I don’t remember why I was talking about God’s justice. But I was talking about it the way I do, all starry eyed and hopeful. An acolyte and student of the kingdom coming: a kingdom in which kings are brought low and the innocents rise.
She said, “That isn’t what I think of when I hear the word justice. We always heard about justice like it was God’s punishment for the wicked.”
I made the kind of sound you make when you’re having an emotional response to something but your words haven’t caught up with you yet.
She went on, “Like AIDS for homosexuals. Like Sodom and Gomorrah. The way God punishes people who don’t obey.”
I made the same sound again, except WAY LOUDER.
She said, “Tell me about the other kind of justice.”
I said, “Justice is how we raise up the oppressed. Justice is full humanity for the marginalized. It’s the rights of the widow and the orphan. The promise of liberation. It’s the counterculture we’re all supposed to stand for.”
She said, “Is that in the Bible?”
I said, “YES.”
I would have cracked it open right then and there, except I was driving. I would have had some gospel revolution preaching going on STAT, except somebody had to find the address of where we going.
I forgot all about it, until just the other day I was reading Mihee Kim-Kort on streams that run uphill. I haven’t read the book yet, although I just ordered it. But just reading her words I remembered how much I love that image…of streams running uphill. How it reverses the energy of conquered and conquering.
There’s nothing this world needs more than a little reversal in the energy of conquered and conquering.
The day before that I was in a conversation about anger and the American evangelical Christian church, in which conversation I might have gotten a little, ahem, angry… Because, you guys, FEELINGS.
I haven’t said a word about it here since the World Vision thing caused my evangelicalism to totally lose credibility among the very last of my secular progressive friends who trusted me. I haven’t written about it, because what can I say to this level of hypocrisy? When 10,000 children are punished because Christians gotta have somebody to crucify? What can I offer but lament?
If I live in the canyon – and I do – the canyon has never been so wide. Which means for me, lonely. So yeah, I might have been running a little hot, I’ll be the first to admit. I have skin in this game.
And I have had it up to here with Christian moralizing from a position of power.
I’m ready for us to moralize up the pyramid. Not down. I’m ready for us to preach from our weakness. Not our strength. I am so tired of the guilt offerings by the powerful, trying to somehow restrain or check our power. I’m ready for us to be singing We Shall Overcome.
I’m ready for those streams that run uphill.
I am tired, tired, tired of the patriarch standing at the pulpit saying “Jesus came to tell us that even though we can hit our kids we shouldn’t hit them very hard.” I am ready for the kid to stand at the pulpit and say, “Jesus came to teach us that this image-bearing thing comes in every size.”
I am done, done, done with the white man standing at the pulpit saying, “This is the great gift I hereby give out of my strength to the weaker and more ignorant peoples.” I’m ready for the black (wo)man standing at the pulpit saying, “THE DAY OF OUR REDEMPTION IS COME. OUR LIBERATION IS NOW.”
And aren’t we all exhausted by a moral code that reeks of privilege? Restrain your anger! Restrict your selfishness! Stop being such a jerk and give your ten percent! As if the people sitting in our padded folding chairs aren’t nearly dead for a tiny crumb of freedom?
What this body needs is a resurrection, not a lecture. We need nothing less than a reversal of death. And what will that take? The miracle of streams that run uphill. And justice rising.
Don’t think I’m saying, here, that we sit on our hands and leave all the work to the voices of the fringe. I am all about raising up speakers and clergy that are female, non-white, not-famous, not-familiar, LGBT, and all the combinations thereof. (This book of Mihee Kim-Kort’s that sparked this, that I haven’t read yet but absolutely recommend anyway, because I know her, is all conversations with young clergywomen of color…) But y’all, THE MOVEMENT OF LIBERATION DOESN’T LOCK ANYBODY OUT.
Even the straight white men I bumped into in that conversation about anger are in the pyramid somewhere. We’re all in the pyramid somewhere. There is nobody who has never known the feeling of a chain.
Any one of us can turn our preaching up the hill. Any one of us can speak truth to power instead of morality tales to the suffering. Any one of us can learn to preach the other kind of justice.
Any one of us could. And I wish that EVERY one of us would. Stand on a street corner, reclaiming this as the fabric of the Christian religion: a warp of freedom and a woof of overcoming.
Welcome instead of terror. Dancing instead of shame. And wisdom found not in our articulate guilt, but in our willingness to rise.
Then, maybe, we evangelicals could claim to be doing something other than justifying ourselves, as ourselves. Then maybe, we could claim to be doing something other than drawing lines around our camps in ink.
(It’s no wonder that the American evangelical church has so little credibility with those we’re supposedly here to save.)
But if only streams could run uphill…
I believe they can. I believe there is Someone who can. I believe. That streams will run uphill. And in faith I will preach this, unashamed, which I know to be true. Where the God of Justice rules, there is freedom.