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March 3, 2014, 12:00 AM

Thinking about injustice

[Author unknown]

Recently, I happened to listen to a conversation that got me to thinking about injustice. The conversation began with a woman describing how her child was not able to find some birthday gifts that he was given the day before. Understandably, the parent, as well as child, were upset about the missing gifts, and others who were part of the conversation became upset as well.

The conversation soon turned to a particular boy who was accused by the adults as having stolen the gifts. The adults then began to belittle this boy, his siblings, as well as his mother.  From what I heard of the conversation, there was no evidence that the accused child had actually taken anything.  It seemed that he was being accused because of who he was, not what he might have done.  The child was branded as a thief, and the adults speculated that he would therefore be punished by God and may very well end up in prison, implying that he deserved both of those consequences.

All of this was said in front of the child who was missing his gifts, and it appeared that perhaps the adults felt that their accusations would somehow comfort the child whose gifts had gone missing.  I was saddened by their attempt to cheer up one child by impugning and calling for punishment of another.  I could not see how one person could be comforted by the idea of someone else suffering.  

So why do I relate this story?  Because it brought forth for me many feelings about how religion has been used over the ages to justify unjust behavior.  Perhaps in the mind of the adults, the accused boy had sinned somehow (perhaps not by stealing, but because he came from a “bad” family) and therefore should be punished by God.  Therefore, they were justified in condemning a child, because God would condemn the child as well.  Instead, it seems to me that the adults were using religion as a “quick fix.”  They could hide behind the punishment ideology without claiming it as their own.  They wouldn’t have to actually think about their actions or their feelings because how they felt could be justified by their religious beliefs.    

Extreme reactions are not unique to any one group of people. This type of behavior is something we can see throughout all of humanity. Its prevalence, however, does not justify this behavior as appropriate.  We all have our own problems; we are all flawed. Yet if we focus on others in negative ways, we do not have to confront ourselves or our own flaws.  –And it is bad enough when the extreme reactions involve other adults; it is inexcusable when a child is attacked in this manner.  And I cannot help but wonder what “lessons” were learned by the child who was missing his gifts. 

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