Tag Archives: justice

God hears the prayers of the oppressed

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The Lord works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.
Psalm 103:6

God is moving in the United States of America. As Christians, have we discerned where the Holy Spirit is taking us? Are we aligning ourselves with the redemptive plan of God?

In an article published this week, Robert Jones, CEO and founder of the Public Religion Research Institute, wrote that white Christians are consistently more likely to deny systemic racism than religiously unaffiliated white Americans. “Our fellow African American citizens, and indeed the entire country, are waiting to see whether we white Christians can finally find the humility and courage and love to face the truth.”

I have heard white Christians suggest that the upheaval in the United States today is because as a nation, we have turned away from God and have removed prayer from schools and society. We need Jesus, they say. This sentiment reminds me of the prophet Jeremiah’s words, “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14). There is no peace without justice. Justice and righteousness are central to the heart of God.

What we are seeing today is the cumulative effect of centuries of oppression and discrimination. Dressing the wound of racism with platitudes of returning to God is a misdiagnosis of the root of the upheaval. A misdiagnosis can be fatal when the illness is terminal.

For Black Christians, the fragile flicker of hope in a just, equitable life in the U.S. has been rekindled. In a gorgeous essay written two days before his death, Rep. John Lewis wrote, “While my time here has now come to an end, I want you to know that in the last days and hours of my life you inspired me. You filled me with hope about the next chapter of the great American story when you used your power to make a difference in our society.”

The centuries of prayers for God’s intervention to end their oppression have been heard. America has not turned from Christianity – America was never Christian because it has always been marred by the ugliness of racial oppression. God’s wrath burns against racism and God’s heart is with the oppressed.

God is truly healing our land, and it is painful but necessary to cut deep in order to remove the cancer of racism from our marrow. Our culture is embedded with racism, and we have believed the lies of the enemy that have dehumanized and dishonored the Black community.

Jesus’ heart is broken by the discrimination and violence perpetrated against BIPOC, who bear God’s image and are endued with the holy calling of dominion and care that all of God’s children are called to. The time is NOW to follow the Holy Spirit in the work of dismantling white supremacy and redeeming American society to be equitable for all.

It is wrong for white Christians to cast themselves as the persecuted minority here in America. Beginning with the Catholic Church’s “Doctrine of Discovery” that baptized global colonization and its’ accompanying atrocities, to the American church’s sanctification of chattel slavery and advocacy for segregation, up to this day’s white Evangelical racial resentment, we have much to lament. In reading the biblical narrative, white Christians ought to identify ourselves with the powerful Egyptian empire, Babylonian empire, or Roman empire, rather than the captive Israelites. We have been the oppressors, not the oppressed.

The Bible is clear where God’s heart lies on the issue of justice for racial oppression.

Isaiah’s prophecy described the agenda the Messiah would champion:

Isaiah 42:1-4
“Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold;
My chosen one in whom My soul delights.
I have put My Spirit upon Him;
He will bring forth justice to the nations.
“He will not cry out or raise His voice,
Nor make His voice heard in the street.
“A bruised reed He will not break
And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish;
He will faithfully bring forth justice.
“He will not be disheartened or crushed
Until He has established justice in the earth;
And the coastlands will wait expectantly for His law.”

When Jesus became flesh and dwelt with us, he announced his earthly ministry with this mission statement:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to
proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to
proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Luke 4:18-19

In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 5, Jesus shared the values of his kingdom with these declarations:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

To hunger and thirst for righteousness is to desire justice for those who have been wronged. The Bible exhorts us to seek justice throughout its pages (this is a small sample of examples):

“Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, and please the widow’s cause,” (Isaiah 1:17).

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).

“Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times!” (Psalm 106:3)

“To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.” (Proverbs 21:3)

“Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs 31:8-9)

These are my thoughts today as we continue to reckon with the centuries-long history of racial oppression in our country. Our God is our Redeemer, the great Physician who is healing us and bringing us closer and closer to the time when our Prince of Peace will rule with justice and mercy. God hears the prayers of the oppressed, God’s heart is for the brokenhearted, and God is always healing his beloved Creation. Be encouraged. We have no reason to fear and all reason to hope. God is good, all the time.


Here are a couple more excellent links I encountered recently:

Climbing the Mountain of Injustice – sermon by Austin Channing Brown (I ugly cried listening to this – SO powerful!)
Justice Too Long Delayed – by Christianity Today editor Timothy Dalrymple

And I linked to these articles above but want to make sure you don’t miss them:

Racism among white Christians is higher than among the nonreligious – Robert Jones
Together, You Can Redeem the Soul of Our Nation – Rep. John Lewis
Racial resentment varies widely among religious groups – Ryan Burge

White Christianity has been complicit in the subjugation of our Black brothers and sisters. We must lament our racial sins and demonstrate true repentance.

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Clint Smith: The danger of silence

This is a very powerful TED Talk from slam poet and educator Clint Smith, on the danger of keeping silent in the face of injustice.  Take five minutes today and be inspired to read critically, write consciously, speak clearly, and tell your truth.  I’ve also copied the transcript for you from TED.com.


http://www.ted.com/talks/clint_smith_the_danger_of_silence

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in a 1968 speech where he reflects upon the Civil Rights Movement, states, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”

As a teacher, I’ve internalized this message. Every day, all around us, we see the consequences of silence manifest themselves in the form of discrimination, violence, genocide and war. In the classroom, I challenge my students to explore the silences in their own lives through poetry. We work together to fill those spaces, to recognize them, to name them, to understand that they don’t have to be sources of shame. In an effort to create a culture within my classroom where students feel safe sharing the intimacies of their own silences, I have four core principles posted on the board that sits in the front of my class, which every student signs at the beginning of the year: read critically, write consciously, speak clearly, tell your truth.

And I find myself thinking a lot about that last point, tell your truth. And I realized that if I was going to ask my students to speak up, I was going to have to tell my truth and be honest with them about the times where I failed to do so.

So I tell them that growing up, as a kid in a Catholic family in New Orleans, during Lent I was always taught that the most meaningful thing one could do was to give something up, sacrifice something you typically indulge in to prove to God you understand his sanctity. I’ve given up soda, McDonald’s, French fries, French kisses, and everything in between. But one year, I gave up speaking. I figured the most valuable thing I could sacrifice was my own voice, but it was like I hadn’t realized that I had given that up a long time ago. I spent so much of my life telling people the things they wanted to hearinstead of the things they needed to, told myself I wasn’t meant to be anyone’s conscience because I still had to figure out being my own, so sometimes I just wouldn’t say anything, appeasing ignorance with my silence, unaware that validation doesn’t need words to endorse its existence. When Christian was beat up for being gay, I put my hands in my pocket and walked with my head down as if I didn’t even notice. I couldn’t use my locker for weeks because the bolt on the lockreminded me of the one I had put on my lips when the homeless man on the corner looked at me with eyes up merely searching for an affirmation that he was worth seeing. I was more concerned with touching the screen on my Apple than actually feeding him one. When the woman at the fundraising gala said “I’m so proud of you. It must be so hard teaching those poor, unintelligent kids,” I bit my lip, because apparently we needed her money more than my students needed their dignity.

We spend so much time listening to the things people are saying that we rarely pay attention to the things they don’t.Silence is the residue of fear. It is feeling your flaws gut-wrench guillotine your tongue. It is the air retreating from your chest because it doesn’t feel safe in your lungs. Silence is Rwandan genocide. Silence is Katrina. It is what you hear when there aren’t enough body bags left. It is the sound after the noose is already tied. It is charring. It is chains. It is privilege. It is pain. There is no time to pick your battles when your battles have already picked you.

I will not let silence wrap itself around my indecision. I will tell Christian that he is a lion, a sanctuary of bravery and brilliance. I will ask that homeless man what his name is and how his day was, because sometimes all people want to be is human. I will tell that woman that my students can talk about transcendentalism like their last name was Thoreau, and just because you watched one episode of “The Wire” doesn’t mean you know anything about my kids. So this year,instead of giving something up, I will live every day as if there were a microphone tucked under my tongue, a stage on the underside of my inhibition. Because who has to have a soapbox when all you’ve ever needed is your voice?

Thank you.


Thank you for visiting TBKW.  Please “Like” us on Facebook – and speak up when you witness injustice.  As theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”