Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Frances Kelly, Yale student and young social activist

frances-kelly-activist-and-1st-year-yale-student.jpgThis is the 22nd annual summer conference (“peace camp”) for the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America and some of the young adults have literally grown up in this environment.  Some belong to churches that emphasize peace and justice and so have a supportive home church environment.  Some get that only one week a year at peace camp.  Frances Kelly falls into the latter category.  Her parents are longtime Baptist peacemakers, but their work took them to that wilderness known as “Shreveport, Louisiana” (rural Louisiana nowhere near hurricane ravaged New Orleans).  This is a very socially and politically conservative region.  Frances was not only one of the few kids in her public schools to be for justice and peace, but was the only one in the children’s and youth departments of her church to have such views. 

As she put it in her testimony (we Baptists greatly value giving and hearing personal testimony), everyone in Shreveport that she met believed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and everyone believed the U.S. was in danger.  The only reasons she knew to oppose the invasion came from her faith–and that was a perspective on faith that appeared to be only shared in her family–except every year at peace camp.  To folks who told her that she would “grow out” of her idealism, she would reply that she knew people from around the world in their ’60s and older who remained active in trying to make the world a more just and peaceful place, having met them every year at peace camp.

Frances has just completed her first year at Yale University where she has become a campus activist.  As she told us, this was the first time she met people who had reasons for working for justice and peace who were not Christian–she finally learned to articulate “public” reasons for her stands that might make sense to people who didn’t share her faith perspective. Not that Frances hides her Christian identity–and her more secular Yale friends are often surprised to meet a Christian, especially a Baptist, who doesn’t meet the rightwing stereotype.

I remember a few years ago at peace camp, Frances fell and broke her leg.  We were meeting in Maryland and decided to take one day to visit the White House in nearby Washington, D.C. and bring our peace banners and bear witness for our desire to end the Iraq war. Frances insisted on coming, crutches and all, and bearing her witness.  She literally learned at these yearly meetings how to be the amazing young woman she is, today.

Frances Kelly is one of many amazing examples of what’s RIGHT with young people today.

July 31, 2007 - Posted by | Baptists


  1. I saw in a mailing from the Foundation for Theological Education that Frances was a recipient of an undergraduate fellowship. You may know of FTE as an initiative to support minorities and women in theological education.


    Comment by Mike Broadway | August 1, 2007

  2. Wow, Mike! Does that mean that Frances is planning on going to seminary? Maybe YDS? Cool.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | August 1, 2007

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