Archive for the ‘Justice’ Category

Justice Requires Listening

February 9, 2021

I just realized that I’m beginning my 10th year writing this blog. I’ve sorted out a lot of my own thinking over that time, and I hope that I’ve helped a few people along the way. Perhaps I’ve introduced some books over the years that have helped you deepen your own journey.

The Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks writing in his book, Morality, (yes, I’m still working my way through that one) talks of being invited to fly on the Prime Minister’s jet to a funeral in Israel. Aboard were the leaders of the three main British political parties (Tories, Labour, and Liberal for my American readers). They agreed to set aside posturing aboard and just discuss frankly what their hearts said about solving Britain’s issues at the time. The conversation affects Sacks deeply.

Reflecting on the conversation, Sacks discusses the story of Cain and Abel. (As an aside, this is also a hint at the dangers of taking the English translations of the Hebrew–and Greek–and trying to interpret literally to fit the theology du jour):

The text cannot be translated literally because it is syntactically ill-formed. It says that “Cain said,” but it doesn’t say what he said. The text’s fractured syntax forces us in the most dramatic way to focus on the fractured relationship between Cain and his brother–and then spells out the consequence: when words fail, violence begins.

This line of observation led Sacks to this conclusion, with which I heartily concur:

1. For there to be justice, all sides must be heard.

2. Truth on earth cannot aspire to be truth as it is in heaven. All truth on earth represents a perspective, and there are multiple perspectives.

3. The alternative to argument is violence. That is why the argument must continue and never cease.

We Are All One

January 22, 2021

There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. The Apostle Paul writing to the Christ-followers in Galatia.

For Paul writing as a Jew, bringing together “Jew and Greek” essentially meant bringing together all races. Slave and free brings together economic classes. Male and female, of course, genders.

He knew that there were still people of different races, political/economic status, and genders. It is an important part of our spiritual growth that we people who are practicing spiritual formation realize there exist no real boundaries among people. We are to treat and live with all as the same.

A thousand years before Paul spiritual seekers discovered the same truth.

Two thousand years after Paul, we still struggle with bringing that reality into our lives. In America we celebrate (well, some of us) a woman who is also black and south Asian rising to a high political position. And not without some struggle. Why do we need to celebrate? Why is it so unusual.

But not just here. Much of the strife in Africa is tribal. In Asia, it’s religious and ethnic. Europe has its own difficulties.

Treating everyone as simply human seems to be a difficulty for all humans.

We need to break the chain. When you meet someone, try to see what sort of person they are inside not just outside. And treat everyone the same–kindly.

Violence Won’t Resolve Ethnic Issues

January 18, 2021

I’m concerned about a better world. I’m concerned about justice; I’m concerned about brotherhood; I’m concerned about truth. And when one is concerned about that, he can never advocate violence. For through violence you may murder a murderer, but you can’t murder murder. Through violence you may murder a liar, but you can’t establish truth. Through violence you may murder a hater, but you can’t murder hate through violence. Darkness cannot put out darkness; only light can do that.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

I echo those thoughts. Much of the cause of the events in America on January 6 lay in fear leading to anger leading to hate.

But Americans shouldn’t feel alone in that, even though those feelings toward black people and “foreigners” are as old as the country. There is no country in the world of which I’m aware where this vicious cycle doesn’t play out. Europe is struggling. The Middle East has its own problems with ethnicities. It’s still dangerous to be a Jew in Russia. Likewise to be Uighur or Tibetan in China. Or Rohingya in supposedly Buddhist Myanmar or Bangladesh.

It’s a human problem.

We can try legislation, which has some, but limited, impact.

The solution lies in a change of heart. Jesus worked specifically on that heart problem. A pastor I heard once called Jesus the first cardiologist. But even Jesus didn’t change all the hearts. The rule makers and followers killed him.

But as we look in the mirror today—the day America sets aside to honor Dr. King’s legacy—what is the condition of our own heart? What do we need to do to change and bring it in alignment with that of Jesus? When can we look past ethnicity into the character of the person?

Today would be a good time to start.

For You Are All One

November 20, 2020

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Apostle Paul, Letter to the Galatians, 3:28

A recent news item reported on the “first all-black officiating crew to work a game in the National Football League.” My first thought was, “Why did this have to be significant news?”

Similarly, there is a female official working NFL games. Although football isn’t necessarily a female sport, why would this particularly matter?

If the ideals of the 60s had really come to pass, we wouldn’t have to notice such things 55 years later. People would just be people. Various people have passions, skills, talents for various things. Good. We reward passion, skill, dedication, training, education, and the like.

Despite these words from the Apostle Paul in the first century and despite that two millennia of Christians have poured over Paul’s words looking for a list of rules to separate themselves from the non-believers, so many in the Christian church have missed this little sentence. No, women are not to be shoved aside into “women’s roles”. No, 10:00 am Sundays should not be the most segregated hour in America (probably still today).

When we don’t need news items like the NFL one, then we will be arriving at the original destination. Meanwhile, let’s all go back and study Galatians.

Special tip:

I have written at times about the value of handwriting your notes. It’s even great to send handwritten notes to people–a personal touch emails can’t reach. Someone sent me this link to an infographic of 20 Ways Handwriting Is Good For You and Your Studying. You have to scroll down a bit on the page.

August 26, 2019

“Often injustice lies in what you are not doing,” said Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor and philosopher, “not only in what you are doing.”

Marcus was blunt and to the point. The Hebrew prophet Amos was much more poetic:

But let justice roll on like a river,

righteousness like a never-failing stream!

My personal political philosophy does not revolve around being liberal or conservative, but more around justice. Calling BS on greed, pride, and arrogance. Acting on justice for the poor and oppressed.

I think of Jesus’ encounter with the rich young man. When the man still didn’t feel like he was doing enough to earn righteousness with God, Jesus told him to sell all he had and give to the poor. One point Jesus was making was the right use of wealth. And not to let wealth stand in your way as an obstacle to salvation. Rather, let the just use of wealth be a path to receiving God’s righteousness.

What are we holding back from doing? Where are we being unjust by not doing?

Nassim Taleb said, “If you see fraud and do not say fraud, then you are a fraud.”

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?