My friend, Patrick Heston, is a crafter of words. I always enjoy his insights and frequently find myself saying, “Yes, that is exactly how I feel!” but he articulates it so much better than I do. This morning as I read his words, I found it echoed in my heart. So I asked him if I could share his thoughts on my blog. He graciously said yes. So I hope this resounds with you as much as it did with me.
“The negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the . . . Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice.” (The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.) I know MLK day is past, but this isn’t a post about MLK. This is not a political post, regardless of what some may think. This is a post about me. Whether it is a post about you . . . only you know. On my Facebook profile, I long ago described myself as “more conservative than most liberals like and more liberal than most conservatives like.” There is a word for that. Moderate. I like moderates. I like being a moderate. I haven’t always been one, but have been one for a long time.
I’m one of those people who hated to see Justice Kennedy leave the United States Supreme Court because I knew — depending on who would be President at the time — he would be replaced by either a democrat or a republican, either a liberal or a conservative (both of which, from time to time, get under my skin big-time). So, both those options scared me. But, now, even being a moderate scares me. It scares me because it is in my nature, in my way of thinking, in my passion to unite rather than to divide . . . to wait.
But we can no longer wait to call injustice by name. We can no longer wait to speak against and work against injustice. We can no longer deny justice to others in order to preserve some Camelot-ish status quo. I think it is because moderates, like me, have a tendency to patiently wait and work for much-needed change, rather than to lower our heads and charge on through the obstacles like the proverbial bull in a china shop. You know . . . slow down, be patient, give it time, we’ll get there. That is, I think, why we don’t see many moderates who are black or poor or disenfranchised. The vantage point is different. After all, it’s a lot easier to wait for everybody to have food on their table when there’s already food on ours.
But here’s the deal to me anymore: Justice can’t wait. I think I would understand that better if I were wearing black skin instead of white, if I were female rather than male, if I were roaming the streets in the cold instead of sheltered warmly at home, if I were stereotyped instead of blending in. Doctor King was, I think, on the mark. I had read the quote before — many times — but it had never hit me like it did this morning. There is something about that comfortable stance of moderation that should make me . . . well, uncomfortable. And, as the years have passed, it has. I think that in many ways, for a large portion of my life, I have unknowingly, unwittingly, unintentionally elevated order over justice by trying to achieve justice in small, spaced-out increments. In other words, by moderation. It hasn’t worked. It won’t work. Of that, I am finally convinced. I am not calling for revolution . . . beyond the revolution in my own heart, mind and lifestyle. And I make such revolution incumbent on no one else.
I am not for throwing order out with justice, but neither am I for throwing out justice for the sake of order. I’m just saying that it’s a mighty thin slice of pizza that only has one side. Order and justice are never either/or, but always both/and. Still, scripture comes down on the side of justice, repeatedly and unhesitatingly, and so must I.
I can no longer live content being more devoted to order than to justice. Dr. King was right — about both. It’s the “more” in his statement that we can’t afford to miss . . . “more devoted to order than to justice.” MLK was more than willing to disturb the prevailing order with pointed talk and peaceful action, while devoted always to justice. Always.
Well . . . there it is. I got if off my chest the way I best know how: In print. More for me than for anyone else. Like that step in AA where you have to make things public, if you’re going to win the battle within you.
If you interpret this as a political statement or as some sort of knuckling under to white guilt, then, I am sorry, but you simply do not understand. And that’s okay. It really is. Pointed talk, peaceful action — always and only. But justice simply can’t wait.