“The moral arc of the universe bends at the elbow of justice.” Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
This weekend we remember one of the Saints of the church, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Above, and within my commentary, are some of his many quotes. He talked a lot about justice. Justice is talked about a lot in the Bible as well. In fact, the words righteousness and justice mean virtually the same thing.
So anytime you hear the word righteousness, you might remember that righteousness is justice. And vice versa. But, is righteousness/justice a fixed condition? Or does it have the capacity to evolve?
“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
I raise the question because there seems to be a lot of confusion about what righteousness/justice means in our culture, indeed throughout the world. Build the Wall. Lock her up. Impeach. Me too. Times up.
I would argue that even the Bible reveals an evolution in the concept of what constitutes righteousness/justice. Or perhaps a better way of saying this is the Judeo/Christian Scriptures are aware that humans have the power to bend their interpretations of them in order to support their particular applications of righteousness/justice.
“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and
Similarly we might ask whether the Declaration of Independence claim that “All men are created equal” means only men, or are women included?
With apologies to Seth Godin (one of my favorite bloggers), there was a time when righteous men, settled their differences with swordplay, or with pistols. There was a time when women bound their feet, and shamed those who didn’t. There was a time when righteous men owned slaves.
Over time those so-called righteous behaviors have become unrighteous, these so-called just behaviors are now considered unjust. But here’s the rub. We live in a culture that, even as most people have come to recognize the human capacity to act with compassion, to embrace diversity and inclusion over singularity and exclusion, to believe we humans are capable of much more than we often realize, there are those who insist that the former ways are the correct ways despite the harm caused by those ways.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate.
Only love can do that.”
And so, on this weekend of remembrance and celebration, there are some who will show contempt and disdain. While many want to share their gift of abundance, a gift and not an entitlement, there are those who want to build higher walls to keep others out. When many welcome others, not because they look or act like them, but because there is the belief that all means all, there will be those who firmly believe they are superior, that their way is better, that they are chosen.
This is the world we live in. But hasn’t it always been like this?
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
One of my favorite jazz albums is called Land of Make Believe, by Chuck Mangione. The title track has a verse that goes like this:
“In your world there was a King
Who once said, “I have a dream,”
Now there’s a man
Who knew the secret.”
That man died, was assassinated, fifty years ago. For what he said he knew. This weekend we remember him. But what he knew is not a secret.