How Long…Standing in the Mirror

Obama Praying
Standing in front of the mirror the question emerged and nagged me without ceasing, “What have I done today to make life better for someone other than myself?” How long must I stand still staring at the reflection that resembles a familiar face? Will the inquiry continue to eat away at my conscious and stab my heart with a sharp blame dripping with guilt?

“How long, Oh Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save?” asked the prophet Habakkuk as he watched the triumph of evil across his nation. He cried out to God because he felt abandoned by his Creator. Habakkuk was a prophet-priest who did not understand why God allowed political abuse and social injustice to tarry while his people suffered.

No doubt prophets, priests, and people across America are echoing Habakkuk’s call for help today. We read the headlines in newspapers and hear commentaries on radio and television about what appears to be a period of misery and low intelligence in high places. And, we, too, ask, “How long, Oh Lord, must we call for help?”

Lest we forget, the leadership in office today at all three branches of the federal government has been placed there by the people who voted. Of course, some citizens may rebut such circumstances by saying the occupant of the executive branch was elected by a minority count and only through an antiquated Electoral College did we arrive at this moment.

While there may be a modicum of truth to such sentiment, the deeper truth in reality is the nation earned and deserved the outcome of the most recent National Election. Consider for a moment the ill treatment of the previous President of the United States.

President Barack Hussein Obama was a decent human being. While not perfect by any means, he was considerate, moderate, and, yes, decent by any measure. He held to his highest values and purpose while in office with the intent of making America a nation not divided by Blue States and Red States but to come together as the United States of America. He tried to persuade his allies and adversaries to join his campaign to sew this country into a single thread of diversity without division. In the midst of his yeoman efforts, there was a concerted campaign to deny any and all of his initiatives regardless of their merits.

However, for all his opponents’ shenanigans to assure his failure in the White House, President Obama succeeded in out-thinking, out-witting, and out-performing his opposition. Although he was not able to push through all of the more enlightened and progressive programs he desired for the people of this country and members of the international community, he never faltered on his principles and higher standards.

Did he make mistakes in office? Yes. Did he make decisions that he may regret? Yes. Did he embarrass himself or our nation? No. Did he ever give up? No.

Standing in front of the mirror and wondering what more could this writer, pastor, community organizer have done to assist the President, the flash of rolling lists focuses on one particular point. I could have organized more effectively and stood more upright in public.

As a person of faith, I could have fallen on my knees more often and petitioned the Eternal Power to guide our President and inspire more people to come off the sidelines and enter the political arena.

For America to rise out of the mire of backward thinking and retrogressive action, it is time for people of goodwill and faith to pray to God for mercy

More than anything else, the man standing in front of the mirror could have knocked on more neighbors’ doors and inquired about their well-being. For America to rise out of the mire of backward thinking and retrogressive action, it is time for people of goodwill and faith to pray to God for mercy; to encourage others to show compassion; to humble ourselves and recognize we need each other no matter who they are or where they come from; and, we need to repent for the sins this nation has wrought on its indigenous and forcibly enslaved peoples.

America must repent for all the wrongs it has committed from its inception right up to this very moment with its various warmongering, unjust invasions, and episodes of disaster spreading like an infection and virus around the world. Failure to look at ourselves honestly in the mirror and to listen sensitively to the cries of the wounded, broken, and frightened masses who linger and long for change…real change…in domestic and foreign policies can only result in a direction that is destined to lead us deeper and closer to destruction.

The ancient prophet Habakkuk could not escape his reality at a time when all that mattered was shattered and falling apart before his very eyes. We have had prophets within our lifetimes who warned America about her course and hell bent determination to give greater priority to profit, greed, materialism, violence, and militarism. The question is worthy to be asked again, “How long, Oh Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” Indeed, as one poet-prophet reminded us, “The children are crying!”

God still hears the cries of the innocent. God still stands on the side of justice. God is not pleased with a nation that purports to be religious and righteous but treats its poor like trash and its foreign born worse than unwanted strangers. My grandmother used to say, “God does not like ugly.”

The cries of the weary and worn peoples have already reached the ears of God. All of us are living on borrowed time…like waiting for the Big One to hit California…as the well-earned wrath of God will surely pour down upon us. How long, oh Lord, must your people suffer?

Now, don’t just stand there staring in front of the mirror. Do something!

Join Justice Not Jails and the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity at our community organizing session on Thursday, June 8, at 7:00 PM in the fellowship hall of Macedonia Baptist Church located at 1751 East 114th Street, Los Angeles 90049.

And come to our town hall meeting with the chairperson of the new Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Civilian Oversight Commission on Saturday, June 10, at 10:00 AM in the fellowship hall of Ward AME Church located at 1177 W 25th St, Los Angeles 90007.

Justice Not Jails is a program of Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity. Become a member and visit our Website:

Rev. Dr. Art Cribbs

About Art Cribbs

The Rev. Dr. Art Cribbs is the executive director of Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, a statewide faith-based organization, that advocates for workers and immigrant rights, quality education, and health care.