As we wake up this morning, all eyes are on this word “justice.” Many across our nation are mourning today as grieving victims of sexual assault are feeling the heavy weight of justice lost while others are celebrating the impending victory of American conservatism for justice won.
As I’ve looked on over the past weeks at the proceedings taking place among America’s highest ranking political leaders in what has played out like an ugly fist fight on the schoolyard playground, what I hear ringing in my ears are these words written centuries ago by a very wise man.
“The way of peace they do not know, and there is no justice in their paths; they have made their roads crooked; no one who treads on them knows peace.
Therefore justice is far from us, and righteousness does not overtake us; we hope for light, and behold, darkness, and for brightness, but we walk in gloom.”
If this sounds familiar to our situation today, it was Isaiah, the Hebrew prophet who penned these words and sympathized in his day with our cries for justice from both the right and the left.
The truth of the matter is that justice and politics are like oil and water.
This is why our court system was not designed on paper to be political. In truth however, it is and always has been. But regardless of how we try to blend them, justice and politics can’t mix because they are opposed to one another because they fight for opposing objectives. The political endeavor is self preservation. Justice on the other hand, fights to protect those who the political machine would seek to exploit in order to self preserve. It is therefore, not a happy marriage.
The problem I’m seeing that Isaiah clearly saw too, is that all the cries are for justice alone, but no one is calling for righteousness. I’m not talking about church or religion or beating people over the head with the Ten Commandments.
I’m talking about goodness, kindness and faithfulness. I’m talking about love.
Martin Luther King once said, “love is the most durable power in the world.” Interesting he didn’t say justice, did he.
Where was love in this high ranking discussion among our leaders on justice? Can it be that all we’ve been bickering over is in actuality a cheap counterfeit to the true and authentic justice we all so deeply long for? And could it be that the justice we desire has not yet emerged because we have unwittingly divorced our concept of justice from its very foundations of righteousness and love?
I have to agree, not with the senators or the polarized media or the victims of sexual assault, though my heart aches for all they have suffered.
Instead I am compelled to agree with the man and the prophet, who saw through the charades of his day as we must now see through ours.
It is clear that we are not on a pathway of peace in this nation. Our roads are crooked and true justice is therefore far from us. It evades us like a shifting mist.
But hope is not lost. Though we are walking in utter gloom and the prospect of real peace among us seems hopeless, Isaiah did go on to provide a way out for his people…and I don’t think it would be a bad idea for us either. It began with acknowledgement.
“Is it a fast like this that I choose? A day for a man to humble himself? Is it for bowing
one’s head like a reed and for spreading out sackcloth and ashes as a bed?…
Is this not the fast that I choose? To loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, And to let the oppressed go free And to break every evil yoke?
Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry And bring the homeless poor into your house; When you see the naked, to cover him; And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then your light will break out like the dawn, And your recovery will speedily spring forth; And your righteousness will go before you; The glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.”
What if we Americans chose to humble ourselves. Do we even know what that means? What if we mourned, not the loss of our political fight, but the loss of our connectiveness as humans? Are we too angry? Are we too wounded to forgive before forgiveness is sought? To bow our heads like reeds and sit in ashes to mourn what we have become?
What would it look like for America’s recovery to speedily spring forth?
I don’t mean to be preachy here, but I do want to share that what I’ve seen across this extraordinary land as we have traveled over the past 10 months on a quest to understand our divisions is not a hopeless case of irreconcilable views. On the contrary, we have locked eyes with hundreds of Americans who land all over the political map. On our journey and we have seen a commonality, a shared desire, a passion and a fire from each and every single one.
Einstein said, “no problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”
Our government is a system of power, control and self preservation. It has used our convictions, beliefs, passions and yes, even our biases to drive us into a place of visceral hatred for one another. Now it is using our courts to do the same.
Though there have been good and noble men and women who have serviced in office, the system itself has never sought the common good and has never existed for or by ALL the people.
I am increasingly convinced that we must take our eyes off these institutions and systems designed to divide and conquer us so that we might see one another clearly, and in many cases for the very first time. I don’t think we will find the solutions we want in the systems that lie at the root of our problems.
When we do see each other clearly, we will mourn for sure, for the ways we not seen each other before. But that acknowledgement and mourning could give way to the light Isaiah saw breaking forth like the dawn for his people. I see that light ready to burst forth across America too. I see it in the eyes of the people we meet. And it fills me with hope that maybe we too can begin to make our pathway straight, one of peace and one that upholds true justice for all.
(Photo credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images; Zach Gibson/Getty Images)