Advocacy is a Spiritual Imperative
A devotional by Chaplain Paul Anderson
“Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.”
–Proverbs 31:9 (KJV)
Lately the news has been filled with horrible stories of abuse. Rogue police officers facing trial for flagrant abuses of power. Scenes of thousands of children seeking asylum at the southern border of the United States.
Yesterday, I saw the film of a huge man, seemingly unprovoked, kicking an old woman. Even after she was down on the sidewalk, he kept kicking her. What was most galling to me was that there were three men standing within 30 feet of the incident. They did nothing to intervene! Nor did they help the woman after the aggressor left her, wounded and broken, on the sidewalk. Watching the news has often left me wondering about what my role and responsibility in the world is. What do you do when you witness struggling humanity?
The wise writer of Proverbs gives an answer. If you can’t do anything else, open your mouth and say something! To “judge righteously” means to litigate, condemn, avenge, defend, judge, and plead for what is right, equitable, righteous and just.
It is a spiritual imperative to do something to uplift the poor and the needy. The poor among us are not just those with no money or means of earning money. Scripturally, the poor includes those who are depressed in mind or circumstance. In this mindset, a person of means can be poor. The men who did nothing in the above story, by virtue of their social location, were privileged. They may have been in shock, seeing what they saw, but, they were also morally impoverished. Rather than aid the injured woman, one of them closed the door to the building.
I know that many companies tell their employees not to intervene in crisis moments like this. Passivity in moments like these protect the company from liability. I get it, but civility and chivalry demand that someone should have intervened.
When George Floyd was killed on the street in Minneapolis, bystanders were pleading with the policemen to let him up. They lived out the meaning of Proverbs 31:9. They spoke up with righteous indignation. The world watched the horror of that murder. We also saw the bravado of Darnella Frazier the young woman who stood nearby, recorded and published the video. We all heard her, repeatedly, implore, plead and beg for the life of a man she did not know.
As you enter your day, every day, may the instruction of Solomon be resident and reflexive within you. If and when you witness a wrong, intervene! Speak up! Condemn the wrong and speak right into the world. Plead the cause of the poor and needy. Right and righteousness is risky. But silence in the face of evil and wrong demands a higher price.
J. S. Mills poignantly wrote, “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.” Edmund Burke, with some debate, is credited with a similar and more popular statement by David Bromwich: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
As you go through the day, remember these words spoken by Eugene H. Peterson: “Speak up for the people who have no voice, for the rights of all the misfits.”
If you see something, say something!
Let’s Pray: Dear God, please be with us today. Give us the gumption to change the world around us by making a difference for the people closest to us. If we are met with or see an injustice, drive us to speak up and call out the wrong. If we see someone being marginalized, convict us to step up in their defense. And when we act at your promptings, protect us and deliver us from evil. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.
Chaplain Anderson served for 20 years as a U.S. Navy Chaplain. Over 26 years of active duty, he was promoted through the ranks from Seaman Apprentice (E2) to his final rank as Commander (O5) in the Chaplain’s Corps.
Prior to his Naval career, Chaplain Anderson pastored in the Allegheny East and Potomac Conferences of Seventh-day Adventists. His undergraduate preparation for ministry was completed at Washington Adventist University in Takoma Park, Md.
He has subsequently earned four graduate degrees: a Master of Divinity from Andrews University in Michigan, a Master of Education in Counseling and Personnel Services from the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland and a Masters of Sacred Theology in Religion and Culture from Boston University. His Doctor of Ministry degree was conferred by Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.
Chaplain Anderson also completed four units of Clinical Pastoral Education at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He also holds certifications in Suicide Awareness and Prevention, Civil Mediation, Alternative Workplace Dispute Resolution, Temperament Analysis, Marriage Enrichment, Workforce Diversity, and is a certified Life Coach.
You may connect with Chaplain Anderson via email at this address, email@example.com.