Because I believe in a just god—YHWH—I also believe justice will have its day. As Rev. M. L. King put it, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
Or, perhaps it is the other way around; perhaps it is more accurate to say I believe in YHWH because history shows us that justice will have its day. Empires crumble and fall, despite their overwhelming power to control even the thoughts we think. Who could imagine that cunning men and women, possessed of every tool of control and oppression, would fail? It is impossible without a just god.
The same can be said about compassion and beauty. How can we account for their abiding presence amidst the horror, except for a god who is their source?
The Bible often speaks of this linkage between the god of the Hebrews and justice. The Apostle Paul’s words are the most well-known: “Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow” (Galatians 6:7). He was only echoing First Testament wisdom: “Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity, and the rod of anger will fail” (Proverbs 22:8); “Those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same” (Job 4:8); “For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind” (Hosea 8:7).
Life has consequences, in other words, and those consequences reflect the justice of YHWH.
My favorite statement of this point of view is recorded in the book of Luke where we hear Mary, mother of Jesus, praising YHWH: “He has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty” (1:52-53).
What is urgently needed in our time is a groundswell of voices bringing this understanding to bear on the US-led empire that dominates Earth. It would be wonderful if such a movement were to be catalyzed and led by a charismatic and courageous public champion, someone who would light the spark and fan the flames of righteous resistance.
But such a person has not emerged. What we have instead are difficult-to-understand public events that suggest the justice of YHWH is at work, bringing down the powerful from their thrones and lifting up the lowly.
I’m thinking specifically of the United Kingdom (UK) at the moment and its recent referendum in which a solid majority voted to exit the European Union (EU). It is a shocking result, widely condemned as reflecting everything from racism and xenophobia to an inability to vote in one’s own economic self-interest. (For published responses to those condemnations, see here and here and here.)
Instead, might Brexit reflect life bending toward justice?
Perhaps those voting to exit are not as stupid as they are made out to be. Perhaps they recognize that
—the refugee crisis in Europe is entirely the result of elective wars of aggression led in part by EU leadership against Libya and Syria;
—the foreign worker competition in the UK is entirely the result of decisions by EU leaders to expand NATO eastward toward Russia and to admit into the EU’s “open borders” those nations (and their workers) that join NATO;
—the prosperity brought about by the EU economic plan is for the elite, leaving millions of people redundant, superfluous and unable to afford what once was readily available to them;
—within the EU, the government of the UK has functioned as the agent of the US to erode European independence and make the EU an integral part of the empire;
—most Parliamentary politicians of both leading parties (Tory and Labour) are unwilling or unable to speak the truth about any of this.
Perhaps the speaking of truth into the morass of injustice is not a shining moment of glory, announced by the flourish of trumpets. Perhaps instead it is the inexplicable stubbornness of faceless people who refuse to bow their heads to the inevitability of the empire’s triumph.
Perhaps this is how life bends toward justice.
Perhaps this can happen here in my country too.
As Curtis Mayfield put it, “People get ready, there’s a train coming! Don’t need no ticket, you just get on board. All you need is faith to hear the diesels humming. You don't need no ticket, you just thank the Lord.”