On Aug. 9, 2014, Michael Brown was killed by Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson. In the year that followed, the #BlackLivesMatter movement challenged our nation — and our faith communities — to actively resist systemic racism. But "the church cannot be challenged without also changing our theology," Ryan Herring writes in Sojourners (Sept/Oct 2015). So we asked people of faith: how has the Black Lives Matter movement shaped your theology?
It’s not often words escape us. But in the aftermath of the now viral recording(s) raising concerns over whether Planned Parenthood seeks profit from aborted fetal tissue — and the crassness with which its representative discusses how to accomplish it without “crushing” the tissue/organs — that’s where we were left: with no words. We confess to being at a complete loss of what to say in the face of humanity’s brokenness.
Beyond the ethical questions of how an organization receives payment for tissue sales or the debates around the potential benefits of the patients’ donations of fetal tissue, the videos are an in-your-face reminder of our culture’s blatant disrespect for life.
That disregard is not unique in our society, of course. Journalism: “If it bleeds, it leads.” Medicine: “There’s nothing more to be done. She’s a vegetable.” Justice system: “He’s gonna fry.” War: “Light ‘em up.” Uncomfortable questions about life and death and ethics are best papered over with emotionless cliché, obviously.
As a society and as individuals, when we fail to recognize the imago dei in others, we trend further away from our uniquely human capacity to empathize and closer to isolated, analytical, and almost robotic assessments of value.
We have a deal. And many of us in the faith community are relieved.
After months of negotiations, missing deadlines, and many stressful final days in Vienna, Iran has agreed to halt its nuclear weapons program for a decade or more, and allow credible international agencies to significantly monitor its behavior. In return, sanctions against Iran will be lifted once it demonstrates compliance on its end. Meanwhile, the West is hopeful that a younger Iranian generation might begin to liberalize the country, prompting a fuller entry into the modern world over the next 10 years. That hope remains to be seen.
Many of us in the faith community have called for diplomacy instead of the only plausible alternative: war with Iran.
When members of the House Republican leadership met with several evangelical and Catholic leaders in 2014, they promised to our faces that they would bring serious immigration reform to the House floor for a vote. They failed to live up to that promise, deciding instead to cave to their white-washed right wing base. Some Republican members admitted to us that many of their constituents were expressing clear racial biases.
I believe Donald Trump is deliberately and directly appealing to that white racist core of the Republican Party, and that’s why he is currently number two in the Republican polls. He is selling racism and he is winning.
I know and trust Republicans and conservative friends who reject such racism — want to purge it from their party — and long for a wider, more diverse Republican Party for the future. Indeed, the Republican votes, and even impassioned speeches, to take down the Confederate flag in South Carolina show a tale of two Republican parties — and that is a hopeful contrast to the racist elements of the party to which Trump is selling himself.
It is time for them to stand up to Donald Trump and what he is selling.
It is painfully true that in our time, in this year, in the United States, there is still no safe space for black people in America — even in their own churches. Racism is America’s original sin. It expresses itself explicitly and overtly in what we horribly saw last week in a black church, but racism continues on, implicitly and covertly, in American institutions and culture.
We are brokenhearted by the murders of nine parishioners at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. We join our brothers and sisters in deep lament for the lives lost in this evil act, and our prayers go out to all of the victims, their families and their communities.
Atrocities like this wound the very soul of our nation. We must not merely attribute this horror to the depraved actions of one individual, mourn those we have lost, and move on as if there is nothing more to do. In his statement yesterday, President Obama quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s words in the wake of the bombing of a black church in Birmingham, Alabama in which four little girls were killed:
"...We must be concerned not merely with who murdered [these girls], but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers. Their death says to us that we must work passionately and unrelentingly for the realization of the American Dream."
The deep wounds of racism, America's original sin, still linger in our society, our institutions, and in our minds and hearts — sometimes explicitly, but far more pervasively through unconscious bias. Wednesday's terrorist act is the latest manifestation of this lingering sin. Are there no safe places for black people in our country, even the places where they come together to worship?
We all have the responsibility to overcome both the attitudes and the structures of racism in America. Today we mourn, but tomorrow we must act.
1. A Call for a National Lament
"Lament … is not a passive act. Many Christians may hear the word lament and assume that feeling bad about suffering is the purpose of lament. How sad that people died. How sad that the shooter had a mental illness. But lament moves beyond bad feelings for the privileged. ... Lament voices the prayers of the suffering and therefore serves as an act of protest against the powers."
2. Recalling Nine Spiritual Mentors, Gunned Down During Night of Devotion
“The nine victims — three men and six women, who ranged in age from 26 to 87 — were leaders, motivators, counselors and the people everyone could turn to for a heap of prayer, friends and relatives said.”
3. WATCH: Jon Stewart on Charleston Shooting
“This one is black and white. There’s no nuance here. … Nine people were shot in a black church by a white guy who hated them who wanted to start some kind of civil war. The confederate flag flies over South Carolina, and the roads are named for confederate generals. And the white guy feels like he’s the one who’s feels like this country has been taken away from him.”
4. WATCH: Changing the World Through Faith & Justice
Sojourners is hosting The Summit this week, and the conversations have been powerful. To catch all of today’s sessions, WATCH the livestream throughout the day and follow along on social media using #summitforchange. You can also view recorded sessions from the past two days. *Recordings available for a limited time.
Lament is not a passive act. Many Christians may hear the word lament and assume that feeling bad about suffering is the purpose of lament. How sad that people died. How sad that the shooter had a mental illness. But lament moves beyond bad feelings for the privileged. Lament is subversive and an act of protest. The powerful and the privileged have no problem being heard. It is the marginalized that need to be heard. The voiceless speak through lament. They cry out that things aren’t right. They are not the way things are supposed to be. Lament voices the prayers of the suffering and therefore serves as an act of protest against the powers.
I am grieving and lamenting and beyond angry over what feels like open season on the black community/church right now in the U.S. White Christians, this is the time to pay attention and be part of our nation’s struggle to understand and address the continual violence happening against our black sisters and brothers. When one part of the Body hurts we all hurt. When one part of the Body is repeatedly targeted, killed, not protected, pulled out of swimming pools, seen as threats when unarmed – and then misrepresented, silenced, or made small through ahistoric excuses, side-stepping through political mess, or any other form of evil – we need to stand up. We need to show up – loudly. We need to demand a different response – and start with our people in the church.
Their presence reminds communities globally that sexual violence is not just a women’s issue. It is a human rights issue, and we need our sons to stand with young women as the next generation works to heal the whole community. Our sons understand the struggles of growing up on social media and witnessing the privacy of others exploited with a single click. They grew up in schools that prepare for mass shootings. They understand things differently than we do, and we need them to help lead us now that they are in college and entering the workforce.