Across the Pastor’s Desk: Racism, oppression institutionalized
Across the Pastor’s Desk by Don Rose
The prophets of what Christians call the Old or First Testament called God’s people to task because of their lack of justice, care and concern for those who were the outcast and oppressed of their day. The measure of their faithfulness was not in doing the appropriate sacrifice in the right manner, but rather in the ways in which they treated the widow, the orphan and the foreigner in their midst.
The people brought judgment upon themselves by their lack of investment in their neighbor, whom they ignored or worse, took advantage of, in daily life.
Thousands of years and generations have passed since the days in which those prophets spoke in person, and yet their words are just as fresh as today’s news headlines. The pandemic has once again brought to attention that many of those considered to be “essential” in their vocations are the very ones that culture and society choose regularly to ignore. These are the ones who are typically pushed to the margins of society, who live each day on the edge of ruin.
The prophets then and now called for an end to oppressive economic and societal practices that denied individuals the access to which God desired them to experience and to share.
In the days of the prophets there was a greater sense of community and the ways in which that community was unresponsive to God’s desires. Today, people are unfortunately more invested in the individual and each individual’s wants or desires so that the implications of the greater body are often unrecognized.
Modern day racism and oppressive behaviors are not just the random acts of ignorant individuals anymore than injustice was just an individual act in the days of the prophets.
Racism and oppression are institutionalized, they are a part of the very fabric of the world of today.
Institutions as well as individuals will need to change if any progress is to be made. Wealth and power can no longer be the arbiters of justice. All are expected to be equal before the law and the days of justice being blind to the trappings of this world need to be restored.
In the community that is reflective of God, every life is valued, every person is essential. No one is a throw-away. The strength of the whole does not come from casting off the weak.
In these very difficult and challenging days, the words of the prophets are as important to hear as they have ever been. God calls God’s people to do justice, to seek mercy and to walk humbly with God. Isn’t it about time?
Don Rose is a pastor at Mansfield and United Lutheran churches.