Archive for the ‘Justice’ Category

Justice for the Poor

November 20, 2018

“Let the poor say, ‘I am rich because of what the Lord has done for us.’ ”

From Give Thanks by Henry Smith.

We sang that song last Sunday as part of a Thanksgiving service. (Thursday is the American Thanksgiving Day holiday.)

The social movement of 19th Century Europe (and later in America) was farm workers flocking to the cities to get jobs in the new industrial manufacturing plants. Only, they discovered very low wages and terribly unsafe working conditions.

And the owners of the factories? They lived like the kings and princes they had displaced in the social hierarchy.

The Christian church in Europe where most of this was going on responded by saying, “Let the poor rejoice in the kingdom to come.”

Reaction to this attitude was predictable. The workers rebelled when they could. Philosophers and political thinkers rejected the church. These “preacher’s kids” started writing atheist tracts about justice for the poor–now, not in some future when they are dead.

Residue from these attitudes on each side affect the Christian church in Europe, and to a degree in America, even to today.

Jesus and his followers talk often about justice, mercy, and giving to the poor. Think of the story of Ruth and Naomi and how they were destitute and shown mercy by a wealthy kinsman.

As we thank God for our blessings, let us show mercy and compassion as Jesus commanded and give to the poor for their blessing.

Two Men Walk Into A Coffee House

May 30, 2018

And they get thrown out.

Not the beginning of a joke. Today Starbucks is closing stores to provide training to associates on how to interact with people of all races and genders.

The corporation has a policy. Not an unusual policy. I’ve experienced it in many countries and many establishments. Shouldn’t be a big deal.

It became one.

Morgan Freeman makes jokes and comments about the physical features of women. There was a time that was pretty common. Men never stopped to think about the effect of the comments on the women. It’s just “joking” around. But, who knows, maybe they’d “get lucky.”

It now became a big deal.

Roseanne cracks a crude joke on Twitter. There are lots of crude comedians–in comedy clubs. Not that I like those. Putting it out in the public for everyone to see? Within 12 hours she was dissed by a co-star, had her series cancelled, had the actions dealing with her confirmed by the CEO of the corporation, and she lost her agent.

It became a big deal.

We have ancient teachings that can guide us, if we but choose.

Jesus spoke 2,000 years ago and quoted something from 2,000 years before him. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your mind. And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Or we can look for guidance from the Apostle Paul who advised his friends in the churches in Galatia, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

Time after time people in organizations are making decisions that they think upholds company policy but act in a wrong manner.

Following these guidelines (commands) you cannot be wrong.

Unfortunately those acts to not make the news. We only hear about loud-mouthed, bigoted “Christians” and acts of great insensitivity. As for me, I’d just as soon not be in the news.

Do Not Over Think

March 12, 2018

“Do not overthink. Call the simple fouls.” Advice to soccer referees preparing for the new season.

OK, this is odd advice coming from the guy whose basic life orientation is to think and analyze. But maybe it’s why I have liked the challenge of refereeing soccer for the past 30 years. When you focus on each challenge in a match, you don’t have time to think too much. It’s feel for the flow of the game, the reactions of the players, and what serves justice.

Do not overthink.

My morning reading in Romans. “The commandments…are summed up in this word, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.”

When Jesus gave this command the Pharisees, those overachievers in thinking too much, started questioning. “Who is our neighbor?” Jesus responded with a story whose hero was member of a despised race of people–sort of like an illegal immigrant. In other words, everyone is our neighbor–even those we despise personally.

Love does no wrong to a neighbor.

Consider this when deciding what to do with your money.

Consider this with every person you come into contact with.

Consider this with your politics.

Consider this within your church and groups.

How do I live each moment as if Jesus and Paul actually meant for me to live this way? In the flow of the moment; without overthinking it?

Travel Is Fatal To Prejudice, Bigotry

February 23, 2017

Found this article on “Big Think.” This confirms observations that I have made over the years. It’s often said that there’s safety in numbers, and unfortunately, the bromide applies equally to people with hateful attitudes when they operate in groups. Racism, for example, is easy to maintain when surrounded by other haters, but a different matter altogether when a racist is alone with his or her intended victim. At that moment, it’s much harder to ignore the fact that the object of hatred is just another vulnerable human being with the right to be treated respectfully and decently. 

Author Daryl Davis knows this, and as a black man has been disarming members of the Ku Klux Klan, one by one, since the 1980s by asking each one he meets, “How can you hate me when you don’t even know me?” he tells the Daily Mail. He says he’s gotten over 200 KKK members to quit.

Davis is about to release an updated version of his memoir, Klan-destine Relationships: A Black Man’s Odyssey in the Ku Klux Klan, which describes his experiences. 

Davis cites Mark Twain in explaining how all the traveling his family did when he was young gave him a different view of racism, and an unusual patience with the ignorance underlying it: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

I hear so many blanket statements about groups of people. In today’s immigration argument, it’s a frequent topic. But, I think, they just don’t know any. It’s all theory. And theory is a killer. This man is a genius. I have none of his courage (or the social skills to pull it off).

Recently a message came my way–visit new places, meet new people, read new things. Good idea. Deal with people in the particular, not in the general. 

Now, to go forth and practice my own preaching…

I Have A Dream

January 16, 2017

Is there an American who does not know what follows that phrase, “I have a dream”?

I hope not.

I remember taking a lot of grief from pretty much everyone in my home town back in the day for agreeing with that dream.

But I still have the dream–that every person will be judged by the strength of their character and not the color of their skin–or any of the other ways we have of dividing people into groups “like us” and “not like us”.

Jesus did not have difficulties crossing the very strict racial boundaries of his day (Jew v non-Jew).

I’m leading a small group studying from Romans right now. Paul is devoting much time to bridging the divide between the significant racial divide of his day–Jew v non-Jew.

It was painful to me in the last presidential election to watch one marketing message very clearly playing on the racial fears or prejudices of a group of Americans while the other candidate failed to come out strongly as one who would bridge the gap.

The same attitudes are springing up world-wide. Look at the unrest in Europe right now.

Where is the next Martin Luther King, Jr. who can raise a powerful voice in a non-violent way to unify people instead of dividing them?

Despite Gains, Women Are Still Exploited

September 9, 2015

Laws and opportunities for women have greatly improved over the course of my adult life in North America and Western Europe. As a group, they are treated better by the law and business.

They do remain virtually or actually enslaved in much of the world. At least three speakers on the TED Talks circuit have pointed out one of the major problems still facing the world is treatment of women. Some identify the situation as a major drag on economies. Jimmy Carter called it the biggest problme not discussed.

This is even among people who consider themselves Christ followers. And sometimes even women themselves are talked into excepting (and promoting) the concept that the Bible says that they are second-class church citizens incapable of participating in church leadership.

Much worse than exclusion from church leadership is the reality of human trafficking–recruiting women by one means or another into sex trade basically enslaving them in a life centered on entertaining the pleasures of men.

A group of people have begun organizing a coalition in our county to raise awareness of human trafficking occurring even in our rural area–probably due to the busy Interstate highway and heavy truck traffic. Only a few men have attended the meetings. I’m the only representative of a church.

One of my small groups is studying the gospel of John. A close reading of the last few chapters shows how important women were in the inner circle of Jesus’ followers. Even if some want to continue mis-reading Paul, Jesus message is unmistakable. 

The remarkable part of the stories recorded in the gospels and Acts is simply the fact that they were recorded at all. Given the culture of first century Mediterranian peoples, giving leading roles to women in some of the stories was actually revolutionary at the time. 

There are so many problems. We can’t solve all at once. But things begin by changing hearts. You do that one heart at a time. You meet someone in an abusive situation, you try to help strengthen the heart to leave the situation. Offering support–emotionally, financially, spiritually. 

And we need to change the hearts of men to overcome whatever basic drives and emotions compel them to be the reason for the problem in the first place.

As a friend of mine said, we can do all manner of things, but unless we work on changing the hearts of people, nothing will change.

Labor Day Weekend

September 4, 2015

“14 From the fruit of the mouth one is filled with good things,and manual labor has its reward.” — Proverbs 12:14

Today kicks off Labor Day weekend in the US. It’s the traditional end of summer and beginning of fall. Although around here students have been back in school for almost two weeks.

It’s the last of the “summer fun” days. Boating, camping, and other recreational pursuits.

We very little recognize the labor movement to which this day owes its name. I’m always amazed at how the labor movement–the quest for justice for laboring people from their masters–began with violence, came to some power, then fizzled all in less than a century.

Many gains were made for justice, though. Company owners mostly cannot treat their workers like slaves. That was the case in many industrial and mining areas at the beginning of the 20th Century.

The laws of supply and demand, the workers own political preference for politicians on social issues over economic issues, and maybe even technology weakened the movement.

I know too many “social Darwinists” who look down on working people as sub-human species. As the Proverb says, manual labor has its reward. I have no less respect for the person who makes my car, fixes my plumbing, or builds a house than I do for high-flying  wealthy sales people or corporate managers. In fact, I often find higher ethics among the former than the latter.

When we as humans learn to treat everyone with respect regardless of their talents or economic position, we will begin to adopt the lifestyle that Jesus preached. Justice over power. Respect for God’s creatures.

Go out and enjoy the weekend–even if you don’t live here. 

July 4, Read The Constitution, And Read Romans 13

July 6, 2015

We just completed the holiday where Americans celebrate the birth of the nation. In some ways it is a strange celebration. Many people celebrate patriotism to the country at the same time that they continue to act rebelliously toward the government. I guess that’s just people.

My typical recommendation, especially for Americans, is to take a few minutes to actually read the US Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Many people talk like they know these, but they certainly don’t. I’d also recommend reading The Federalist Papers. Really smart people wrote those.

But then there are Paul’s thoughts on government.

Romans 13 has been one of the most difficult passages for me to comprehend. My formative years involved the injustices perpetrated by our various governments toward black people and other minorities. Then add getting involved in reckless adventurism of foreign wars, and I was not a proponent of the goodness of government.

My attitude was, and remains, peace and justice. And our governments in the 50s and 60s did not practice that.

But Paul wrote that we must be subject to governments. He firmly believed that governments were ordained by God to provide law and order to society. He himself proudly proclaimed his Roman citizenship as well as his citizenship in God’s kingdom.

I find it interesting that, given his Jewish background, he never advocated that the church also serve as the government. He seemed to be comfortable living in the various tensions of the day—Christ-follower, subject to government, living in a multi-cultural environment.

Governments do have a role. While thinking about this post I happened skim the Wall Street Journal. There is the crisis in Greece where a government has promised much and now does not have the money to pay for it. Huge debt in Puerto Rico. The Dominican Republic government figuring out how to deal with its Haitian neighbors who sought refuge there. Middle Eastern governments dealing with extremists. Eastern European governments dealing with Russia. Southeast Asia governments dealing with China.

There are people who think all these problems are easy, but they are not. And we need our governments to sort things out.

People such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses sect see government as idolatry. But they must have missed the first part of Romans 13.

Christ-followers have an obligation to obey the governments who are performing their God-ordained function. Of course, tyrannies, corruption, injustice, evil are not to be tolerated. In which case it is our obligation to work for peace and justice for all.

Where There Is Hatred, Let Me Sow Love

June 22, 2015

Make me a channel of your peace…where there is hatred let me sow love… –prayer of St. Francis

Sometimes it seems we are living in the old Wild West. Everybody is carrying weapons. It feels as if violence exists everywhere.

Part of the reason is that we get news from all over the world, now. Once news was mostly local with a smattering of regional, national, and international news. TV now brings us, indeed floods us, with instantaneous news produced and directed for maximum emotional impact.

Still, how could a young man sit in a Bible study for an hour with a peaceful group of spiritual seekers, then coolly pull out a handgun and kill nine people. A quote I saw had him saying that they were such nice people he almost hated to do it.

All because they were born with a different color skin than his.

Yes, there is evil in the world. I had a deeply spiritual conversation with a friend a couple of weeks ago who denied the existence of evil. But, it exists. Where else would someone learn to hate?

I had hoped that the civil rights work of the 60s would have yielded much more progress. I went to graduate school in the south in the early 70s. My Southern classmates all thought that with the new generation racial relations would be improved.

Overall, we treat people of other races, religions, and nationalities much better than we used to.

When it comes to healing the hearts of humans, though, sometimes it looks as if we’ve made no progress from the earliest times written in the Bible.

But we have. Despite all the fear-mongers and incessant media attention we are much safer in much of the world than we used to be. There are substantial places where peace needs to come.

Mostly we need to work and pray to heal people’s hearts.

Don’t Turn a Spiritual Problem into a Political One

December 2, 2014

My heart continues to break over the fallout of the Ferguson, MO events.

One thing that really affects me is the number of posts on Facebook from my “Christian friends” that perpetuate a meme making the situation a political one. It goes something like this, “If you are a true Conservative, then you will back the police officer. Only the nasty liberals back the black man.”

The situation is far more complex than that.

Sunday I worshipped at Willow Creek Community church. Senior Pastor Bill Hybels read a carefully composed statement about the situation. He noted that there are stories. These stories may not contain all the facts of the situation (many of which may never be known). But the stories are different for each of the actors in the drama.

He was correct. People tend to believe a story. Trouble is, there are usually many stories. Each person believes his or her own story.

It takes vast amounts of courage to step back and look at other people’s stories. See how they believe them. And then start the work of reconciliation of the various stories into a common one.

That is part of the work of the Spirit. Politics only constructs sides to an issue so that everyone can complain about the other. The Spirit draws together so that one side of the many can begin to at least see the other sides. And then see that they need not be enemies. They could be co-workers for good and growth in the community.

Those of us who want to politicize the issue should just stay out of it. If you don’t have a solution, you’re part of the problem.

For those of us far away, prayer is a powerful part of the solution.