Protest

'Now is a Time for Theology to Thrive'

AUG. 9, 2014, is a day I’ll never forget. It was the day that Michael Brown was killed by Ferguson, Mo. police officer Darren Wilson.

For many young people in the United States, especially those of us involved in the Black Lives Matter movement, this was our Sept. 11. We all remember exactly where we were and what we were doing when the news broke of another police-involved killing of an unarmed black citizen.

I was in the final days of a yearlong internship with Sojourners. My fellow interns and I were on our closing retreat in West Virginia. I was on my phone checking my Twitter timeline when I began to see retweets of images: Michael Brown laid out on Canfield Drive with blood still leaking from his bullet wounds. I remember the anger that instantly came over me. “Not another one!” was all I could think.

As the day wore on, I felt frustrated that I was stuck in a retreat house, forced to sit idly by while the grieving community in Ferguson was antagonized by officers in riot gear with police dogs. I knew then that I had to do whatever it would take to join the people in this fight for justice. I never imagined how this movement would change the way I—and many others—actually do theology.

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Things Fall Apart

jadimages / Shutterstock

jadimages / Shutterstock

If Facebook feeds are any measure of anxiety levels, then we’re reaching a new high. Friends’ posts share news of overt hatred and violence, the likes of which we haven’t seen in decades:

  • A seemingly unending onslaught of police killings of unarmed black people.
  • White supremacists shooting people as they pray, setting fire to churches, and shooting into crowds of multiethnic protesters.
  • More than 1,000 mass shootings in the U.S. since the 2012 massacre of children at Sandy Hook.
  • Millions of Syrian and African refugees flowing into Europe—the greatest movement of people across Europe since the Holocaust.
  • The so-called Islamic State ushering in what looks to be a new world war.
  • Oh, and the climate is changing at an alarming rate.

It feels like the world is unraveling.

But what if it is? What if we are, in fact, witnessing the end of the world as we know it? Would that be so bad?

Think about it. The world order, as we know it, rests on deep foundations built by worldwide colonization, imperialism, slavery, patriarchy, exploitation, and ecological consumption. Most of the violence listed above traces back to economic and social systems of dominance—one group over another or humanity’s domination of the rest of creation. White supremacists feel threatened because people of color are finally rising up and saying “No more!”

While 16 mass shootings occurred between 1995 and 2005, there were 38 from 2005 to 2015, according to a recent report by Mother Jones. In recent years, people have pushed against the gun lobby with all their might, but the NRA seemed invincible.

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Rally Outside New Trump Hotel in D.C. Denounces ‘The Donald’ and Racism

Image via Ryan Hammill/Sojourners.

Speakers at the rally included representatives of the Islamic and Christian communities, the National Organization for Women, Code Pink, and Ghada Mukhdad, a Syrian refugee and member of the Syrian Civil Coalition which, according to their website, is a “lobby of Syrian civil society organizations, activists, and initiatives” that seeks to address “the increasing gap between the needs and priorities of the Syrian society on one hand and those making decisions concerning Syria.” 

Dear Speaker Ryan: We're Keeping Our Promise on Immigration Reform

Image via /Shutterstock.com

On their first day in office, newly elected members of the U.S. House of Representatives take an oath on the House floor — to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

But before his election as Speaker of the House, Rep. Paul Ryan took another oath — this time to the so-called “Freedom Caucus,” a group of several dozen overwhelmingly white, conservative Congressmen from overwhelmingly white, conservative congressional districts.

Specifically, reports the National Review, the oath “extracts Ryan’s word that he will not bring up comprehensive immigration reform ‘so long as Barack Obama is president’ and, as speaker, even in the future, Ryan will not allow any immigration bill to reach the floor for a vote unless a ‘majority’ of GOP members support it.”

In short, in order to become the new speaker of the House, Ryan has vowed to block immigration reform from coming to a vote until January 2017 — at the earliest.

This is the second time Ryan has made a pledge on immigration reform. I remember the first: in 2014, Ryan called me at the Sojourners office, offering to help Christians pass comprehensive immigration reform. That led to meetings in Ryan’s office with key evangelical leaders about how to do that strategically, with Ryan telling us that the “evangelical factor” on immigration reform was something he had never seen before.

He promised us on several occasions that he would help bring immigration reform bills to the floor of the House. Many other Republicans promised the same thing to evangelical pastors who came to visit them from their districts.

Fifty Years Ago, a Quaker Lit Himself on Fire to Protest War. How Can I Understand It?

Image via /Shutterstock.com

As he poured the gallon jug of kerosene over his head, onlookers reacted with disbelief. Before anyone knew what to do, he lit a match. In one terrible instant, 31-year-old Quaker Norman Morrison set himself ablaze in front of the Pentagon, just 40 feet below the 3rd floor window of Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara.

Moments before ignition, Morrison passed his 11-month-old daughter, Emily, to a bystander. His wife and two other children were in Baltimore that day, unaware of what this young husband and father had planned.

Though his terrifying act of self-destruction, Morrison brought the Vietnam War home to a country that was still largely unaware of the widespread atrocities taking place in Southeast Asia. It was hard for most Americans to comprehend the true human cost of U.S. carpet bombing, and the incineration of whole families in the name of peace and security. Even the U.S. military officials leading the war effort did not understand on a visceral level what it meant to burn human beings alive in Vietnam.

Norman Morrison provided a live demonstration.

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Faith in Ferguson

Leah Gunning Francis

Leah Gunning Francis

Young people ignited by injustice, refusing to back down. A nation waking up to the reality of racial disparities. And a church that can no longer remain silent. This, says Eden Theological Seminary professor Leah Francis Gunning, is the real “Ferguson Effect.” As she protested in Ferguson over the past year, Gunning collected interviews from clergy and young organizers. The result is Ferguson and Faith: Sparking Leadership & Awakening Community (Chalice Press, 2015), a behind-the-scenes look at the role of the church in the Black Lives Matter movement. Sojourners interviewed Francis to learn more about the religious community’s role in supporting and sustaining a racial justice movement started by young activists.

Pope Francis: Protestant?

Pope Francis in 2014

Pope Francis in 2014, giulio napolitano / Shutterstock.com

Someone has said that Pope Francis is really a Protestant. He is, if Protestant is defined as someone who protests. His recent encyclical Laudato si' is a protest against the often irresponsible industries as they pollute the environment.

Pope Francis especially protests the ways in which coal is burned in the production of electricity. He is right to protest. What comes out of the smoke stacks of coal-fed electric power plants is linked to 50,000 deaths a year, according to Physicians for Social Responsibility. Because children and the elderly among the poor are the most vulnerable, the pope, following his namesake, St. Francis, has a special concern for those that Jesus calls "the least of these."

#SayHerName

BGM

“BLACK WOMEN AND GIRLS are killed by the police, too.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received a blank stare when I made this statement, even in activist spaces. Occasionally I’ll see a few affirmative nods, but overwhelmingly there is apathy. I leave with a sick feeling, wondering, “Where is the rage and protest for my sisters?” and “Who will fight for my life?”

In May, Black Lives Matter, Black Youth Project 100, and Ferguson Action came together for a national day of action for black women and girls. We wanted to shed light on the fact that black women and girls, in all our complexities, have been erased from the broader narrative of police terrorism and modern-day lynching in this country. Cities such as Oakland, Calif., New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, and Miami all participated in powerful acts of public resistance that involved reading the names of women who have been killed by police and using the hashtag #SayHerName as an awareness tool on social media.

Speaking our sisters’, daughters’, and mothers’ names at a vigil on a day set aside to acknowledge our humanity is powerful, because it says: When the world has forgotten Mya, Aiyana, Tanisha, Rekia (and so many others), we will not forget.

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Joel Osteen Heckled During Church Service, Six Arrested

Lakewood Church / RNS

Joel Osteen preaches at Lakewood church. Photo via Lakewood Church / RNS

Six people were arrested at Lakewood Church June 28 after heckling Pastor Joel Osteen while he was preaching, according to Houston Police.

The individuals are from Wells, Texas, and are associated with The Church of Wells.

Casey Eaglin was at Sunday’s 11 a.m. service and just a few seats away from one of the protesters.

“He jumped up with his Bible and started screaming ‘Shame on you Joel, shame on you Joel’ and Joel kind of just repeated Scripture and they just escorted them out,” said Eaglin.

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