Higher Ground for Jena Tensions?

The world and the blogosphere have been abuzz recently about a racial infraction that seems to have hit an archetypal nerve: A small Louisiana town, a “white’s only” tree in a high schoolyard, black students desiring parity and being threatened with nooses hanging in the tree. A rupture of deep-seated tensions, fights break out, white students get slapped on the wrist and black students get charged with attempted murder and thrown in jail.

As a human being, as a friend/follower of Jesus, and as someone married to an African-American woman, I am appalled by what happened in Jena, Louisiana. If you’ve been under a rock the past several weeks, you can review what’s been happening here. See also this informative (slightly dated, but in a good way–you’ll see) bit of guerrilla journalism from Philebrity TV (HT: Pilgrimguide):

I am glad that concerned people of all ethnicities have taken to the streets of Jena and are calling for justice. And yet as I observe what’s happening, I wish there was a higher way.  

Rev. Al Sharpton, I guess it was last Thursday, called for “federal intervention to protect people from Southern injustice.” While I understand his sentiment (and I’m sure that of many others), I’m not sure that “federal intervention” is what we need. Justice goes so much deeper than retribution; it is reconciliation and restoration. Rev. Sharpton, I feel, is perpetuating a culture-war mentality that is so pervasive in politics and religion these days. But if you want the heart of an encrusted white southerner to change, calling for Federal injunctions against him might not be the best strategy. As Ben Reid, a Jena local (and an African-American) said, “You have good people here and bad people here, on both sides…what we ought to do is sit down and talk this thing out, ’cause once all is said and done and you media folks leave, we’re the ones who’re going to have to live here.”

So what would be an approach to “livable justice”? How can we draw out people’s highest impulses to produce not merely “rights” and an abatement of hostilities, but a celebrative, integrative community? Your thoughts?

3 Responses to “Higher Ground for Jena Tensions?”


  1. 1 Four Eyes September 24, 2007 at 9:42 pm

    Not surprisingly, it seems, this is the first I have heard of the struggle in Jena. The concept of “livable justice” seems so complex in our post 9/11 world. The best I can offer is the observation that reconciliation is often traced through incarnation, birthed from sacrificial love.

    Basically one side has to stop this returning the favor and exacting revenge and instead return kindness for evil. Someone has to lose a little for everyone to have opportunity to win.

  2. 2 brotherjohnny September 25, 2007 at 8:34 pm

    Four Eyes is dead on the money.

    Those involved in this incident need a revelation of Christ.

    I believe that Martin Luther King jr. had a revelation of Jesus Christ, and thus was willing and able to return kindness (non-violence) for evil (persecution).

    And even still, it cost him his life.

    Exposing the sin of racism to the world at large is only stating the obvious.
    This is all the media has done up to this point.
    “This is wrong!!”

    No kidding?

    Of course it’s wrong.

    I know…
    Some people don’t think it’s wrong, and in fact they enjoy practicing and promoting hatred of their fellow human beings.

    Perhaps they are simply unaware that even their hateful thoughts and statements prove their own hearts to be full of darkness.

    It has been said that,’Hurt people, hurt__ people.”

    So true.

    These people need Jesus Christ.
    They do not need their religious or nonreligious backgrounds.
    They do not need retrospective-inner child hypnotism.
    Most importantly….
    They do not need another sermon about how much they need Jesus…

    But they need Jesus.

    Dr.King, I believe, was Jesus to those who beat him and those who were responsible for his death.
    The Spirit of God was working in him to respond to the violence which gravitated to him so naturally.

    I do not know all of the details of the Jena story, but I believe that somewhere in the midst, someone with some ground on the side of righteousness is suffering at the hand of corrupt government and wickedness in high places.

    This is just the way it works.

    So in answer to this question:

    “So what would be an approach to “livable justice”? How can we draw out people’s highest impulses to produce not merely “rights” and an abatement of hostilities, but a celebrative, integrative community?”

    To me, what you are asking is, “How do we impart transformational joy into the lives of other people?”

    Give them Jesus Christ…
    but not in word only, also in deed.

    Invite them all to the table.

    Embody the Great Physician and allow HIM to heal the sick….

    But…

    As is the case with those who have been hurt….so it is with those who have been healed….

    So if we have….
    Let us ‘pay it forward’…

    Let us do ‘greater works than’ His!

  3. 3 zoecarnate September 27, 2007 at 4:40 am

    Right on, both of you. Let revelation reign!


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