Jesus, Social Justice, and the City of Los Angeles
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy.
-Proverbs 31:8-9 (NIV)
I just finished watching a great documentary (and by great I mean informative) on the history of African-American gangs in Los Angeles, called Crips & Bloods: Made in America. Click here to watch on Netflix (if you have it).
As a pastor in the city of LA, although not close to the region the film is about, I see it as my duty to learn the history of my city, especially as it relates to justice and the corresponding evils that oppose it (racism, hatred, oppression). The verse above in Proverbs 31:8-9 should give you a good idea why.
Jesus doesn’t say that his followers have the option of siting on the sidelines and ignoring injustice. Often our understanding of sin is related to sins of commission, that is, doing wrong things. But Scripture also speaks of the things we are commanded TO DO, not just not do. Those are called sins of omission. It is not an option not to seek justice, forgive, love all regardless of our difference, etc.
This is why the documentary was so fascinating, and broke my heart. It roots much of the current and past state of racial violence and gang activity in LA to the history of racism and oppression in the African-American community. I don’t think the film doesn’t also give the view point that people are responsible for their own wrongdoing, but rightly points out that just as culpable, if not more, are the (sinful) systems of oppression that we all may take part in.
Awareness is just one of the ways I am seeking to do justice and understand the issues in my city. My prayer is God would continue to show me ways I and my church can seek justice in LA, in Jesus’s name.
If anyone knows of any other films or resources that shed light on the LA ethnic history of Latinos or Asian-Americans or other ethnic groups here, I’d love to know! Send me an email or make a comment below.
If you’ve seen the film, what do you think? How are you seeing issues of social justice that you should help bring an end to and make a difference?