Today’s Word from Pastor Jim…  

“Jesus, I have a request. Justice for others, mercy for me.”

In the 1980’s I had a mentor and friend by the name of Jon Nelson. He was the pastor at Central Lutheran Church in Seattle. Jon was a character, rough around the edges, with a gregarious laugh. He came from one of the most prominent families in the Lutheran Church in America.  Jon’s mother, Ruth Youngdahl Nelson, was once arrested in our neighborhood, as she was in a small boat inhibiting the progress of a Trident Submarine.

The first time that I set foot on Whidbey Island was on a trip to the Island County jail to visit Pastor Jon who was doing time for Civil Disobedience. It seemed to be the right thing to do, since I was with him when he was arrested. I had accompanied Jon Nelson and Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen to the gate at the Bangor Submarine Base. The purpose of the trip was to protest, and to have some representatives from the group take part in Civil Disobedience. The unknown young Lutheran pastor from Bainbridge Island would garner little media attention. Consequently, I stood by in protest as the Archbishop and Pastor Jon were arrested.

The goal of their Civil Disobedience was to spark a wider debate about defense spending and the necessity of appropriating billions of dollars on the most lethal nuclear weapon in the United States arsenal. Civil Disobedience is about peacefully disobeying a law and gladly accepting the punishment for that crime, in order to further a cause.

I believe that peaceful protest is not just a right, it is a responsibility. We have been given the gift of democracy. We have voice and vote. We should use this voice and vote to change our country for the better. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” I believe that we are making progress, and I am encouraged that the protests continue, and the sin of institutional racism is being addressed. We have a long way to go; we have a long and painful road ahead of us.

Civil Disobedience, protests, and exercising our right to vote are all critical components in the struggle that is before us; the struggle for justice and an end of oppression. Civil Disobedience is intentional; intentionally breaking the law and gladly accepting the consequences for the betterment of society.

In the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, justice needed to be served. Those responsible needed to be arrested and they were. In cities across America, and now around the world, protests have taken place. Peaceful protesters and peacekeeping public servants should have been able to serve side by side.

When similar protests turned to violence and looting after the death of Freddie Gray in 2015, President Obama said, “There’s no excuse for the kind of violence that we saw yesterday. It is counterproductive. When individuals get crowbars and start prying open doors to loot, they’re not protesting. They’re not making a statement. They’re stealing. When they burn down a building, they’re committing arson. And they’re destroying and undermining businesses and opportunities in their own communities.”

Then President Obama encouraged us toward “soul searching.” We must search our souls and the soul of our nation, and ask what kind of people we want to be. May we search our souls, may we boldly hunger and thirst for justice. May we build up our society by tearing down the systems that oppress the children of God.

There is a place for protest. There is a place for boycott. There is a place for peaceful demonstration. We have a responsibility to vote. There is a place for Civil Disobedience. But there is no place for murder, or looting, or the oppression of any race of people, or the demonization of vast populations of public servants.

“Jesus, I have a request. Justice for others, mercy for me.”

One day closer.

Pastor Jim

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