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The Miseducation of Justice-Making

Exorcising Preaching Crafting Intellectually Honest Worship

By Nathan C. Walker

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This an urgent call to replace unhealthy practices from sermons and replace them with exercises that enhance the craft of preaching.

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“The Miseducation of Justice-Making” excerpted from Nathan C. Walker (2014) Exorcising Preaching: Crafting Intellectually Honest Worship. St. Louis: Chalice Press.

What does justice-making look like, feel like,
when we receive hostile communication?
Are we hostile in return?
Or is something else required of us?

What we choose to do is a reflection of
who we believe ourselves to be.
It all depends on what kind of power we value.

I once believed it to be powerful to condemn wrongdoers.
I believed it right to tear down another’s
unexamined assumptions and vaporize those
whose presence was not worthy of my attention.

I have spent far too much energy using
the public forum as a battlefield.
I have spent far too much energy using
the public forum to annihilate
those perceived to be my enemy.

I believed that others were the cause of my aggression:
others were to blame for my feelings of
despair, disappointment, and righteousness indignation.

I used to believe that being feared was powerful.
I used to believe it was my duty to free the oppressed,
but when reacting with righteous anger,
guess who became the oppressor?

So, come, lovers of justice and keepers of the dream;
come, justified tyrants and suppressers of screams:
you are all welcome here. None of us are exempt.

We have all played the parts: the peacemaker,
the warmonger. They live within.

This is why we, as seekers of freedom,
are required to make justice
not simply a product but a process:
just actions are the means by which
to achieve a justice society.

When we observe oppression let us develop strategies
that free not only the oppressed but also the oppressor.
Let us remember that those who use their power
to deny freedom to others are also imprisoned
and are also worthy of care.

Do not let their unjust actions inspire us to
justify employing cruel means,
or else we’ll soon become what we set out against.

The challenge is this:
let us take up the miseducation of justice-making
by stripping our conscience of images of equity
that claim to manifest through condemnation,
through humiliation, through shame and blame,
and righteous vindication.

No. The craft of justice-making
begins by marrying a just thought
with insightful words,
inspiring us to collective action:
daring to free both the oppressed and the oppressor,
for we know what it’s like to be both.

Don’t get me wrong—stand we must; stand strong and bold.
But, let us choose a new way to balance the scales:
rather than shoving our foot on the oppressor’s neck
let us instead reach out a hand, offer a gift,
and show them, and even ourselves,
a new way of justice-making.