“True Justice is Reconciliation”: a message from Fr. Daniel
Yesterday’s guilty verdict in the trial for the murder of George Floyd was swift and unanimous. It was a moment of long overdue accountability in policing, and it represents a single but important step along the long road toward equal justice under the law.
True justice, in the biblical sense is not merely punitive or retributive justice. Punishment can easily become part of the same old cycle of vengeance with which we are achingly familiar. Rather, scripture and our modern day prophets speak of true justice as distributive or restorative justice — making sure all have what they need, and bringing back into fellowship those who have broken the circle of the community in some way.
Martin Luther King Jr. was adamant in focusing his listeners’ attention on what came AFTER the verdict and the victory. The real work was not just about winning the battle or even the war, he said, but about winning all hearts back into one circle, creating what he called “beloved community” out of the enemy factions that had opposed each other.
This is a tall order and demanding work, yet one that we as a faith community are especially called to embody and foster. There is first the individual work we must engage daily of noticing where we lapse into us/them thinking of vengeance and scapegoating. Then there is the collective work of practicing and modeling beloved community in our behavior toward one another, telling our truths and respecting our differences.
If we practice in this way we will, to quote the apostle Paul, “shine like stars” in our larger community as we invite others into this safe and brave space of truth-telling and reconciliation. My hope is that George Floyd’s tragic murder, and yesterday’s verdict, truly become for us an inflection point in deepening our national conversation about whose lives matter and why. I pray that our conversations around justice deepen to the distributive and restorative level, so that there are truly no outcasts, and all of us can freely breathe the air of God’s kin-dom.
As we step forward from this moment, walk with the words of Bernice King, youngest daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. and CEO of the King Center in Atlanta:
Derek Chauvin took George Floyd’s breath, but we WILL NOT let this moment, nor the verdict, take our breath. Before you make a move after the verdict, take a moment to breathe for George.
Breathe nonviolently for Justice.
Breathe nonviolently for Equity.
Breathe nonviolently for Reimagining Public Safety.
Breathe nonviolently for Voting Rights.
Breathe nonviolently for Livable Wages.
Breathe nonviolently for Black and brown lives to be free from systemic racism and dehumanization.
Nonviolence = love-centered, strategic noncooperation with evil.
#Keep Breathing #BreatheOutLove
Another resource for ongoing reflection: Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s homily last night at a compline service with the Diocese of Minnesota, beginning around the 7-minute mark: https://fb.watch/4-Sqlc-Bn8/