24 Questions for Advent: Thirteen
When will the home we love mean justice for everyone? When will America become America?
- The Call, Become America
Justice is one of our heart’s greatest longings. How much we cry out for it---how so many have cried out for it over the course of history---is likely second only to our cry for mercy. We call on justice to make all things equitable and right...and mercy to give us a break from the very same. Yet they are truly two sides of the same coin; one cannot function without the other.
Justice without mercy would be dark, cruel, more like injustice than justice. But mercy without justice would be like salve on a sore which should be cleansed with the red-hot iron; if the salve is applied before the wound is cleansed it only makes it smart, and does not heal it. Sigrid Undset, Catherine of Siena
Our country was founded on the ideal of justice for all, but not the practice of it. It was founded on the ideal of equality for all, but not the reality of it. And yet what is truly great about America is that it can continue to be amended toward the ideal. Since the writing of the Constitution, governments that can be amended by their people represent the majority of the nations on this earth. Still, the practice of self-government is a fragile one.
As a nation, we began by declaring that 'all men are created equal.' We now practically read it 'all men are created equal, except negroes.' When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read 'all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics.' When it comes to this, I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty – to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.
When will America become America? Perhaps when those of us who align ourselves with the Risen Christ live up to our responsibility to help America become a land which will not only promise, but deliver, justice for all.
He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
Micah 6:8, RSV
May it be so.