Sunday, July 3, 2011
Liberty Loves Justice
There's a lot to appreciate about the United States. We are a place where there is abundance. And people do have choices. Of course, having money helps in making choices, but we aren't corralled into careers forever and ever without the flexibility and latitude to change. And, despite the annoyance it causes, we have the freedom to speak our minds.
But the chief cornerstone of our country, liberty and justice for all, remains elusive for some in America. Many states are enacting draconian measures to crackdown on illegal immigrants, forcing anyone who is non-Caucasian to wonder if they will encounter harassment if they don't carry "proof" of their residency. Lots of people who are disabled and dependent on Medicaid are finding themselves suddenly without access to the services they once had. And for those of us in the LGBT community, how liberated and justly treated we are under the law will depend on where we live.
How much more meaningful, then, is it to hear the Gospel of Matthew, in which Jesus says, "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Those of us who labor for liberation and seek justice need to hear that when we are feeling the weight of it all on our shoulders. There is comfort in knowing we are not carrying this load alone, and that there is a force at play doing most of the heavy lifting... and is always in the background as we wrestle with each other in our human struggles for superiority. Those words of Matthew have been with me since I was a kid and have been important and useful as I try to remember that God keeps us going forward in spite of human efforts to throw us into reverse.
The Matthew gospel also goes hand in hand with the words of Emma Lazarus' poem at the base of the Statute of Liberty:
"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-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
Our country has been an entry point and a place for the "others" to start realizing a dream of a better life.
But it isn't perfect, and there are those in power who have been trying to extinguish liberty's lamp and toss the "others" overboard.
When I'm asked to sing those words, "America, America, God shed his light on thee," it will be a fervent prayer that we consider the love affair that Liberty has with Justice. And may God shed God's light on achieving a brighter lamp to welcome and lift the burdens off those who are the marginalized and down-trodden in our society.