By Susan K. Smith,
A cry is heard amongst people today who are stunned at what is happening in our country. We are going backward, they say. We are worse off now than we were 50 years ago, others say. In so many areas of injustice – racism and sexism particularly –people fought to right the wrongs and took one step forward and it seems that God took two.
But in the realm of powers and principalities, all of which marginalize God, it feels like we have taken or are taking, three steps backward. We seem caught in an inescapable revolving door; ultimate justice seems ever more elusive. There is always a fight. There is always a little moving forward, and then, things go in reverse. In 1925, as Clarence Darrow was fighting for justice in the case of Ossian Sweet, who dared move into an all-white neighborhood in Detroit, and whose move inspired white mob activity which resulted in the death of a white man, Darrow voiced concern about what he saw as the shortcoming of religion. He said, “We are marching backward to the glorious age of the sixteenth century, when bigots lighted fagots to burn the men who dared to bring any intelligence and enlightenment and culture to the human mind.” He continued his rant, as religious people ignored the plight of the poor, the disenfranchised, the weary, and said, speaking of abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison, “The Garrisons were preaching in rich pulpits and pointing their aristocrats to an aristocratic heaven…and the voice of humanity and justice was still.”
The aristocrat heaven is still open, and many are preaching its validity. But in the bowels of society are people who are in anguish because the powers and principalities of injustice are relentless. They are past being angry; anger is like a flash point; it is explosive and reactive and in many cases can be tamed. But anguish is different. Anguish is a byproduct of despair. It hovers over the strongest of spirits, seeping into pores that have remained open for droplets of hope. Anguish spreads over the souls of people, pulling them down and challenging their faith. With the most recent spate of killings of black people by police officers, the anguish of people has become palpable; preachers, charged with bringing hope to the masses must first deal with their own weeping and heaviness of heart. The aristocrats, meanwhile, seem oblivious to the anguish which is metastasizing. They seem oblivious to the fact that a diseased society cannot endure forever.
To the pastors and preachers reaching out to anguished congregations, to the mothers and fathers reaching out to frightened and angry young people, to the social justice activists wiping their own tears out of their eyes as they continue to challenge injustice, the God of our weary years would say, “Be still as you move.” Be still in your pain and in your anguish; give yourselves some quiet moments, some still moments, to let the balm of Gilead spread gently over your spirit to protect you from despair. Be still and let the voice of God whisper to you what only God can whisper and give you peace that only God can give. Be reminded that the race…is not given to the swiftest, but to those who endure…Be still…But also, move. Keep moving toward the Source of strength, the only Source that is always there. Go to the Source, the Source that forever leads us to places of injustice and inhumanity, to shake our spiritual cores into working for those who cannot yet work against injustice themselves. Keep moving, because to stand still sets your anguished soul up for stagnation, and stagnation leads to infestation, disease, and death. There is no time to die, not yet. There is no time to give up and seek the aristocrat heaven. There is no time to bond with the powers and principalities, who yearn for your presence, to bolster their mission. There is no time…
To everything there is a season, and a time and a purpose under heaven. It seems like the time to fight injustice …is always with us. It never ends, the presence and power of God notwithstanding. This season, this time and this purpose is always with us…but, as the words say, “walk together children, don’t you get weary” say, the word today is to “be still as you move.” The God who knows about weariness will help you up, stand you up, and keep you up. In the face of injustice, that has to be a blessed, blessed assurance.
Amen and amen.