RIGHTS OF WORKERS
Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. James 5:4
The voices of workers are crying to heaven as an orchestrated war against labor is being waged with the weapons of corporate money, bought politicians, and a media machine that spins lies and fosters fear.
In the past year or two, the assault on workers at the federal and state levels has been aggressive and unrelenting as we’ve witnessed efforts to destroy the National Labor Relations Board, the imposition of emergency managers on communities to break unions and public workers’ contracts, the introduction of so-called right-to-work legislation that would result in wage slavery, and the attack on collective bargaining. And the list goes on.
Currently, there are 80 anti-worker bills pending in the Michigan Legislature. Whether the attack is directed at safety provisions, retirement benefits, health care, or the ability of unions to collect membership dues, this onslaught against workers is a threat to our democracy as the agenda to privatize and corporatize everything from our parks to our prisons by big money interests is being foisted upon us at breakneck speed.
This is sin. The sin of greed. The sin of violence. The sin of denying workers their inherent dignity. Much of the money that is being used to destroy the lives of workers flows freely and abundantly as a result of Citizens United, the Supreme Court decision that bestows personhood upon corporations. If corporations are people, then they are in a state of mortal sin and in need of confession.
The cries of workers everywhere will not go unheard.
Were you there when they sold their souls for greed?
ABUSE OF RELIGION
Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. – James 1:27
To feed the hungry. To clothes the naked. To welcome the immigrant. At the heart of all the world’s religions is the call to compassion.
In the hands of those with open hearts, the scriptures of all traditions are signposts of healing and reconciliation in the world. In the hands of those with hearts of stone, however, scripture becomes a weapon, a tool of abuse.
It seems hard to believe, but the same bible that empowered the civil rights movement was used by the Ku Klux Klan and the apartheid government in South Africa to justify violence and oppression.
The same Torah that trumpets the prophetic call to justice, the backbone of so many social movements, has been used by Jewish extremists to justify the mistreatment of Palestinians. The same Qur’an that inspired Badshah Khan to raise up a nonviolent army of Pashtuns to challenge British rule has been distorted by Muslim militants. The Bhagavad-Gita, so important to Mahatma Gandhi, has been used by some Hindus to defend acts of terror against Christians and Muslims.
Clearly, religion is a potent force in our world. The question is: Will we use religion to hurt or to heal our wounded world? Will we continue to create a warrior god in our own violent image or will we surrender to the unarmed God of compassion who calls us to love?
Today we invite all the traditions to return to the heart of pure and genuine religion, the place where we meet the One who is Love. The One who calls us to serve one another.
Were you there when they used your name to hate?
MENTAL HEALTH CARE
A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice. Isaiah 42:3
Jesus hears the cry of our brothers and sisters with mental illness who have been kicked to the curb by a society that refuses to look at the bruised and broken among us. A society that demonizes, marginalizes, and criminalizes those who find themselves living on the streets or in jail cells for lack of proper medical care.
Since the closing of Lafayette Clinic in 1992, those suffering from mental illness in Detroit have been cast aside and left to fend for themselves. Many self-medicate through the use of drugs and alcohol, exacerbating their primary condition and often resulting in violent behavior. Others, vulnerable and forsaken, wander the cold winter streets of the city with little comfort or support. Still others find themselves mired in the maze of a criminal justice system that offers little to nothing in terms of treatment.
The statistics are sobering, shameful, and sinful: 1/3 of Michigan’s homeless population is mentally ill and untreated; half of the state’s severely mentally ill population does not receive publicly-funded mental health services; Michigan’s incarceration rate is 13th in the nation with the fifth lowest ration of public psychiatric beds.
When Lafayette Clinic, along with several other mental health facilities, was closed, the promise of community mental health treatment was never realized. Today, jails have become the largest mental health institution in the state.
Can we see the face of Jesus in our brothers and sisters who live in parks and languish in prisons as a result of mental illness? Brothers and sisters who are feared and forgotten, despised and dispensable? Brothers and sisters who are bruised, broken, and beautiful.
Can we hear the voice of Jesus demanding justice for our brothers and sisters?
Or do we choose to turn away?
Were you there when they dumped me on the streets?
Meditations from Detroit Peace Community Good Friday Walks.