Maybe it’s because I studied philosophy in college many years ago. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the deep south in the 1950’s-60’s. Maybe it’s because I was raised Catholic and then, at the age of 27 turned to the “born again” approach to spiritually.
Maybe it’s because I, like Jacob of old, have had to wrestle with God before I could let him into my way of thinking and doing. Maybe it’s because of Moses, or Paul, or Jesus himself that I had this wrestling session yesterday. For whatever reason, I spent yesterday, Sunday, wrestling with God.
Not literally, of course, but mentally, spiritually.
Let me try to explain this.
On Saturday evening, my wife and I shared an evening meal, and several hours, with a small group of friends whom we have known and loved for a long time, since the early 1980’s. We are, as they say, Christians.
These are people with whom we have, on a regular basis, gathered, prayed, worked, laughed and cried, for most of our adult life. We have all raised our now-adult children together and released them into the great wild world.
My struggle yesterday was precipitated by an ethical dilemma. The problem was working through my mind all day because our host friend had shown us a video link. The half-hour online presentation introduced to us—and to the world, generally— a work of ministry that is being carried out by our hosts' son-in-law, whose life and struggle is being worked out in his chosen hometown, Ferguson, Missouri.
In the video, Jonathan “JT” Tremaine presents some historical information along with some gospel enlightenment, and he then goes on to explain his vision for justice that is linked to a Christian call to righteousness.
As I ruminated all yesterday (Sunday) on what Jonathan had said, and the images he displayed, I became perplexed while wondering about this thorny question:
Just what the hell is justice anyway?
Is it equality instead of inequality? Is it income redistribution? How does this monumental concept of justice really play out in history, American history?
For many blacks, that idea of "justice" is defined largely by what color of skin a cop sees on the face of some citizen that he is trying to protect, or . . . protect himself against.
And how does justice relate to this “righteousness” thing that we so-called evangelicals like to claim for ourselves?
These are the two primary points—justice and righteousness—that JT raises in his podcast, and in his ministry in Ferguson, Missouri, which he calls “Meet me in Ferguson.”
For many people, especially honkies, neither of these issues is any big deal. Yet that unawareness—that insensitivity— is part of the problem.
The bottom line I’m working toward here is this. Both of these issues—justice and righteousness—are very important issues that we Americans must address if we are going to move forward in our great, historical experiment with democracy.
As the Hebrew prophet of old, Amos, presented a challenge to his people—and to all people throughout history. . .
“Let justice roll down like the waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream!”
This is a message of many prophets of old, and many modern prophets as well, such as Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks . . .
And Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
And Dr. Billy Graham.
Say what? Billy Graham? What's he got to do with social justice?
You probably didn’t know that back in the 1950’s, Billy Graham insisted that the ropes be removed—the ropes separating blacks and whites at his very own gospel crusades. And when racist ushers of that day refused to do it, Billy himself did remove the damned things. So that blacks and whites could, together, participate in the work of bringing in not only righteousness, but also justice.
And we are, y’all, still working on it.
Let Jonathan JT explain. This thing goes way back . . .
I'll finish this struggle session with a song: