This week, I have received calls about social injustice and the right to protest. As with most social issues, only the government has the power to make legal changes, but the people have the right to protest and the voting power to change public officials.
In complicated times, reading scripture and praying for guidance is worthwhile. Ephesians 4:31-32 is a good guide:
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
All people in America have civic, human and religious rights. In return, all citizens should uphold civic, human and religious responsibilities. Committing oneself as a citizen means that the well-being of the nation depends on the well-being of individuals. The following words are important but meaningless if they are not upheld by all people for all people:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Basic laws of equality and justice have been established. Since the 16th century, Lady Justice has worn a blindfold which projects impartiality and the promise that justice will be for all people. Her scales of justice signify that evidence will be weighed on its own merit. The sword in her left hand reveals authority and the promise that justice will be swift. If social justice has been eroded or distorted then the citizens of the country will have to accept that justice is just blind. A person who has been arrested for a suspected crime has the right to live, seek legal advice and have a court hearing.
History has repeatedly taught that grinding down the rights of some for the benefit of others will result in repercussions. As poet Langston Hughes put it:
“What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore. Maybe it just sags like a heavy load. Or does it explode?”
We all should be grateful for police protection since most are good citizens and human beings who face difficult and dangerous challenges. Yet some public systems have been infected with bias. The killing of George Floyd was one of many unwarranted deaths of black men. In response, thousands have now said “enough is enough.” Also, no parent in America should fear that their child will be unjustly questioned, incarcerated or killed! These problems spring from embedded hatred and systemic prejudice. It reveals a lack of religious, civic and human values. Terrence Floyd came to the place where his brother, George Floyd, died and asked for peaceful protest and justice.
The resulting protests come from the losses suffered and the lack of solutions. The violence and looting from some is illegal and will not heal a nation. Video footage reveals that most of the protesters have acted legally and peacefully with the hope of awakening the need for change. They did not deserve to be pepper-sprayed and gassed on government orders. Changes can occur if citizens and government officials live up to the written values of the country.
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”
— Proverbs 13:12
The coverage of Pope Francis’ Sunday homily by Claire Giangrave, a Vatican correspondent for Religion News Service included important points. The pope said, “The world sees us only as on the right or left; the Spirit sees us as sons and daughters of the father and brothers and sisters of Jesus. The world sees conservatives and progressives; the Spirit sees children of God. A worldly gaze sees structures to be made more efficient; a spiritual gaze sees brothers and sisters pleading for mercy,” He also pointed out the need for unity in diversity, and that “the Spirit loves us and knows everyone’s place in the grand scheme of things: for him, we are not bits of confetti blown about by the wind; rather we are irreplaceable fragments in his mosaic.”
Living peacefully with neighbors and strangers, as written in Philippians 4:8-9, will help solve some problems:
“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things. Whatever you have learned from me or seen in me, put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”