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On the Corner

A passion for social justice

by Robert Docter –

In his hometown, the small and ancient Galilean village of Nazareth, ridiculed by many, defended only by cliffs and steep slopes, Jesus began his earthly ministry. It came after a period of significant fasting that weakened him and by severe tempting by the devil. He stood in his home synagogue to proclaim the “office of Christ” – a commitment to social justice. They handed him a scroll of the writings of the prophet Isaiah. He chose to read the 61st chapter.

The Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed meto preach good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
Luke 4:18,19 NIV

He rolled the scroll and returned it and, with every eye on him said:

You’ve just heard scripture make history. It came true just now in this place.
Luke 4:21 The Message

Have too many of us lost our early passion for social justice? Have we forgotten Booth’s historic commitment to social redemption? Has the fight gone out of us that Booth memorialized so forcefully in his “While women weep … ” speech?

In the Army today, where are the emulators of match factory purchasers – the organizers of marches on Parliament (Congress) in causes supporting the poor? Where are the crusaders for health care access for all as a basic right? Where are the advocates of a living wage? – confronters of a criminal justice system whose prisons hold a preponderance of people of color – crusaders opposing a mental health system that has to start on the streets of skid row?

Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the Lord:

Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn.
Isaiah 51:1

Who speaks for the homeless, the poor, for the destitute, the marginalized? These are the least among us – the most different – in many ways disenfranchised and despairing. Whose voice stimulates the compassion of a caring community? Who challenges the moral fiber of a people willing to rush to the relief of a stricken population? Who leads the way to quicken the pain of an ignorant or ignored conscience?

Once, the Army’s voice was louder. Why are we more silent today? Has our great need to be liked inhibited our actions? What happened to our holy outrage? Where is the boldness of the past? This type of silence that ignores the plaintive call of the least among us is a sin! There’s no question that action in the cause of social justice is risky. Those hometown citizens of Nazareth almost tossed Jesus off the cliff. It is, however, much more risky to keep silent in the face of injustice.

Hear me, you who know what is right, you people who have my law in your heart.

Do not fear the reproach of men or be terrified by their insults.

Awake, awake! Clothe yourself with strength, O arm of the Lord; awake, as in days gone by, as in generations of old.
Isaiah 51: 7, 9

No one calls for justice…

The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice.

He saw that there was no one and was appalled that there was no one to intervene.
Isaiah 59:4, 15,16

This Army has many great programs designed to treat the needs of this least who live among us. We reach out to them with commitment and compassion. Let us continue our super-human, heroic struggle to aid the victims of injustice within our society and never slacken our resolve. Nevertheless, at the same time, let us not be so consumed by rescue operations that we fail to address, broadcast and work to change those factors that make them victims in the first place. This is the cause of social justice – to work to right wrongs before they work their debilitating damage on humanity.

In this nation today, let us remember that the pledge we recite so often closes with a goal we have not yet fully attained … with liberty and justice for all.


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