Day #16: Justice

Zion will be redeemed by justice,
and those who change their lives by righteousness.
Isaiah 1:27

The South African Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu defines the Zulu word ubuntu as, “A person is a person through other persons,” or, “I am because we are.” Bishop Tutu advocated for a theology of ubuntu in post-apartheid South Africa, placing mutual thriving at the center of social and political life in order to build a more just and equitable society. Humans are created for interdependence. My flourishing is bound up with your flourishing. For this reason, resilience is social and resilience is political. Those who have the greatest need for resilience are those who have been most marginalized by political commitments. Our individual resilience is tied up with our commitment to justice for those around us. Bishop Tutu wrote, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” The prophet Isaiah preaches that, in a moment when there is an elephant standing on the mouse’s tail, transformation, healing, and change will come from those who do justice. What does Isaiah mean by justice? He defines it: “help the oppressed; defend the orphan; plead for the widow.” Redemption will come from those who restore right relationships—those who remember that a person is a person through other persons.

Takeaway: The nature of injustice is that it feels overwhelming to respond. Choose one act of justice today—one moment where you can say to the mouse, “I see the elephant on your tail and I will work to move it, no matter how long it takes.” Perhaps that means buying lunch for the panhandler you pass daily; picking up the trash in the parking lot at work; looking up your senators’ phone numbers and save them into your phone, so that you have them ready the next time you need to call and advocate for justice. Choosing to act is a gesture of resilience. It is choosing to be defined by your capacity to heal.

 

 

Gathering the Stones is providing 40 days of reflections on resilience during Lent. Check back for new reflections every day (except Sundays).

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How we Keep Going When “Not Inhumane” feels like the Only Thing we Can Accomplish

Is this what we’ve come to? Defending the moral claim that families should be together and children should not be in cages? After days of denying the family separation policy and pleading helplessness to change the law, early this afternoon Donald Trump said he would suspend the Homeland Security policy of family separation at the border.

Trump offered no details on the new policy and maintained his tough-on-crime rhetoric. (BTW, almost half of all undocumented immigrants have not broken a criminal law; many immigration violations fall under civil law, which means there’s no crime against the public and should be no prison sentence attached to these violations). As with so many political moves, we’re left with the promise of justice but no evidence of it. Through popular pressure, the Trump Administration made a public promise to not be deliberately inhumane–but that’s far from a promise to treat migrants humanely. Continue reading

What Do We Want?: Deciding what Justice Means in Chicago

Some of my friends don’t like going to protests. They say, “I believe in this one thing, but when I get there, all of these other causes are there and I don’t want anyone to think I’m marching as a communist or an anarchist or saying we should get rid of the police.” Protests have a tendency to swell–to begin with one issue and then cascade into a pounding waterfall of grievances. What do we want? Justice? That’s such a big, abstract word.

Every protest is a little bit different. Some of the people are the same–Lamon Reccord, staring down police and running up and down the protest line; or the guy with the communist newspaper–but every protest is different. The first protest I went to this fall, the hearing where activist Malcolm London’s charges were dropped, was a celebration. A crowd of young black protesters gathered in a circle, singing a song of their own rhythm, dancing and shouting, “I love being black! I said, I love being black!” That protest felt like a party. What did we want? Justice. A very narrow, specific justice–for the judicial system to admit the felony charges against Malcolm London were trumped up and targeted. Continue reading