In America, there is a persistent and false cultural assumption that is rarely spoken but widely believed.
Many people believe that we get what we deserve, economically, socially and vocationally. The idea is that if you are poor, you should work harder and be a better (moral) person. If you are affluent, then you must be working hard and be a good, worthy individual.
Nothing could be further from the truth. And the worst part is that many of the people in our churches buy into this worldview, maybe only half-knowingly, but buy it they do. Grace for salvation and all of the material and familial blessings we receive are nothing but a gift. But somehow, we often cannot see that we do not deserve what we have.
Beyond the misunderstanding of why people are poor in the first place, there is an even greater evil.
Those who profit from and intentionally marginalize the needy. There are whole industries run by people, ranging from payday lenders to slumlords to voter suppressors who have put their collective feet on the throat of the poor.
And our system of justice is complicit in the situation as it seems to be slanted towards protecting those who have all the resources and power while ignoring those who find themselves left out of the spoils.
I can't pretend to understand/comprehend the rage that leads to our current situation surrounding the tragic death of unarmed teen Michael Brown. As a believer in non-violence, I grieve the actions of a few criminals souring what could be powerful and peaceful protests.
But I think that we must listen to our brothers and sisters who are speaking out. We should pay attention to the millions of folks who are fed up with a system of "justice" that is clearly bent.