The rioting that erupted in Baltimore on Monday marked an escalation of the racial turmoil that has flared across the US in recent months following the killings of unarmed black men by white police officers.

If it is simply a matter of forgiving, perhaps better stated as reconciliation, that still leaves the question of the kind of “just world” people are trying to develop—or ought to develop.

Religious leaders have proven to be powerful voices within a larger conversation about “Black Lives Matter,” a conversation that opened up once again this week after the death of a man in North Carolina.
Photo via Joe Alblas / LightWorkers Media / NBC / RNS

John, Mother Mary, and Mary Magdalene in “A.D. The Bible Continues.” Photo via Joe Alblas / LightWorkers Media / NBC / RNS

When The Bible miniseries premiered two years ago, controversy swirled around its depiction of a dark-skinned Satan who some said resembled President Obama, as well as its portrayal of white main characters in the Moroccan landscape.

Fast-forward to the premiere of the sequel, A.D. The Bible Continues, on Easter Sunday (April 5), and you’ll see a decidedly more multicultural cast, the result of “honest” conversations between black church leaders and the filmmakers, Hollywood power couple Mark Burnett and Roma Downey.

“For too long religious programming has neither reflected the look of biblical times or the diversity of the church today,” tweeted the Rev. Barbara Williams-Skinner, a Maryland-based black activist, writer and scholar.

“We made this point to Mark and Roma after #BibleSeries, and quite frankly they listened. I’m glad for that.”

Now, in a partnership with the 12-part NBC miniseries, an African-American Christian publishing house will host online resources to help viewers connect the holy book to Africa.

We recognize that there are times when disobedience and resistance to unjust authority is right, just, and biblical.
The Belhar Confession calls on people of faith to stop demonizing the poor and to stand with them in unity instead.
Franklin Graham is facing criticism after he wrote a Facebook that went viral in which he told “blacks, whites, Latinos, and everybody else” that “most police shootings can be avoided” with “respect for authority.”
Some faith leaders are pushing back against famed evangelist Franklin Graham after he wrote a Facebook post addressed to “blacks, whites, Latinos, and everybody else,”
Graham's Facebook comment has created a division within the evangelical Christian community.
Obeying the police doesn’t heal the long history of distrust and broken relationships between police and minority groups, especially in urban neighborhoods, Smith said.
A group of church leaders, led by Jim Wallis, Lisa Sharon Harper, have written an open letter to Franklin Graham, criticizing his Facebook comments last week about the killing of young black men by police as Graham called for respecting authority.
A group of church leaders have written an open letter to Franklin Graham, criticising his Facebook comments last week about the killing of young black men by police, and are gathering signatories.
According to Graham, if the guys would just do as the cops say and put their hands up, or behind their backs, or wherever the cops tell them to put them, everything would be fine.
My question became: What bridge we will now have to cross?
Jim Wallis 03-12-2015
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama hugs Rep. John Lewis in front of the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7. SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

The Edmund Pettus Bridge was named after a Confederate general who became a Grand Dragon in the Ku Klux Klan. His name, still emblazoned over the top of that now famous bridge, was a powerful and threatening symbol of white power and supremacy in Selma, Ala. The Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) had at one time removed Selma from their list of places to organize because “the white folks were too mean, and black folks were too afraid."

But that didn’t deter a group of courageous African Americans from marching across that bridge a half-century ago, risking their lives for the right to vote in America. They were attacked and beaten by the fierce forces, led by notorious Sheriff Jim Clark, for their resistance to the frightening violence of white power.

Last Saturday, during the 50th anniversary event of “Bloody Sunday,” I spent many hours just looking at that bridge. The words that kept coming to me were “courage” and “resistance.” My question became: what bridge we will now have to cross?

Congressman John Lewis, whose skull was cracked that day as a young man, opened the main event.

"On that day, 600 people marched into history … We were beaten, tear gassed, some of us [were] left bloody right here on this bridge. … But we never became bitter or hostile. We kept believing that the truth we stood for would have the final say.”

Then Lewis introduced the president, "If someone had told me, when we were crossing this bridge, that one day I would be back here introducing the first African-American president, I would have said you're crazy.”

What happened on this bridge, President Barack Obama said, “was a contest to determine the meaning of America,” and where “the idea of a just America, a fair America, an inclusive America, a generous America … ultimately triumphed.”

Part of "setting captives free" is helping see the invisible bonds of structural racism. 

Adam Phillips 03-09-2015
Historic Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., loneroc / Shutterstock.com

Historic Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., loneroc / Shutterstock.com

Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables.He told those who were selling the doves, ‘Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a market-place!’ - John 2:15,16

This is one of the most important stories in the life of Jesus. So important, that it’s one of a handful of stories that all four Gospel writers actually all share.

Even though they remember it differently.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke — they recall that this episode where Jesus entered the Temple grounds and stirred stuff up once and for all — they remember it near the end of his life. They place it as one of the main reasons that Jesus is arrested and put to death as a capitol offense against the Roman Empire.

Walking into the Temple — run by the Jewish religious elite who had been put in place by the Roman imperial oppressors — was tantamount into walking into a federal government building and blowing it up.

Except Jesus doesn’t do that. Jesus is a pacifist. Jesus is a prophet.

This is not a post-racial America, especially in regard to our policing and criminal justice systems. Ferguson has become a teaching parable for the nation.
Lisa Sharon Harper 02-26-2015

It was 1987. I walked across Rutgers University campus with another freshman friend. We were on our way to a meeting for Campus Crusade for Christ (now Cru). In the gobs of our gab we happened upon the topic of the recent scandalous departure of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship president, Gordon McDonald. Interim President, Tom Dunkerton, guided the organization for the next year, appointing Dr. Samuel Barkat as first VP of Multiethnic Ministries. Soon after, Dr. Steve Hayner would accept the mantle of president of the troubled organization. Over the next 13 years, Hayner guided Intervarsity into a period of stability, growth, and racial healing.

Perhaps the most significant contribution of Hayner’s leadership was his close partnership with Dr. Barkat. Together they stood on the sovereign foundations of Intervarsity’s historic struggles toward racial righteousness and guided the organization through a deep examination of its multiethnic dynamics and its white dominant culture. Ultimately, their work led the parachurch collegiate ministry through a transformative examination of its own white western cultural lens and how that lens shaped their understanding of Jesus and the gospel.