No Justice, No Peace

“No justice, no peace!”

Monday night, as several Dilworth UMC members and I marched with at least a 1000 other Charlotteans under the banner of Seeking Justice Charlotte to support the Black Lives Matter movement and protest racism and police brutality, we heard and chanted these words.

“No justice, no peace!”

 

Out of all the call and response shouts and songs that were cried out last night, few other phrases were heard as often.

“No justice, no peace!”

 

So many people gathered together that onlookers on Queens Road West reported that it took over five minutes for our procession to pass by.  With such a mass of humanity, it wasn’t uncommon for us to have several chants layered on top of one another as the sound delayed and reverberated from the front to the back of our group.  What started out as the refrain of our march became the syncopated rhythm of our steps.

“No justice, no peace!”

 

As I heard these words repeated again and again and held up my end of the call and response, I had plenty of opportunity to meditate on this short, but powerful phrase.  At first, I have to admit, this chant sounds rather threatening.  We read in between the lines and hear an if-then statement.  If there is no justice, then there will be no peace!  In the context of a march or protest, the subtext reads ‘if you (the government/leaders/society) don’t provide justice, then we (the protestors/marchers/people) won’t let there be peace.

“No justice, no peace!”

 

However as I heard this phrase repeated, with the sounds of the words reaching my ears at different times and out of order from my position in the middle of the crowd, it came to take on a different meaning.  Rather than an if-then statement, perhaps this chant is a more philosophical statement on the nature of justice and peace themselves.

I am reminded of the quote by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that “true peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.”  What my fellow protestors were reminding their neighbors from Myers Park is that there is no such thing as peace without justice.  Any peace we experience, while living in an unjust society is a lie and an illusion.  Any peace we cling to in order to shield us from the pain of injustice is a false peace.

“No justice, no peace!”

 

I have come to learn that liturgy is more than words we say together during our services on Sunday, but the rhythms that give our lives meaning and purpose.  “No justice, no peace!” became a liturgy for me last night.  As I repeated these words walking side by side with brothers and sisters from all backgrounds and walks of life, we became united by this mantra, our love for humanity, and our commitment to seeing its dignity preserved.

Yesterday’s march was one of the most powerful and spiritual experiences of my life.  I offer my church family a simple prayer to guide your thoughts and actions during these difficult days.  I hope that these words will echo in your heart and mind until they become internalized in your body.  I pray that they will become a living liturgy for you and you would be captivated by their simplicity and truth. Finally, I pray that you would recognize the voice of God chanting alongside of you

“No justice, no peace!    

-Pastor Cade

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