The power of being dissatisfied

Crazy Faith Ministries

On this, the week of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday, and as a new administration prepares to occupy the White House, there is a need for pause – a pause to remember where we have been, what we have fought for and what we must yet fight for – again.

The incoming administration is preparing to repeal the Affordable Care Act with no replacement in sight. Relations between the United States and Russia are getting more tense, and China is not pleased with what it has experienced thus far with the president-elect.

There has been an ongoing effort to suppress the right to vote of Black and poor people, too many people of color are still being shot to death – either in the streets or by police officers – and criminal justice reform seems as far away as ever. In spite of the U.S. Justice Department finding evidence of excessive force in some major municipalities, the likelihood of that phenomenon going away any time soon is not likely.

It would be easy to fall into a spirit of despair, but despair is not allowed. Oppression and injustice has always been a part of life and always will be; it is the responsibility of people who know justice is necessary to continually fight for it and to bring more people into the fray. There is a blessing, actually, in feeling dissatisfied on the eve of President Obama leaving office, for it is dissatisfaction that leads to action, and from action, comes change.

King knew the journey of fighting for justice, how the road was often bumpy, how sometimes those on the journey had to take a couple of steps back, change direction, get re-fueled … and then go forward yet again. Dr. William Barber says that America “needs a heart transplant.” King said in 1967 that we must say, “America, you must be born again!”

King said to those gathered at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference that those in attendance must be prepared to go forth with “a divine dissatisfaction.” He said that fighters for justice must be dissatisfied with a number of things. He said they must be dissatisfied until slums were cast into the junk heaps of history, until segregated schools were cast into bright tomorrows of integrated education, until every state capitol was housed by a governor who would do justly, who will love mercy and who will walk humbly with [His] God. He said those present had to go away determined to be dissatisfied until “from every city hall, justice [would] roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream,” and until everyone realized that “out of one blood, God made all people to dwell upon the face of the earth.”

It is ironic and unsettling that much of why King said we must be dissatisfied is still the reality. God’s people – Black people, Brown people, women, people with emotional and mental challenges – have struggled and have made some progress, but with every wave of progress, there are steps backward; those in power recoil at the reality of there possibly being more “liberty and justice for all,” and they do all they can to reverse the changes made.

There have been changes in this country, but the changes have ebbed and flowed; Barber says we are in the midst of America’s “Third Reconstruction.” The thought of Whites no longer being the majority ethnic group in this country by 2063, a prediction based on population trends in this country, has been troubling to them. Those in power are fighting to retain power, and power, remembering the words of Frederick Douglass, “concedes nothing without a struggle.”

So, we prepare to struggle, to wrestle with against powers and principalities yet again, using our dissatisfaction as the spiritual water for our parched souls. We are in a dark place, but we have been in a dark place before, and every time we go into the ring to fight for justice, we get a little further along. Things will never be like nostalgic Americans want them to be; “that other America” is long gone, though there are enough people who remember what things used to be like. Those days will never be back. In our dissatisfaction, we have to move forward and knock injustice down one more time. Weeping endures for a night but joy comes in the morning … and morning always comes.

Rev. Dr. Susan K Smith is available for preaching and speaking engagements. Contact her at susan@sdpconference.info or at cassady2euca@icloud.com.

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