Lenten luncheon 5: The spirituality of social justice

The last Lenten luncheon of the series was held on Wednesday, March 21st. The Rev. Carla Kline, pastor of Island Presbyterian Church, talked about the power of social justice in our individual lives, our communities, our nation, and our world. She said that her life was profoundly changed by a ten-day trip to El Salvador, in Central America, in 2005.

The Rev. Carla Kline on the right, with her sister.

What is the difference between justice and social justice?
Justice has to do with rectifying wrongs done to individuals; social justice has to do with groups of people and how they are treated or mistreated.

What does the Bible say about social justice?
Chapter 6 of Micah is a courtroom scene, in which God presents his case against the Israelite.

The charge was that the Israelites had seized fields, oppressed people, and committed gruesome acts of murder. He demands to know what he has done to cause the people to behave in such an unjust and atrocious way. Instead of answering directly, the Israelites try to bargain with God and buy him off with burnt offerings, streams of oil, rams, and year-old calves. 

“God asked the Israelites: Why do you ignored my commandments? Do you see the injustices around you? Get a clue, will you?”

Carla talked about Micah in the Bible and about the Micah of our times. Who is the Micah of our times?
Oscar Romero was the fourth bishop of San Salvador, El Salvador. “He was the Micah of our time.” He focused on injustices, such as poverty, social injustice, assassination, and torture. In 1980s El Salvador, assassination and torture were common place. The land and wealth were controlled by fourteen families. Archbishop Oscar Romero spoke out against that.

He was shot while celebrating mass at the Church of the Divine Providence in San Salvador. A gunman got out of a car and, with his rifle resting against his car door, shot the archbishop in the heart, killing him immediately. A “death squad” was blamed for the murder but, according to a declassified CIA report, the murder was committed by a four-man national police squad.

Oscar Romero will be canonized as a saint later this year.

do justice. act with kindness. walk humbly with your God.

How did your experience in El Salvador change you?
“I fell in love with El Salvador. I spent time with a three year old named Lucy and I meshed with an 80-year-old woman named Isabella. I was made to feel welcomed. The social justice practice was deeply spiritual. I learned about liberation theology. I saw coffee fields. I visited the University of El Salvador.” There, in 1989, six Jesuits, their housekeeper, and her daughter were murdered.

What gets in the way of our seeking social justice?
“We have a fear of labels. We are afraid of being called ‘liberal,’ ‘progressive,’ or ‘secular.’ In our society, we face systemic oppression. Jesus Christ was a social justice reformer, but we  water down the message to religious platitudes.”

Describe Jesus, the social justice reformer.
Jesus intentionally helped the alienated, the mistreated, and the domestically abused lives. 

“Instead of saying ‘All lives matter,’ Jesus said:
Samaritan lives matter.
Children’s lives matter.
Gentile lives matter.
Jewish lives matter.
Women’s lives matter.
Lepers’ lives matter.”

we see injustice. it is not enough just to see. we dare to change what is unjust. we glorify God through acts of justice.

And… here in Grand Island: Carla described the work of the Family Justice Center, which supports victims of domestic violence, as “Christlike,” and she encouraged people to support the Family Justice Center, which is working on opening a satellite office in Grand Island.

3 thoughts on “Lenten luncheon 5: The spirituality of social justice”

  1. The El Salvador experience must have been a really enriching one! And yes, we need social justice in these times when things are so bad!

  2. Thanks foe sharing! The El Salvador experience must have been so enlightening. Most people (me included) do not get the difference there but I think it is important to be open to understand.

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