from Aanchal Narang
"For he will deliver the needy who cry you, the afflicted who have no one to help.
He will take pity on the weak and the the needy and save the needy from death.
He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight" (Psalm 72.12-14)
It’s been a few years since reading scripture like the one above hasn’t made me feel angry or hopeless. These feelings began when I was working at an orphanage in India four years ago – details are not necessary, but suffice it to say I became intimately aware of what anyone who works with disenfranchised and vulnerable populations may be aware of : injustice is decimating and will laugh in your face if you think you can fix it. And the small victories, do not, do not feel enough.
You don’t have to go as far as India, or even to Heroin Alley in south Boston to see disparity, violence, and the effects of injustice and oppression. You’ll see it in your laboratories at Harvard and you’ll see it in churches across the city. We all know this. We know there’s a fault line in this universe and it runs straight through us, too. Good and evil are present in every cell of our body. And God and his justice seem worlds away.
It wasn’t only my work at the orphanage or my work subsequent that has made me feel hopeless. In the past years it’s been compounded with my sense of personal affliction and neediness, of a lack of justice where I see it fit to be. All of this is submerged by a layer of guilt, because when I do not see systemic justice in the world today – in any corner of the world – how can I expect God to vindicate me in my personal oppressions?
I rage at earthly injustice, but I recoil at the idea of cosmic justice – at the idea of the saved and unsaved. Justice is a hard word for me, an iron word, and it doesn’t feel approachable. In this Lenten time, as I’ve been confronted with it again, I think of the idea of freedom instead. Like the psalmist above says – deliverance, saving, rescue.
For myself, I want freedom from my anger or feeling of victimhood more than I want any justice wrought out on an individual. For the children I worked with at the orphanage, or the people in the villages around me, I desire freedom from fear and oppression. Freedom to name violences, freedom of truth, freedom from pain and the corrosive effects of trauma.
So when I go back and think about cosmic justice, can I think about it separated from freedom? The psalmist says God delivers the needy, and rescues the oppressed. In another psalm, he also promises that wrongdoers will be destroyed. So what happens when victim and perpetrator exist in the same body? What can cosmic justice be when the target of God’s anger is also the target of his freedom?
If you’ve read this far, forgive me for not having more of an answer. It’s these thoughts that foment in my heart during this Lenten season, and it’s these thoughts that make me grateful for the sweetness of the cross. Because it is only in the cross that the fault line is sealed up, that the crack is bridged, that freedom and justice can exist in the same individual. I don’t know what it means for our world and for my own senses of injustice. But it’s where I’ll be for now.
I live in Sharon with my parents, have too much fun working at Church of the Cross, and have recently made my childhood bedroom into a lovely painting, writing and ukulele playing studio. Writing and enjoying the sweet and annoying season of living with one's parents. Really into capers and tahini these days. Together, yes. Will start a farming gig in a few short months - look out for the upcoming farmer's tan and dirty fingernails.