Justice


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Jesus delivered his inaugural public sermon in a society where the Roman -Greco influences were greater than the values that the Hebrew people learned from the Hebrew Scriptures. There was a constant political struggle between the teachings of the faith community vs the values of a secular empire-minded society. BeatitudesMany of Jesus’s teachings challenged the religious leaders to embrace God’s principles vs the expedient political positions. Theses 8 Beatitudes speak directly values that God embraces in all human beings.

I do not know the history but I would like to imagine that these Beatitudes was the backdrop for Emma Lazarus who wrote the sonnet “The New Colossus” to raise money for the Statue of Liberty. In the sonnet, we find these words,

“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The clarion call as a disciple of Jesus Christ is to be welcoming of the outsider, inviting to the outcast and hospitable to the foreigner. As Jesus was talking to the other sunkissed brothers and sisters of the first century we see the embrace of all people regardless of race, class, previous religious experience.

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to be welcoming of all.  Some people have suggested that we need to be concerned of “terrorist” sneaking into the country.

Since when do the people of God make decisions and operate by fear. Fear about the “other people” is a tool that secular political communicators have used to cause division. Some Christians have embraced this principle over the scriptures that teach us in 2 Timothy 1:7

 ”For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

Bad things can happen to any of us at any time. My trust is not in a government wall of protection but in God that I will be where I am supposed to be doing the will of God and if in that moment I am to die in God’s service I will also be with God in eternity. While we are addressing the foreign terrorist we must also confront the rise of domestic terrorism and many times the underlying mental health issues that provoke their behavior.

This brings me to the specific comments that the President made concerning Hattians and Africans. Racism is America’s original sin. America’s greatest moral failing is the lack of repentance, reconciliation, and restoration of the original sin.  The effects of systemic racism impact every area of our society today from education to economics, to housing, to employment, to health care and every social institution in between. America has attempted to legislate inclusion, the valuing of diversity and move toward a post racial society. The reality there many people who still believe that there is superiority or inferiority of an individual based on the color of their skin. I agree with the New York Times opinion editorial by David Leonhardt.

“No one except Trump can know what Trump’s private thoughts or motivations are. But the public record and his behavior are now abundantly clear. Donald Trump treats black people and Latinos differe

ntly than he treats white people. And that makes him a racist.“  (https://mobile.nytimes.com/2018/01/12/opinion/trump-racist.html)

Mr. Trump’s behavior and words reflect America’s lack of repentance from its original sin. Until the hearts of men and women are transformed from believing that there is no inherent superiority, intellectual advantage or intrinsic privilege based on their “whiteness” we will find ourselves at this point again and again. This behavior is not acceptable by any bible believing disciple of Jesus Christ. Pastors who are controlled more by the power of the political empire than the Scriptures which are our authority will find it difficult to condemn the behavior and words of the President. This is one reason that the church has lost its moral authority. We can’t fight for justice and be a tool of the oppressive empire at the same time. With a collective voice the believers in Jesus Christ must speak up, speak out and no longer be silent. The drum beat for justice must crescendo into a mighty nationwide drumline that sounds a cadence that

e (more…)

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BY REV. ROBBIE MORGANFIELD

ST. MARK’S UMC, LAUREL

I have to admit that I didn’t get much caught up in the debate that preceded the recent execution of Troy Davis in Georgia.

As a Christian I acknowledge that is not acceptable, especially since I see no way that one who takes seriously the teachings of Christ can find the death penalty tolerable.

In Matthew 5, Jesus decries the notion of an “eye for an eye” and teaches those listening that they should “turn the other cheek.” Indeed, Jesus sets the bar high, calling for us to react in ways that clash with the prevailing culture. But too many Christians today seem too comfortable with hatred and unforgiveness when love and forgiveness were clear mandates in Jesus’ message.

The principles Jesus articulated call us to a higher standard than what our society has embraced, and it’s time for Christians to be clear about whose side we’re on.

I don’t know the religious convictions of  the family of Georgia police officer Mark MacPhail, whom Davis had been convicted of killing more than 20 years ago. In comments to the media, MacPhail’s widow used language that suggested that she is person of faith, but her sentiments fell short of what one could argue Christ taught.

“I will grieve for the Davis family because now they’re going to understand our pain and our hurt,” Joan MacPhail-Harris told the Associated Press in a telephone interview. “My prayers go out to them. I have been praying for them all these years. And I pray there will be some peace along the way for them.”

MacPhail’s widow, who apparently has remarried, called the execution a “time of healing for all families.” Her comments suggest that healing could begin because Mark MacPhail’s accused murderer had been executed. She apparently concluded that Davis’ family members were not suffering as they and many others fought to preserve Davis’ life. Davis maintained that he was innocent down to the very end and growing numbers of observers cited growing evidence that cast reasonable doubt on his conviction.

After the execution, MacPhail’s mother, Anneliese MacPhail, said in a telephone interview from her home that she placed no stock in Davis’ claims of innocence.

“He’s been telling himself that for 22 years,” she said. “You know how it is; he can talk himself into anything.”

I wonder who’s really talking themselves into something.

Whether Davis was innocent or guilty, I have a fundamental problem with the death penalty because the nation’s criminal justice system is too often uneven. One’s race or economic status can often shape the outcome of criminal proceedings, and too many people are convicted based on circumstantial evidence.

Davis had been convicted of killing MacPhail in a Burger King parking lot in Savannah, Georgia. MacPhail was working off-duty as a security guard and reportedly rushed to help a homeless man, whom prosecutors maintained was being beaten by Davis with a handgun.  The gun was never found, but the prosecution said shell casings from that shooting were linked to an earlier shooting for which Davis had been convicted.

That hardly seems an acceptable standard for condemning a person to death.

Despite changes in the testimonies of some witnesses and claims that another man had boasted of shooting officer MacPhail, court officials and others upheld the execution.

It is even more troubling to think that many of those individuals would claim Christian identity. Yet their Christian faith somehow failed to distinguish itself.

My family has dealt with the issues that confront Christians when a loved one is murdered. My brother was shot five times by a man who once had been his friend. In court, the man never showed any remorse and was eventually only given a sentence of 10 years.

I still remember my father, who served as a church deacon for more than 50 years before recently stepping down, saying after my brother’s death that his heart was broken not only because he had lost his son, but because another life had taken a very wrong turn. He mourned for my brother and the shooter and prayed for the shooter’s redemption. The rest of the family followed my father’s lead.

When the man was released from prison, he returned to our small hometown briefly and requested a meeting with my father. My father met him, blessed him and sent him on his way.

To this day, we remember my brother fondly. One of my sisters remains best of friends with the sister of the man who shot my brother. We know now what we knew then: nothing that occurred in that court room would bring back our loved one. As Christians, we hinge our greatest hopes on the life we believe is yet to come.

That does not mean a society does not need a justice system, but it does mean that to be Christian within a society calls one to live by different standards.

Jesus asked for forgiveness for those who killed him and discouraged those who followed him from seeking revenge for his wrongful death.

I don’t believe anyone who has taken seriously the teachings of Christ can be totally comfortable with the idea of the death penalty, if for no other reason that there might even be the slightest chance that the one being executed is, in fact, innocent. Beyond that, there is no promise in Scripture that I am aware of that God will give us peace once we avenge a wrong that has been perpetrated against us.

Interestingly, Anneliese MacPhail told reporters that she felt “kind of numb” after word came that Davis had been executed.

“All the feelings of relief and peace I’ve been waiting for all these years, they will come later,” she said. “I certainly do want some peace.”

I somehow doubt she will find it in the death of Troy Davis.

I  asked a question on Facebook August 14th, “What would Jesus say at a town meeting about healthcare reform?”  Here are a few of the responses.  I wrote this article on the 15th but have not had an opportunity to post until today. Please feel free to add your comments.

 1.  Be honest and truthful. everyone.

 2.  Be Healed!

 3. How about “Get those money-changers out of the temple!”

 4. I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly!

 5. He would say that healthcare is a right and not a privilege in this great country of ours. He would say that we are one another’s brothers and sisters and we should all take care of one another. “If you are in pain than I am in pain.”

He would be horrified with the greed and corruption of the private insurance industry today, and the corruption of the private insurance industry today, and the corrupt legislators and the pharmaceutical industry. He would say that we need to even out the playing field and re-define and revamp the system, which means switching the role of the private insurance into a secondary role. They can offer supplemental insurance as they do in other industrialized countries. But other industrialized countries do not make a profit off the suffering of their people and their systems are innovative, and their life expectancy exceeds U.S. life expectancy. We need to cover everyone with good preventative care and changing the system is the way to do it.

  6. get er done

 7. http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=3845

This article says alot about the corporate ties between the private insurance industry and media companies. Please read y’all when you have a moment!

 8.  Surprisingly enough, the ONLY people Jesus ever ‘shouted down’ were those who put money or personal welfare above the responsibility of caring for others. Jesus might in fact be shouting at a town hall meeting, but it would be at those who are shouting, selfish, unconcerned and uncaring and not at those who are concerned about people without medical coverage.

 9. Do the best for the least among you.