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'Justice is the extension of love': Bishop Eric Butler caps Creighton MLK week with rousing keynote

Bishop Eric L. Butler delivers the 2019 Unity Prayer Luncheon keynote address to cap the 2019 Creighton Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration week.Toting up the freedoms one presently enjoys in the United States, Bishop Eric L. Butler, delivering the keynote address at Wednesday’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Prayer Luncheon, argued that the nation is more at liberty than perhaps it has ever been in its history.

But striking upon the theme for Creighton University’s 2019 commemoration of the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., “Freedom and Famine,” Butler opined that relatively few have availed their freedoms in service to their fellow citizens.

“You can go where you want, change your name, change your hairstyle,” Butler told a packed Ahmanson Ballroom for the culminating event of the annual weeklong celebration. “But I would also argue we are in the midst of a famine. A famine of love, of care, of law, of integrity, of justice. And the question is: Are we going to use our freedoms to address our famine?”

Butler, a third-generation pastor in the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) and founder of Joy of Life Ministries in Omaha, issued a challenge to his audience based on virtues of love and shared humanity.

Recalling Jesus’ invocation in Matthew 22, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets,” Butler appealed to the unitary life and fate of all people.

“There is one race of people — the human race, living in the human world,” he said. “We are codependent whether we like it or not. We are in this together whether we like it or not. This is the consequence and the fundamental requirement of love. The Ten Commandments rest on love, and justice is the extension of love. Justice includes charity and love as an obligation, a requirement for our lives on this earth.”

And yet, recent events in the U.S. and around the world, Butler said, speak to a dearth, a famine of love and justice but, more pointedly, a seeming indifference to injustice and suffering.

“We seem to be in a place where we don’t want to cry out against the injustices around us,” he said.

The question being posed to the human race now, Butler said, is that which God asked of Adam in Genesis when the first human had committed his sin and hidden from his creator.

“God asked, ‘Where are you?’” Butler said. “It’s not a question of where are you physically, but where are you in your mind? What are you thinking? For us, the question is, ‘Where are you with your commitment to love, to justice, to integrity?’ Are you using your freedoms to end the famine of love, justice, integrity?”

Also part of the luncheon, Creighton’s Drum Major Award was presented to former Omaha Police Chief Thomas H. Warren Sr., now president and chief executive officer of the Urban League of Nebraska. Warren, in his remarks, recalled the legacy of Whitney M. Young Jr., who led the National Urban League from 1961 until his untimely death in 1971.

Prior to that posting, Young headed the Nebraska Chapter in the 1950s, where he partnered with Creighton Jesuit the Rev. John Markoe, SJ, on early civil rights initiatives in Omaha.

“And it is in that legacy that we continue to do the work of the Urban League,” Warren said. “Those of us privileged to be in a leadership position have a responsibility to be of service.”

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