It feels quite fortuitous to me. We have just celebrated the 50th year anniversary of the I Have a Dream speech and we now find ourselves as a nation forced to confront the fundamental question that the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. so courageously yearned to answer: that is, how do we confront injustice, wrongdoing and evil without becoming unjust, wrongful and evil ourselves? How do we show up and act with clarity and compassion when wrongdoing appears on our doorstep instead of reacting with vengeance and retaliation to, sadly, become that which we would confront?
Make no mistake. Action is not a choice. Even inaction has its consequences. This is why Krishna in the beloved Bhagavad Gita does not coddle Arjuna when he sees him falter in the face of his duty to confront the injustice before him. Stand up scorcher of foes! This faintheartedness does not suit you! But, like us, Arjuna struggles with his inner enemies, doubts, fears and rationalizations and, as a result is, momentarily, unable to see clearly the path before him to right action.
Right action. Theologians and religious scholars have long debated the meaning of right action. It is hard to define yet, when we see it, we know it instantly by how it makes us feel. Instead of feeling the contraction of digging in, defending our point of view, acting against, we feel an expansion that provides both focus and freedom as we begin acting for.
Right action is able to transform actions of injustice to serve the common good of all. A good example was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. declaring that Negroes would no longer agree to sit at the back of the bus. Averting the injustice would no longer be tolerated. Action was required. Yet, he warned against self-motivated righteousness. Instead, he preached tolerance and patience for his white brothers – even in the face of the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church that killed four children. In the face of injustice, he chose right action, to stand for justice, compassion and equal treatment for all.
Today, it is we who are confronted with images of dead children among many innocent victims of ruthless violence and injustice. What will we do? How will we respond? What an important opportunity to examine just what right action might look like when such injustice strikes. I invite us to explore together: What can we do here, as a community, to help promote right action when injustice strikes our brothers and sisters around the world? How may our voices for right action be heard?
And, let’s remember that any act, no matter how small, affects the whole. Perhaps in exploring the question globally, we will also find that some of our answers begin right here at home, locally, in serving our own communities and neighbors.
We are not asking that the world be different. We are asking that, with right action, we be different. And, in being so, we create the possibility that our world could be different.
Let’s question together. Stand tall together…Join our voices in right action together…
So all God’s children…far and near…may know the meaning of…Let freedom ring!