Monday, January 20, 2014

The arc

Martin Luther King Jr.'s statement that "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice" (which is actually a paraphrase of the pre-Civil War minister Theodore Parker who wrote "I do not pretend to understand the moral universe, the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. But from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.") implies slow and incremental progress. As Dr. King elsewhere wrote, "I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word."

That there be justice, fairness, kindness--in a word, shalom--among us is God's will. This is what Jesus meant when he used the term "the kingdom of God" ("Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven."). The kingdom of God is not a place. It is the manifest rule and reign of God, right here and right now. The kingdom of God is made visible by practices of kindness, mercy, fairness, compassion, healing, restoration, etc.--all summed up in the word love. If we wish to honor Dr. King (and follow Jesus), we need to ask ourselves questions along the lines of these:

"Where is there unkindness and injustice and unfairness and systematic oppression today?"
"What are the structures and systems that support and perpetuate unkindness and injustice and unfairness and oppression?"
"Who are the victims?"
"Who are the perpetrators?"
"What am I called to do to about it?"

There are a myriad of possible answers to these questions. The leading of the Spirit is unique for each of us. But the goal is the same: to move on that slow and unstoppable arc a little closer to its inevitable terminus. To do our part.

As the Quaker founder of Pennsylvania, William Penn wrote, "True godliness does not turn men out of the world, but enables them to live better in it and excites their endeavors to mend it."

Dr. King was one of the brightest lights thus far along that arc, but we are all called to be lights.


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