Last week in China, Xu Zhiyong was sentenced to 4 years in prison for “disturbing the peace.” His crime was “organizing a grass-roots New Citizens Movement, which sought to give voice to public discontent over official corruption and social injustice” (NY TIMES, 1-26-14). In his closing statement at trial, on January 22, 2014, Zhiyong spoke of the core values of the movement: “freedom, justice and love.”
It is hard to believe, but it wasn’t that long ago that our own country struggled to find the line between freedom of speech and public disorder /disintegration of societal rules. For many baby-boomers, one figure stands out as a spokesman for the same ideals of which Zhiyong spoke. Sometimes in the shadows, other times at the forefront, and quite often writing or singing the soundtrack, Pete Seeger invited audiences to sing along to the theme of Justice, Love, and Freedom.
By now, you have probably heard of the passing of Pete Seeger at age 94. He will be remembered for songs such as, “We Shall Overcome,” “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” “Turn, Turn, Turn,” and “Big Rock Candy Mountain.” But Seeger’s, “If I Had A Hammer” probably encapsulates his message the best.
The closing verses promise to hammer, ring, and sing Justice, Freedom, and Love between my brothers and my sisters and all over this land.
Justice, Freedom, and Love are desirable qualities. But they did not originate with Seeger. Songs like Seeger’s, “Turn, Turn, Turn,” come straight from the pages of scripture. So do the very concepts of Justice, Freedom, and Love. We would not know justice, freedom, or love if not for God’s great wisdom, grace, and mercy.
The prophet Amos said, “Seek good and not evil, that you may live; …Hate evil, love good, and establish justice in the gate” (Amos 5:14-15)! May we continue to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with [our] God (Micah 6:8). May we continue to pray that the justice, freedom, and love of God will continue to make progress in China, in America, and in the hearts of all people everywhere.