Order or justice? The lesson we keep forgetting

Posted on Jan 24 2017 - 8:01am by Daniel Payne

On the way home over the break, I passed a church sign that said “Our biggest problems aren’t political; our biggest problems are spiritual,” as if the two subjects were mutually exclusive.

In light of the recent celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy, we should consider the ways he addressed politics and religion together to work for the greater good.

MLK’s legacy of justice and equality through his religious and political ideals is powerful, and that will be looked to as an example and inspiration for decades to come.

He used his platform and belief system within religion to make the world a better place, and he saw Jesus as a character who had come to bring justice in real ways.

King continued this work in both political and religious settings: helping those in need, leading protests to change racist legislation and using the platform that he had for good.

Unfortunately, many white churches that he looked to for support denied him the help he desired. He declared in his “Letter From a Birmingham Jail” that the “great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is … the white moderate,” who is more devoted to “order than to justice.”

History repeats itself today as many people of privilege face racial and economic inequality in systems that they are controlling.

White people in America today are the overwhelming majority of politicians and are the largest ethnic group of the electorate as well. Because of this, some individuals in a position of privilege want the world to stay the way it is, even if that oppresses some groups in the process.

This is the same reaction some white churches had to King; they sought order over justice, though often subconsciously. When MLK confronted them with the realities of racism, many of them became defensive, but some began to join his work to cash the check for “the riches of freedom and the security of justice.”

When I saw that church sign, I realized that the same problems exist in groups of privilege today. We often hide behind other issues to prevent ourselves from having to deal with the more pressing issues.

We can fail to see that the problems of economic and racial inequality in America today affect one another; problems of justice are spiritual problems, and the political roadblocks are the only way to move past them.

We desire to be colorblind when the only way to solve these problems is to acknowledge our privilege. Once we have acknowledged our own privileges and prejudices, we can join in the work of King to make the world a more just, equal place.