Tag Archives: justice


Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Love is a battle, love is a war; love is a growing up.

-James Baldwin

And so it begins–this week many have thought of with a sense of dread

we kick it off by celebrating a civil rights giant

and will end it by watching, or not watching

as a man who has been no friend to civil rights

takes a heavy mantle on his shoulders;

swears to uphold things he has repeatedly mocked.

How can this be?

There are/were/will be the days of disbelief, of naming our grief,

of perhaps trying to voice it and being met with amens or jeers.

There are/were/will be the days of not wanting to read the news,

and yet reading the news, and feeling our heads spin

with the intended confusion and disorientation of it all.

(We are meant to feel powerless, and small. But this is not new for everyone.)

There are/were/will be the days closing doors to friendship, of re-opening,

of cultivating understanding even when our differences are so startling as to

cause us to question what we thought we knew.

How can this be?

A look at history lessens the shock, doesn’t it? We hope this is just a

step back in the ongoing dance toward justice–two forward, one back,

keep going on your tired feet; dance on through those dissonant chords,

believing they are building toward the resolve.

There were/are/will be the days of resistance, and today

in honor of Dr. King, I am making a list.

Things to resist: cynicism,


ignorance, fear, cruelty,

platitudes and coded language,

apathy, the death of art,

the death of plain speaking,

the death of complicated speaking,

the death of reverence for language.

This morning, reading the ancient words of Isaiah

as they flowed through Dr. King’s mouth into the history books

of this country,

I thought of another phrase, from Paul:

so great a cloud of witnesses.

Even if we’ve been sleeping, and so many of us have,

we wake now, we resist now, we honor

those witnesses, now.

And so it begins, but really it has been going for a



long time.

And so it continues.



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Imagining a Different Kingdom

This past week, I devoted a few hours to reading a Year-in-Review special magazine edition. I tend to love end of the year things, but this time the evidence of oppression in 2013 seemed to shout at me from the page: chemical warfare in Syria, the Boston Marathon bombing, three women imprisoned in a suburban house for a decade, a boy in a hoodie shot and killed as if it were his destiny, the high rate of sexual assault in the military, a song dripping with unapologetic misogyny being the big hit of the summer. The bad news in one day is fairly easy to dismiss, most of the time, especially because we’re so used to it. The bad news of a year, though? That makes everything go quiet in my head; makes hope seem utterly ridiculous.

Nelson Mandela died, and it seemed fitting for someone who chased after wild dreams, moving far beyond expectation, to pass on during a season of hope. The first anniversary of the shootings at Newtown fell during this season; it too seemed fitting. I drove around town with my two younger children buckled into their seats, listening to the remembrances on the radio, weeping for little AvielleAna Grace, and Dylan, for the unknown stories, for their brave parents. The world is still waiting, still groaning under a heavy weight.


Yesterday we sang a hymn called Canticle of the Turning; one of many that I’ve never heard before. I’m most familiar with the hymns that speak of longing for heaven, and they are beautiful. But there’s a whole other kind of hymn: the kind that longs for justice in the here and now. This kind you sing with a shaky voice, if you can stand to sing the words at all:

From the halls of power to the fortress tower,

not a stone will be left on stone.

Let the king beware for your justice tears

every tyrant from his throne.

The hungry poor shall weep no more,

for the food they can never earn;

There are tables spread, every mouth be fed,

for the world is about to turn.

Though the nations rage from age to age,

we remember who holds us fast:

God’s mercy must deliver us

from the conqueror’s crushing grasp

This saving word that our forbears heard

is the promise which holds us bound,

‘Til the spear and rod can be crushed by God,

who is turning the world around.

When you press your ear to the ground, you hear all sorts of things.

Shane Claiborne speaks of the prophets who “invited people to dream of the world as it could be and not just accept the world as it is.” He turns guns into farm tools, even though there’s nothing much more valuable to self-protection than a gun; even though there is nothing much less valuable to immediacy than planting seeds. He imagines a different kingdom.

Greg Boyd does, too. He contrasts the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world in his book The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power is Destroying the ChurchIt’s an uncomfortable book, to say the least, even though I agree with most of what he says, because to believe these things and to act like I do are two different things. He writes:

The kingdom of the world is intrinsically tribal in nature, and is heavily invested in defending, if not advancing, one’s own people-group, one’s nation, one’s ethnicity, one’s state, one’s religion, one’s ideologies, or one’s political agendas. That is why it is a kingdom characterized by perpetual conflict. The kingdom of God, however, is intrinsically universal, for it is centered on simply loving as God loves. It is centered on people living for the sole purpose of replicating the love of Jesus Christ to all people at all times in all places without condition. (p. 47, Kindle edition.)

Some days this feels like nothing but imagination. Some days I have to face that it might just be. Then I hear Ana Grace’s mother Nelba speak of how she lit 28 candles to remember the dead (not 26, not even 27) and how she refuses to use words like monster to describe Adam Lanza, instead extending humanity to him. I think of how Nadia Bolz-Weber’s husband said to her that “every time we draw a line between us and others, Jesus is always on the other side of it.”

There is unfathomable light, in the here and now. Maybe it’s true; maybe God is turning the world around. I don’t always see it, but I hope it’s true.


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