Thursday, September 6, 2012

Who Should Challenge the Lions and Wolves?

By AnaYelsi Sanchez
Originally posted 9/6/12 at Brown-Eyed Amazon

One thing has become undoubtedly clear during these election months – there is a fine line between healthy challenge and unhealthy division.

I want to take a look at one of the issues that seems to divide us. Let's take this wide ocean of politics and bring it down to the question of justice. Who is responsible for maintaining just systems and equality in our society?

People are called to do justice as an extension of perspective faiths – in my case, Christianity. This is not a secondary suggestion that the Lord gives to an elite few in order to counteract the bad behavior of some. God is not providing it as an optional pursuit in case we bore ourselves with the day to day requirements of Christian life. 1 Samuel 13:14 says, “The Lord has sought out a man after his [her] own heart”, And then in Zechariah you read “These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts; do not plot evil against your neighbor, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this,” declares the Lord.” If a person is calling themselves a follower of Christ (or God, Allah, and so forth) then they are committing to living a life that pursues the matters of their God’s heart, and a life like that can not be fully led without a fervent and endless pursuit of justice.

When we make excuses for allowing the call to do justice to fall on the backs of others we are in the wrong. We utter cliches.

“God simply didn’t give me the gifts or skills to deal with stuff like that.”

“The Lord is calling me to something else and I’ve decided to put my focus there.”

This is an across the board, no-exceptions mandate, and when we rattle off lame justifications for our inaction it speaks to the least admirable aspects our humanity – our laziness, our selfishness, and our weakness.  Harsh as that may sound, when you line up verses such as 1 Samuel 13 and Zechariah 8 and so clearly see the contradiction in a Christian who claims to love the Lord and then commits or permits evil, it rings true.
For followers of Judaism or Christianity, consider Micah 6:8.

“What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love mercy, and walking humbly with God.”

This sentiment is echoed for followers of Islam. Consider Verses 135 of the fourth chapter (Sura al-Nisa) of the Qur’an .
“O ye who believe! stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for God can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest ye swerve, and if ye distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily God is well-acquainted with all that ye do.”
If we are doing this than the fruits of that should be a desire to be a light in our communities; to be a person who represents love, grace and justice. That is what it is to be a light to the world. It is so much more than rhetoric and stale tradition and the people we interact with will recognize the difference.

My sphere of knowledge is mostly limited to Christianity, but I would suggest that those who subscribe to agnosticism or atheism are not exempt from this. One does not need to identify with a major religion in order to have a life influenced by personal morals and ethics.

Still, I can only speak out of my religious experience, and so I will try not to define the call to justice for others.

On that note, I am reminded of an article I once read called “The City: A Work In Progress,” in which the author seeks to dispel any misconception that modern day cities such as Orlando or NYC have any true differences from ancient cities like Jerusalem, and therefore are not exempt from the same consequences as those prophesied by Micah, Isaiah, and others. These prophets, coming from different areas and communities, laid out detailed accounts of the injustices being committed in order to support the lavish lifestyles of a few. They issued warnings to those perpetrating these injustices about the dire consequences they would face if things were not made right.

Consider the work of Robert Linthicum. I deeply appreciate his study of Ezekiel. He combs over each line of Ezekiel 22 to reveal to the reader the disturbing parallels between the wolf-like economic system and lion-like political systems of Jerusalem that we have managed to recreate in modern society. When we participate in such systems, or stand idly by and allow injustice, people of faith come dangerously close to being modern-day Hananiahs. We shouldn’t even dare to preach our personal “right” to prosperity over our personal responsibility to each other.

A favorite quote of mine is that of Eleanor Roosevelt:

“When will our consciences grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it?”

We can not wait for our sensibilities to be offended by the stories we hear. It should not take the sensationalized reports of the media or the heat of an election to shake us awake. As a society we have a responsibility to serve each other, and as people of faith we should be on the forefront leading the way. Deuteronomy 10:12 states, “And now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his [her] ways, to love him [her], to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul,”.

But who are waiting on? You? Me? The government? What level of responsibility do we each hold?

When we consider our faith traditions surrounding justice, and the words of Linthicum and Roosevelt, what are we really being told? Yes, justice MUST be pursued by people of faith. How? The question is whether we pursue it ourselves, hold the government that is meant to serve us accountable to do it themselves, or to seek a marriage of the two concepts?

I want to open up the conversation and hear from you.

  • Many of you who read this - but I recognize and respect not all of you - identify as men and women of faith. What does this mean for you? Particularly, what does this mean as a person of faith participating in a democratic society? 
  • Is there an ideal relationship between faith communities and the government?  
  •  Whose responsibility is it to pursue justice? Government? Faith communities? Private organizations? All of the above? 
  • How does your faith’s scripture influence your understanding of your role concerning politics? Your role concerning justice?
  • Who Should Challenge the Lions and Wolves?

Born in Caracas, Venezuela, AnaYelsi Sanchez came to the U.S as a young child, gaining firsthand insight into issues of economic inequality, immigration, sexism, and racism. International service trips led to a passion for justice, and laid the foundation for a career as an activist at Florida Abolitionist, an anti-human trafficking organization working to prevent and combat modern slavery in the U.S. by mobilizing prayer, awareness, outreach, legislative advocacy, and facilitating victim services.

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