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God Ain’t Just

God Ain’t Just October 19, 2021

Last week I wrote about how I believe god isn’t good. This week, I’ll double-down by saying god ain’t just.

I believe if god were just, justice would be a concept that all people could grasp because all people would experience it. I also think that if god were truly omnipotent and omniscient — which this is predicated on whether god is even real — justice would be both ubiquitous and diffuse.

I remember the day Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. April 4, 1968. My Dad and I were both home with a cold, which was a bummer for Dad because it was his birthday. I remember seeing it on the news. My Mom and my Grandfather were both already gone to work but my Grandmother was getting ready for her shift at work. When we heard it, I remember my Dad’s words —

Goddamit.

I must confess, I’ve never seen my Dad cry. I’ve seen him angry and I’ve seen him disappointed. At this point in my life, this was as emotional as I’d ever see him.

Then I heard my grandmother scream as she fell to her knees. I remember rushing downstairs, throwing my arms around her and being as comforting as a near-six year old could be. All I could do is cry with her. She then tried to comfort me, telling me that he died to make the world a better place for me.

It was much later in my life when I learned that a man named James Earl Ray was arrested, tried, and convicted of Dr. King’s murder. It was many years later before I learned that he was likely not the killer and Justice wasn’t served.

This happened in the wake of the 1967 riots in Detroit, which were triggered by widespread police brutality and economic disparity. My Grandparents and Parents believed that people like Dr. King would compel this nation to live up to the content of its creed — that all men are created equal — and that my siblings and cousins would experience freedom and economic success they never dreamed of. In some ways we have; in others, we may actually be worse off.

Although my Grandparents had long escaped the brutal racism of the south — having left Alabama in the 1950’s — they still had relatives back there. Some of them who had been attacked by Bull Connor’s dogs. They even had friends who suffered on the Edmund Pettis Bridge outside Selma in 1965. But, in Detroit, they encountered a new kind of racism and oppression that was far more nuanced.

Oh, and I neglected to mention that my Grandmother was what you’d call a “praying Grandmother.” She always had her bible open. She always had gospel music playing in the house. She prayed every day. She blessed her food. She “gave god the glory” for every little victory in her life.

I also forgot to mention that, in spite of all her praying, she was stricken with breast cancer. And that a little over three years later, she would be dead at the age of fifty-one.

My Grandmother was a firm believer in a god who never delivered and in a justice that never came.

Fast-forward to me in my adulthood — I have been active in whatever community I’ve lived in since getting out of the Navy in 1987. Back in those days, I was a good negro — a dyed-in-the-wool, honest-to-goodness, Regan-Republican, christian conservative. Like Dr. King, I had a dream — that black liberation and prosperity would not come from socialist programs but from embracing the “rugged individualism” of the American Way. We had to “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps” in order to fully participate in the American Dream. I was even fortunate enough to become a newspaper columnist and a radio talk-show host — platforms I would skillfully use to tout the virtue of conservatism.

Later on, I would “answer the call” to ministry. I immersed myself in biblical and christian historical studies. Little did I know that that this intense study would lead me to leaving the faith that was such a great part of my life.

I remember the beating of Rodney King. I remember the killing of Michael Brown. I remember the murders of Travon Martin and Tamir Rice. I remember how racism didn’t discriminate along gender lines with the killings of Breonna Taylor and Sandra Bland. I learned that, if you’re black, you’re not even safe in your own home — ask Botham Jean and Atatiana Jefferson.

I’m certain that the families of these slain souls have prayed for some form of justice. I mean, they would be well within their rights to call for the worst punishment but, instead, they see the murderers of their family members go free. We’re always told to pray. I’m sure they prayed.

Help me understand.

What was interesting about all of these was that I — and people like me — tried to speak out against these criminal acts conducted by people sworn, ostensibly, “to protect and serve,” white christians would always urge me to “not rock the boat.” To “pray about it.” And to “just give it to Jesus.”

What I discovered was that, not only was Jesus going to conveniently ignore these matters but, if he existed, he always has.

Think about it. All those souls brought from Africa to be slaves. I’ll bet many, if not most of them, prayed for relief from their bondage — only to die in that condition. And all of the Native Americans killed and abused in the name of “manifest destiny,” I’m sure they prayed too.

And “god” answered none.

In 2021, the more things have changed for oppressed people in America, the more they’ve stayed the same. We pray for peace and prosperity and are frequently denied it. I also hate that I’ve served as an outlier for people like me. I enjoy a certain measure of success and prosperity but am still profiled racially and live in perpetual fear that, someday, my sons may become the victim of racist policing. Though I work in corporate leadership, I am acutely aware that — if not for my race — I’d occupy a “C-Suite” position somewhere.

Here’s the thing. I prayed — fervently and frequently. I prayed for sick family and friends only to watch them die. I prayed for financial empowerment and was passed over. I prayed for the healing of my wife and son from debilitating autoimmune issues only to watch them continuously suffer. I’ve prayed for people in legal situations and watched them endure the hardships of their situation. And I’ve prayed for law enforcement and racists to stop killing people who look like me.

And all I hear is crickets.

So when I hear “god is just,” I just laugh. Matter of fact — if god exists — when I meet this god, I’m going to demand an apology. Because I’m tired of my cries — and the cries of others — for justice.

The christian church is good at mimicking their god — they favor the people who they think god favors and are only concerned about justice for those who look and think like themselves. Until I hear the christian church demand justice for all people and do more than simply offer “thoughts and prayers,” I deem the christian church both useless and worthless.

 

Derrick Day is the author of Deconstructing Religion. He is also one of the co-hosts of the Heretic Happy Hour Podcast and the host of The Forward Podcast. More recently, Derrick is a contributor to the new book, Before You Lose Your Mind, published by Quoir.

Follow him on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube


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