by Phil Morice Brubaker

Psalm 19:7-8, 10

The law of the Lord is perfect,
    refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
    making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right,
    giving joy to the heart….
The decrees of the Lord are firm,
    and all of them are righteous.

In these days after the Department of Justice’s report on Darren Wilson and police brutality in Ferguson, these words from the Psalmist sound too good to be true. A law that is perfect? Trustworthy? Right? Righteous? Something that we certainly don’t have in the United States, where officers can kill people of color in an environment of extensive, systemic racial bias and it does “not constitute a prosecutable violation.”

This finding didn’t surprise me. Federal civil rights laws are notoriously difficult to prosecute. Far from perfect.


Alabama State troopers attack civil-rights demonstrators outside Selma, Alabama, on Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965

Fifty years ago today in Selma, citizens working for more righteous laws were brutally attacked by law enforcement officers in what became known as Bloody Sunday. We know the history that because of courages souls like these, laws were changed, for the better. But not perfect.

Racism changes. As Malcolm X liked to put it, “Racism is like a Cadillac, they come out with a new model every year.” And every model finds a way to work within the justice system – our imperfect system.

I know that this side of the New Earth, we won’t have perfect laws. But I believe that we can have better laws and a more just system.

Law-Giving God, refresh our souls and make our simple minds wise with an ever deeper understanding of your ways. Your law is love. May we commit ourselves to your love and justice to make our earthly home a place of safety for all. Amen.

Phil Morice Brubaker is coordinator and trainer with Roots of Justice.