts 10 for Peter’s dream.
**** via Dr. Kalantzis.

Link: Erin’s Passover Recipes

A Sermon: Justice for Jordan Davis

My pastor’s sermon this past Sunday. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

Jordan Davis

Signs of Life

Here’s a lightly edited version of the sermon I preached at New Community Covenant Church on Sunday. Unlike most of my sermons this one was written quickly, after the news broke from the Michael Dunn trial on Saturday evening.

In November 2012, 17-year-old African American Jordan Davis and his friends were parked outside a convenience store in Florida when an argument broke out with the white man parked next to them about the volume of their music. The argument ended when the man, Michael Dunn shot 10 rounds into Davis’ car- some of those bullets hit and killed Davis. At his trial Dunn claimed he felt threatened, that he had to stand his ground. No gun was ever found in the young Jordan Davis’ car. Last night a mostly white jury found Dunn guilty on lesser counts of attempted murder- but for the actual murder they couldn’t agree. And…

View original post 3,089 more words

Stop Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day – Matt Rindge

Stop-Celebrating-MLK

An extremely thought-provoking article written by Matt Rindge of Red Letter Christians, on America’s “annual ritual of misremembering Martin Luther King, Jr.” The article continues below.

.          .          .

Although Rev. Dr. King often indicted what he called the “triple evils of racism, economic exploitation and militarism,” America chiefly associates King with only one of these ills; our predominant picture of King is as an opponent of racial segregation.

But this image is a distortion. For in the last few years of his life, King increasingly aimed his prophetic critique at the twin “evils” of poverty and America’s militarism.

Efforts to help poor people led King to be in Memphis on the day of his assassination. He was there to join a strike of 1,300 sanitation workers seeking better working conditions, higher wages, and the right to join a union.

King raised troubling questions about an economic system that perpetuates poverty. In an August 1967 speech (“Where Do We Go from Here”) — eight months before he was killed — he declared:

“Why are there 40 million poor people in America? And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising a question about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. And I’m simply saying that more and more, we’ve got to begin to ask questions about the whole society. We are called upon to help the discouraged beggars in life’s marketplace. But one day we must come to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”

The Memphis sanitation strike was a part of the “Poor People’s Campaign,” which King began to organize in the last months of his life. This campaign would shift the primary focus of the Civil Rights Movement to the economic concerns of “poor people of all colors.” The campaign would seek, among other things, to secure poor people with jobs that paid a fair wage, unemployment insurance, and education. The campaign’s goals died along with King.

The week before he was killed King gave a speech (“Remaining Awake through a Great Revolution”) in which he offered an alternative economic proposal:

“. . . we spend in America millions of dollars a day to store surplus food, and I said to myself, ‘I know where we can store that food free of charge — in the wrinkled stomachs of millions of God’s children all over the world who go to bed hungry at night.’ And maybe we spend far too much of our national budget establishing military bases around the world rather than bases of genuine concern and understanding.”

In his final speech, King returned to poverty. Although most clips of his “mountaintop” speech feature the foreshadowing of his death (“I may not get there with you …”), King’s primary aim was to motivate people to support the striking sanitation workers in Memphis. Quoting Luke’s gospel, King maintained:

“Somehow the preacher must say with Jesus, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me,’ and he’s anointed me to deal with the problems of the poor.”

“It’s all right to talk about ‘streets flowing with milk and honey,’ but God has commanded us to be concerned about the slums down here, and his children who can’t eat three square meals a day.”

Restructuring society would require concrete economic changes, and King made these clear. He instructed the audience to stop purchasing Coca-Cola and Wonder Bread. He called for a “bank-in” movement, advising financial withdrawals from downtown Memphis banks and insurance companies.

King’s final statement on poverty appeared 12 days after his assassination in a Look magazine article, “Showdown for Nonviolence.” The same non-violent demonstrations used to fight segregation, King argued, should now be organized to address “the economic problem — the right to live, to have a job and income …” King called for an “Economic Bill of Rights for the Disadvantaged” that would “guarantee a job to all people who want to work and are able to work” and an “income for all who are not able to work.”

Economic justice, it seems, surpassed racial equality as King’s chief concern.

“The economic question is the most crucial that black people, and poor people generally, are confronting.”

In the last year of his life, King also devoted increasing attention to critiquing America’s use of violence in Vietnam. Speaking at New York’s Riverside Church — one year to the day before he was killed — King described the incongruity between his preaching and America’s practices:

“As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked — and rightly so — what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government.”

King suggested that a commitment to the world’s most vulnerable members should prevail over patriotism:

“This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation’s self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy . . .”

King viewed America’s devotion to war in religious terms:

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

Twenty-six days later, King again spoke out on Vietnam in a sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church. He described America’s hypocritical responses to his messages of non-violence.

“There’s something strangely inconsistent about a nation and a press that will praise you when you say, ‘Be non-violent toward Jim Clark,’ but will curse and damn you when you say, ‘Be non-violent toward little brown Vietnamese children.’ There’s something wrong with that press!”

Remembering King primarily for his struggle against segregation is to misremember him. (America does with King what the Church has done to Jesus: remade him in our own image.) Domesticating and sterilizing King is the only way to integrate him into our national consciousness. The unlikely alternative would be to question two of America’s sacred engines: its economy and military. Ironically, King’s critiques of poverty and militarism are more relevant today than his work on behalf of racial integration.

To honor King, we need to stop celebrating him. Perhaps the very nature of celebration makes distortion inevitable. A National Day of Lamenting King would be more fitting, and helpful in calling to mind the ways we betray two fundamental aspects of his legacy.

**This article originally appeared on Spokane Faith & Values

—-
Matthew S. Rindge is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Gonzaga University. He is currently writing “Cinematic Parables: Subverting the Religion of the American Dream.”

Jesus and the Parable of the Man who Needed Health Care – Eric Pazdziora

Considering recent conversations sparked by developments in the national healthcare scene, I thought I’d share a very pertinent reflection by Eric Pazdziora, the original of which can be found here. The point of posting this is NOT to make a political statement or to engage in all the partisan positioning that has been happening – if you are looking for an argument, please look elsewhere. Rather, the goal IS to re-frame a familiar story in a way that I hope makes every Christian, regardless of political opinion, reflect anew on how we are called to live.

.          .          .

Vincent_van_GoghYes, there is such a parable in the original. The first several times I didn’t realize what it was about; Jesus insists on framing the question in a way that invalidates most of our categories of discussing the issue. I’ve taken the liberty of writing my own paraphrase, with a few hopefully not-entirely-unwarranted interpolations and transpositions, to make it as immediate to you as it was to me when I saw it. The categories of people in Jesus’ story have become people who might correspond in our society. If you’re interested in debating the current political discussion on health care, I’m sure there are lots of other places on the Internet for you to do so– this is about something much bigger.  EMP

A theologian came up to Jesus one day and said, “Teacher, what exactly, in your opinion, does a person have to do to inherit eternal life?”

“Do?” said Jesus. “Well, if it’s a question of doing, I suppose you’d better start with the Law of Moses. What does it say to you?”

“Love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself,” said the theologian promptly.

“Good answer,” said Jesus. “If you can do that, you’re all set.”

“Well,” said the theologian, hemming and hawing a bit, “of course, we have to understand these things with the proper doctrinal and textual nuance inherent in the social and kerygmatical context of the times. For instance, how, contextually, would you interpret the word ‘neighbor’?”

Jesus smiled sadly and said, “Let me tell you this story….

This guy was walking down the road one day, minding his own business, when all of a sudden a street gang jumped on him, beat him up, took all his money, and got away with it. The gang left him lying in the gutter, bleeding all over the place, broken bones, semi-conscious, barely alive.

Well, who should come along but a prominent conservative pastor. The conservative took a look at the guy in the gutter and felt sorry for him. But he figured that it was not his fault if somebody didn’t have enough street smarts to look out for himself in a bad neighborhood, and anyway it wouldn’t be right for someone to require him to give his hard-earned money away to the undeserving. So he crossed over to the other side of the street.

Walking the other way was a liberal community worker, and when he saw the conservative guy ignore the hurting man like that, he started an argument with him. “It isn’t right to refuse health care to people who need it– but not by taking my money– but everyone should have an equal chance– but that will give the government too much control– but the insurance companies are….” They got so into their argument that they walked away together, and left the man in the gutter.

So then a socialist* came by. A genuine bleeding-heart socialist, who was in favor of gay rights and PETA and legalizing marijuana and the whole bit. He saw the guy bleeding to death in the gutter, and he grabbed a first aid kit and started putting bandages on his wounds. Then he helped him into his Prius and drove him to the nearest hospital. Stayed with him the whole time, and told the doctors and nurses everything he could to help. Eventually they stabilized the guy and got him on life support. The socialist said, “I don’t think this guy has any insurance, so I tell you what– Here’s a few hundred dollars now, and you can send the rest of the bill to me; I’ll take care of it myself.”

“Now,” said Jesus, “you tell me: Which one of these people was a neighbor to the man who needed health care?”

“The one who actually did something for him,” said the theologian.

“Well then,” said Jesus, “go do it.”

– – –

*The original: Luke 10:25-37Note, I chose the “socialist” simply because I thought he might be as shocking to the present-day church as the Samaritan was to the Jews– no other political statement should be inferred. 

Why I love “Call the Midwife”

Call the Midwife

Babies. Nuns. Bicycles.

Sometimes, I have a hard time explaining why I love this TV show so much.

At face value, “Call the Midwife” doesn’t seem like it could be the epic, thought-provoking, heart-warming, on-the-edge-of-your-seat-intense TV show that it is. Now, I’m entirely willing to admit that this show is not for everyone. One of my friends described it as “a lot of screaming”; I’d be the first to acknowledge that. If you don’t want to see lots of babies and bodily fluids, this is not the show for you.  

(Fortunately for me, this is right up my alley. I’m working in healthcare administration right now as I get ready to apply for graduate school in Nursing, and as I decide exactly what route I want to take. Midwifery has always been on the table for me, and I’m not going to lie…it’s a little bit hard to tell if my life plans are being influenced by a TV show. Because I’m majorly leaning midwife right now. But hey, correlation does not equal causation, right?)

But but if you can handle the birth-related bits, “Call the Midwife” should be the next thing you put on your Netflix queue.

1) “Call the Midwife” is story for today.  An idealistic and naïve young woman sets out to save Poplars (a neighborhood in the slums of East London), one home-birth at a time. Though she finds that the problems are bigger than she ever knew or imagined, that she is more naive and unaware than she’d care to admit, and that there are things she cannot change, time and again she also finds that she can change a life, and that that is enough. It is a coming-of-age story, a story for my generation.

2) It is a story of women. Written and produced by a largely-female production team, based on the memoirs of a real woman, with all-female lead roles – it is by women, about women. A story about a young, newly-certified midwife who moves into a convent to work with other nun-midwives and non-nun-midwives, much of the story is driven by the relationships between these women – women with different histories, different places of faith, different struggles, yet with the same mission. It is a story of community, as each brings her own baggage, but finds freedom and healing and identity in community.

3) But it is still also a story for men. This is not a platform for angry feminism, for anti-man angst, for gender rants. Men are not overly vilified, nor are they overly glorified. There are some fantastic male supporting characters – the selfless doctor, the lovable best friend, the prickly but tender-hearted groundskeeper – that show you that women can still write some of the best men. Yet there is also very honest engagement with the reality that – then and now – there are some very broken gender dynamics in the world. But the point remains, though this TV show is still a story for men, it is not about the men. The show is always honest about being a story of women.

4) Nuns. Need I say more? Nuns are fly.

5) It’s secretly all about social justice. Though set in 1950s London, the real power of the show lies in the timeless, universal problems and truths it explores. It explores problems and inequalities that are as present now as they were then: urban poverty, healthcare access in under-served populations, gender violence, wealth and lifestyle disparities. It deals with the issues of missions – savior complexes, ignorance and naïveté, guilt, disillusionment, hope and despair, success and failure.

6) In a world where many avoid talking about God and religion, it is incredibly well-handled in this show. It would be hard to get around God in a TV show where half of the major characters are nuns, and “Call the Midwife” wisely doesn’t try. Yet the religious elements are not overplayed either, nor used divisively. God is a quiet presence, an almost unmentioned character, but not unseen. He is seen in the lives of worship of the nuns, and modeled in their actions. He is in the intentional community of the nuns and the midwives, living together in the community they serve. The nuns’ faith is a rock to the other midwives in times of pain and uncertainty, even though most don’t claim the faith themselves. It is a faith that is shown, not preached.

Need more convincing?

Why I Love Call the Midwife

“Call the Midwife” has it all: nurses and nuns, boys and babies, romance, friendship, faith, and social justice. It is honest and sincere, touching, sad and hilarious in turns, and chock full of some of the most compelling characters in television right now, with a story that is as relevant as it is engrossing. Just give it a try.