Posts Tagged ‘Justice’


Thursday, February 21st, 2013

Justice forms a cornerstone of Christianity.  In an era where mistakenly our focus bores in on belief and worship, we have to work at reclaiming the expanded vision of Justice, a vision that calls us to draw compassionately alongside of suffering. For those unfamiliar with Christ’s words, allow these words from the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 25, to sink in …

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

These words are why, in this denomination, we see in Christ the embodiment of Justice.  He not only spoke of it.  He lived it incarnationally.  And that is our call as well.  It is one, if we choose to follow, that will not be easy because the paradigm becomes so shockingly altered. As Fr. Richard Rohr phrases it….

The only way that we become convinced of our own sense of power, dignity, and the power of God is by actually doing it—by crossing a line, a line that has a certain degree of nonsensicalness and unprovability to it—and that’s why we call it faith. In the crossing of that line, and acting in a new way, then and only then can we really believe what we say we believe in the first place. Lifestyle issues, like non-consumer living, non-violent actions, community building, service, and volunteerism, ask much more of us than mere belief systems ever do.

More Devoted To Order Than To Justice

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

There are several must reads I think for everyone that call us on our stuff.  One such must-read is Martin Luther King’s “Letters from  Birmingham Jail.” (Link)  In it King offered this exceptionally well crafted critique, a critique that consistently calls me on my shortcomings as a Pastor.

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

There are so many areas where a desire for “order” trumps a desire for “justice.”  Christ’s call however is incarnational and therefore a permission of sorts to courageously serve a Master different from “order.”   Just start with King’s “Big Three” – Racism, Poverty, and Militarism.  Those are not about creating a partisan church.  They are an impetus for us to speak out from the better angels of our nature in ways that inspire a return, incarnational in itself,  … about working and struggling with hands pressed into this earth to create what King so beautifully phrased … “the beloved community.”


Dreaming Disruptively

Monday, October 1st, 2012

In the midst of this series on “Dreams,” it is so easy to drop easily into the American version of a dream.  That American version centers on economic advancement, beauty, being ‘liked’ as ends in and of themselves.  Such dreams are far from the end of world but in their shallowness they tend to mire our culturally numbed minds in narcissistic stuckness and celebrity worship.

Dreams, as God would have them, push us disruptively out of that stuckness.

Pull around the ingredients of such God-given dream …

  1. Disruptive and Peculiar
  2. A spiritual yearning that there is something “more”
  3. A call to justice, caring, mutual love  that cannot remain ignored
  4. Connection to ever wider circles of fellow travelers
  5. Comfort with “downward mobility” into the spiritual and material suffering of the world

Such dreams are then deeply serious and joy filled at the same time.  A sense of smiling discomfort then may be a sign of someone hearing the call.  Such people -and I have met some of God-dreamers – take Christianity very seriously. But it tends not to be serious in terms of overly pious adherence to worship form or creed but a soul level adherence to following the Christian model – “The Way” – saying “Christ is serious.  This is serious.  This is about LIFE.”   And smiling all the while!



Nagging Prayer

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

A powerful parable in the New Testament reads of a widow pleading before a judge for justice.  As a non-person – the plight of widows at the that time – her appeals met with repeated rejection.  But she persevered, nagging and nagging for justice until the judge relents.  Jesus uses this story to burrow towards a profound question, “When the Son of Humanity comes, will he find faith?”  Will God find faith?  The obvious connotation is that those who “nag” for justice actually are those among whom God finds faith.

And that is not to say that the nagging is the shrill, cynical skeptic for whom nothing ever suffices.  Quite the opposite.  The “nag” are the people of hope.  They are those who passionately believe that the world can be better and that buried deep in all our souls lies an embedded desire to be “called out” towards these acts of Justice.  Such people are part of God’s justice, forgiveness, and homecoming.  Such people may appear as “nags” about conspicuous consumption, the environment, the death penalty, but we need to hear in that nagging, regardless of our individual positions, a song of hope for the world.   Read Wendell Barry or Mary Oliver if you want to “nagged” in the poetic spirit of hope!

The Proclamation

Saturday, May 12th, 2012

The Proclamation of Christianity is the Kingdom – here and now. It is not the church.  It is not afterlife.  It is not moralism or theological debate or sacrament. While all these have their place, they are not and never were the point.  The point was the Kingdom- not the figurative Jerusalem evacuated to space but the settling of the Kingdom onto this earth.

The legacy of the Kingdom tales through the Old Testament.  Read these words from Jeremiah 9: 23: 24.

Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom, or the strong man boast of his strength, or the rich man boast of his riches….
… he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindnessjustice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight.

The conflicted heart of God holds up for our observation in words thousands of years old two conflicting triads – one ours’ and one God’s – wisdom, strength, and riches in opposition to kindness, justice, and righteousness.

The Kingdom is the Proclamation.  It is a Proclamation that finds itself more comfortable with poetry and sacrifice than with tight theological rationalizations and formulas that all too often partake of our own intellectual puffery vs. God’s call. It is wearisome to talk about.  And we all fall so ready for it – for talking about.  How many times however have we met or talked or written even and left that event – whatever that event might have been – and from that place furthered the triad of the Kingdom – kindness, justice, and righteousness?   If we are candid, the times are painfully few.  Read the lines – knowing God is not knowing about.  It is knowing kindness, justice, and righteousness.

Kony 2012

Monday, March 12th, 2012

Very striking watching the video “Kony 2012.”   There is a piece of humanity, a part deeply embedded in our souls that responds to causes like this – that simply knows.

The phrase “What would Jesus do?” is often misapplied.  Christ’s concern is not about many of things we believe it to be.  Justice, Mercy – those strike closest to His heart and closest to our mission on the planet.

The video and the organization that produced it received criticisms from various quarters.  And it is not for me to weigh in on the validity of those critiques, many of which center around finances.  It is important to note that none of that criticism appears to center around a defense of Kony’s alleged crimes.  As the ICC indictment reads ….

“The 33 criminal counts against Joseph Kony include 12 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, rape, enslavement, sexual enslavement, and inhumane acts of inflicting serious bodily injuries and suffering, and 21 counts of war crimes, including murder, cruel treatment of civilians, intentionally directing an attack against a civilian population, pillaging, inducing rape and forced enlistment of children…”

Kony’s acts are clearly barbarous.  The video appeals to a different side of our humanity – the better angels of our nature.  That is why it went viral.  It tells a simple moral lesson, and tells it well.

Loving Atheist Friends

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

I work with a lot of folks who are trying to reconnect with faith, having given it up for dead, others who never had it and now are finding it, and those who remain atheist yet really love the community aspects of NewChurch LIVE and involve themselves for that reason.  I love the mix.

Rumi’s quote that there is a field beyond right and wrong and “I will meet you there”  carries a great deal of wisdom.  I think we do faith a disservice by making it solely about “belief.”  Always incredible, as a Swedenborgian, to consider that the biggest threat before us is not atheism but believers who keep their faith as a “head only” thing, aka “faith alone.”

What does this mean to me?  Justice – my best understanding is that justice is the divine design and our job is to find those areas that have fallen out of that design and bring them back into congruity with it.  (almost direct quotes)  Yet faith, as I experience it, gets boiled down to questions of gender and sexuality.  I witness huge amounts of energy expended debating homosexuality, the role of sex etc…..   Not that these are unimportant topics to discuss but the bulk – as in 99.99% of Jesus’ message is somewhere else – and that 99.99% is not about “belief.”   (Example … what is the #1 command in the bible according to the # of times it is said?  “Fear not” – speaking to the dangers of fear and the chaos it creates.  When was the last time you heard that topic on a talk show?)

That somewhere else was what Rumi spoke of.  It is the appeal  of Dali Lama.  For me, it is where Swedenborg was pointing as well – to the deepest core of Christian messages which is taking care of each other – something far greater than belief, something that Jesus, even if one just holds Him as an amazing human sans any divinity, lived.

That is the common ground around which great things can be built.  Our world cries out, I think, for really looking at topics like Justice.  The atheist perspective is critical in that regard.  As one author put it, atheists help people (and have helped me) to get clear on the god not to believe in.   Compassionate belief centered on consequential faith may add something to the atheist perspective as well.