When I think of God’s Justice, I tend to find it intimidating. When I think of God’s Justice, I tend to think of a long stint in Purgatory that I’d really rather avoid. When I think of God’s Justice, I tend to think of punishment for sin. Then I think of he riots across the country, and I find myself praying, “Let justice be done.” I realized that Mercy alone isn’t what’s needed. Justice would mean consequences for those who have damaged people’s property. It would mean jail time for the policeman who murdered George Floyd, and consequences for those who stood by and let it happen. It would also mean tangible action taken to solve the problems of not just racism, but all discrimination in our country. I realized that, actually, sometimes justice is the merciful thing.
No one is in the right in this situation. Protests that started as noble, peaceful demonstrations have devolved into chaos that proves nothing. I fear, too that innocent men and women in our nation’s police force will suffer hate and violence because of the actions of a handful of bad men. To be honest, my family has had a handful of encounters with police who have been arrogant and unkind. This does not mean that all police are jerks. I prayed for justice, but I also prayed that society would have mercy on police because the many good people shouldn’t have to take the hit for the terrible few.
I think justice and mercy get confused sometimes. Mercy is defined in two ways; “love in action,” and “kindness, or leniency where it is not deserved or earned.” When I think of justice, I think of fighting for those who can’t fight for themselves, and in this sense, it seems synonymous with mercy. It also means making sure those who treat others poorly face consequences. When the riots first broke out, I was sad. It felt like I was watching a rerun. Every time something like this happens–and it happens far too frequently–there is a lot of anger and in many cases, violence. A lot of people post “Black lives matter” on Facebook and then go on with their day. There is a lot of rhetoric by police and politicians, and nothing changes.
I don’t have a solution. On occasion, I have felt the effects of able-ism. People have made assumptions about me based on the fact that I use a wheelchair without even speaking to me. Often in media, if there is a Catholic character, it is to make fun of the Catholic Church. The character is portrayed is stupid, bigoted, or hypocritical. Our world was not built for someone with multiple disabilities, and though I have a pretty easy and comfortable life, it is only because my parents are kind and relatively wealthy. Our culture is one that flees from absolutes and objective Truths, and religious liberty is something churches, Catholic service groups, and individuals often have to fight for.
Persecution and discrimination of anyone, to any extent, for any reason, is wrong. The demonstrations in city streets started because of the murder of George Floyd, but this has become bigger than that. I saw an article someone posted on Facebook about police officers in various places standing in solidarity, and in some cases, praying with peaceful demonstrators. People need to see that, especially people who devalue others because of their skin color.
To be perfectly honest, I would have proposed a solution that involved actively and publicly shaming anyone I encountered doing or saying anything racist. It would have been easy. It wouldn’t solve the problem, though. It would only make more people angry and would probably just grow into more hatred and maybe even more violence. I was sad when this whole thing started, and to be honest, now I am a little angry. This is a problem that requires justice, but it also does require mercy. In the past several nights, people on all sides–rioters and police–have done wrong. They’re all people, though.
Whether you’re stuck inside in some small town somewhere, or you’re cooling off, reading this as someone who’s been directly involved, remember that the person you threw stuff at, or shot tear gas at, is somebody’s brother, sister, father, or mother. Remember that they’re angry and scared, just like you are. Before going out tonight, consider what Jesus said on the Cross; “Forgive them.” The ultimate injustice was that the most innocent Man ever was unjustly sentenced to death, tortured, and killed.
I’m not saying that anyone should just “take it.” I’m saying that any good solution starts with forgiveness. It also requires dialogue. This might mean being extra annoying so that you’re heard, but it doesn’t mean setting things on fire. It means listening. Too often I see posts on Facebook that say “I’m listening.” Too often I hear politicians say it on the news. Don’t just say it; do it. Shut up, and listen. Once you’ve listened, pose solutions; do something with what you’ve heard. It needs to go beyond that, though.
This is a heart problem. Everyone needs to look at the other and really see a person before them. We need to stop labeling people. A person who belongs to the republican or democratic party is not just a republican or democrat, for example. I am a white woman living in suburbia. Knowing that can lead my readers to make assumptions about me in the same way that it might lead some to make assumptions about a black blogger from somewhere closer to Boston.
There’s a literary device when the author is writing in the third-person omniscient; “Little did he know.” This is used when the narrator knows something the protagonist of the story doesn’t. I think it is useful to apply this to ourselves when looking at other people. We must see the other as good, beautiful, and unique; an opportunity to discover, to learn, and hopefully, to form a new relationship. We can’t just stop at the label. We can’t just stop at “democrat,” “republican,” “black,” or “white.” Imagine looking at this through God’s eyes; the Author of every person’s story. Meet a new person, and imagine the Author of your story saying, “Little does she know.” It can be humbling to keep in mind our ignorance, and that humility is important. Change starts with humility, hope, admitting one’s culpability, and forgiveness offered and accepted.