The men burst into the church classroom and ordered the 15 teens in the youth group to the floor.
They covered the teens' heads with pillowcases and bound their hands. One man waved an unloaded gun, and another yelled, his face daubed with camouflage paint.
The kids gathered at the Glad Tidings Assembly of God Church and had planned to partake in youth ministry activities at 7 p.m. Wednesday (March 21).
Instead, they found themselves face down, hugging the linoleum floor, said the Rev. John Lanza, who described what happened. If they listened, they wouldn't get hurt, their assailants said.
It’s been almost a month since the slaying of Trayvon Martin. This particular African-American child was intentionally shot through the chest while walking back from the store in a Florida suburb. He was armed with a pack of skittles and some iced tea.
For the past few weeks, each time I open my Facebook account or scroll through Twitter I see endless posts about the Trayvon Martin case. And I’ve seen Trayvon’s faceover and over again. He was 17 but he looks like a 15-year-old cousin of mine.
I have not written anything about this tragedy because to be honest, I have been unable to find my words around or through this. I could write about anger, injustice, racism, the loss of another black male child, crazy American gun laws or even the shock or actually lack thereof, of how the police initially handled this murder. But mostly what I want to write about is the deep, deep sadness and sorrow I cannot seem to shake.
If you were walking down the street and a stranger approached you and punched you in the face what would you want to do in that moment? Sure, this is an odd hypothetical situation, but really, answer the question.
Few would say, “I would want to give that person a hug.” Depending on the size of the attacker most would either fight back or run away. But let’s suppose you fought back, and even vanquished your assailant, pummeling him repeatedly for his dastardly deeds. What then?
Would he, through being beaten, come to understand his wrong in hitting you? No, he might start plotting his revenge, or his friends would think about getting you back for what you did. If they did, then you would have friends that would want to get them back. So it goes with the endless spiral of violence.
We have been fooled into believing that violence is a respectable solution for problems in our world. What we fail to see is the many problems that violence brings with it, beginning with more violence. Violence also brings hurt, fear, anger, a desire for revenge, death and enmity.
A headline from Reuters stopped me in my tracks earlier this week.
It read, ‘"Pray for us" say Syria rebels as army closes in’." I was struck by how moving I found this statement, this plea.
I do my best to remember places of conflict and strife in my prayers, but very rarely have I been petitioned to pray from a conflict situation by those in the middle of the conflict. It may be a strange reaction on my part to conflate a headline from a news report to be a direct request for my prayers, but that is how I responded when I read it.
“Pray for me” is not an abstract or passive statement. When we are asked to pray for someone, or a group of people, we are charged to bring their need or suffering to God.
Amidst the recent police violence in Oakland and the sure temptation of some protestors to resort to violence, I wrote this little reflection inviting all Occupiers to a renewed commitment to nonviolence.
There is a verse in the Bible that says, “Our battle is not against flesh and blood but against the principalities and powers of this dark world.” It is a reminder that there are people behind oppressive structures — people who laugh and cry and bleed just like everyone else — and those people are not the enemies, but the systems are.
I was reminded of this when I went into Bank of America on Move Your Money Day, and transferred my money to the non-profit credit union here in Philadelphia. As I went into the bank, I saw the smiling faces of Bank of America tellers who have become friends over the past decade. When I told them I was closing my account, one of the women asked jokingly, “You don’t like us anymore?” At first my heart sunk, but then I said, “No way, I love the heck out of all of you. I just don’t like the values of the bank you work for.” To my surprise, they all smiled. In fact they may not like the values of the bank they work for either. Even though I’ll be leaving Bank of America, I’m hoping to stay in touch with my friends there. I may even take them some coffees next week, which I’ll charge on my new credit union debit card.
It is always tempting to demonize people and humanize corporations. It’s easy to forget that we are up against something bigger than flesh and blood people. And it’s particularly easy to forget that people are not the enemy when people are shooting pepper spray in your face.
I’ll admit I’m a sucker for stories about the malleability of human morality. From the mob movies, where a guy can whack his cousin but better not show his Patron any “disrespect,” to justice-seeking serial killers like “Dexter,” there’s plenty of justified violence to be found.
Where do such seemingly contradictory value systems come from? And do they actually happen in the real world today?
How about the politician who claims a platform that values a respect for “all life,” while justifying war and advocating for capital punishment? Or those who celebrate the death of Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein? And the list goes on.
It’s common in western culture to objectify the Islamic faith, cherry-picking texts from their scripture and plucking choice sound-bytes from extremist leaders, to portray the whole of the religion as inherently violent. This, in turn, is employed to justify violence in-kind, or worse, preemptive violence, as in the case of our invasion of Iraq.
I call this “Dexter” theology.
Eric James Borges was teased his entire life for being different. Though he didn’t come out publicly until his sophomore year of college, he recalls emotional and physical abuse as far back as kindergarten for his differences. And though most children undergo some degree of hazing from time to time, the seeming indifference of the adults in his life made matters dramatically worse.
In a video recorded for the “It Gets Better” Project, an LGBT advocacy group focused on offering hope and community to LGBT people on the margins, Borges, 19, recalls being physically assaulted in a full high school classroom while his teacher stood by and watched.
The distressed teen had nowhere to turn at home either. His Christian parents decided to perform a ritual exorcism on him with the hope of “curing” him of his orientation. When that failed, they kicked him out of the house.
Though Borges went on to advocate for LGBT rights through the “It Gets Better” Project and his work with The Trevor Project (a group committed to preventing suicide among LGBT teens), the demons of his past still lingered. Despite finding a community that affirmed and embraced who he was, the damage had already been done.
He killed himself on Jan 11.
How many people wanted to be President of the United States when they were younger? I’d imagine quite a few. I certainly did, although I now realize that such an attempt would have resulted in something of a "birther" controversy.
As a kid, what made me want to be in such a position of authority wasn’t necessarily the power and prestige of the president. It wasn’t the White House, or Air Force One. It wasn’t even having the authority to pardon a turkey once a year.
It was the red phone.
You know the one. Commissioner Gordon has one for Batman. President Merkin Muffley has one in Dr. Strangelove (I’m pretty sure it’s red, even though it is shot in black and white). It was the phone you used to fix things. To call the superhero, or patch things up with an inebriated Soviet leader (what, you didn’t play Cold War when you were growing up?) That red phone was your hot line to solving whatever problem you were confronted with.
Today, I still want that red phone.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King did not give his life just for Black Americans, but for all Americans. He knew America could be better. He knew the America that was birthed with the hope of “liberty for all” excluded hundreds of thousands of people.
As he said in his famous sermon that is so often referred to as the “I Have a Dream” speech,
In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness....
This is so horrendous it's almost too awful to type.
Early this morning at a welfare office in Laredo, Texas, a mother, desperate after months of being denied food stamps for her family, pulled a gun and shot her two young children, before killing herself.
As we gazed in shock at the battle below, Dr. Nadia quietly stepped back from the balcony.
We turned and saw her sitting alone in her office, hanging her head, shaking it from side to side in dejection. She had just said that the continued clashes were harming the revolution, that unknown forces were at work among the activists and in the military to undermine the revolution and prevent the transition to democracy.
No good can come from this, she said. Little could she have imagined that her words would be so quickly and horribly confirmed.
They came at 1 am.
Several hundred police in full riot gear in a precision military operation. They gathered at nearby assembly points out of sight of Zuccotti Park and then simultaneously came trotting out to surround the park like the army scene from The Blues Brothers movie.
Next they handed out fliers and announced by bullhorn that all personal property would be removed from the park, and that it could be reclaimed at a Department of Sanitation garage. Instead, everything was thrown into garbage trucks and crushed by the compactor’s blades. ...
Most of the occupiers were steamrolled out of the park in this manner. Because there was no tent space when I got there I was sleeping on the sidewalk at night, and packing everything back up each morning, so I was able to save everything, but for several items I kept in the OWS kitchen.
A group of more than a hundred Occupiers retreated to the kitchen at the center of the park and chained themselves by their necks to a tree. They were tear-gassed where they sat and were removed by means we have not yet learned of, and we don’t yet know what injuries were sustained.
The Latest News on Occupy Wall Street Under Siege: Judge Allows Occupiers Back In, 5K+ Books from OWS Library Destroyed by Police, Journalists Arrested, Protesters Occupy Church Lot and more. Plus, LIVE STREAMING VIDEO FROM OWS IN NYC inside.
Just days before the country’s first democratic election (set for Nov. 28), 27 Coptic protestors were killed for demonstrating against the military’s recent burning of a Christian community center. And despite drawing global attention, which included anti-violence demonstrations in the U.S., Canada, and Europe, the Global Post reports that, "the demonstrations reflect mounting fears in Egypt’s Coptic community and its Diaspora that after the pro-democracy uprising of earlier this year the predominantly Muslim Egyptian society seems as indifferent to the Christian minority’s concerns as ever. “
Police surround Occupy protest in Oakland Monday morning. Hackers threaten to "remove" Vancouver from the Internet if Occupy demonstrators are moved. Violent fringe is a challenge to Occupy movement. Are sexual assaults being under-reported at Occupy encampments? Popular Hawaiian musician occupies Obama event with a song. Occupy protesters set up camp outside a second UK cathedral. Are Occupiers the new Progressives? And much more news from the Occupy Movement worldwide inside.
In Mathew 25, he allows no excuses, personal or institutional.
“As you have done it to the least of these, you have done it to me,” Jesus says without qualification. Apply that text to this terrible exploitation at Penn State and it certainly speaks explicitly to the most vulnerable children who have been so horribly abused there.
As it was done to them, it was done to Christ himself, the very Son of God. This famous text is one of the few passages of judgment in the New Testament.
Judgment is now needed at Penn State and beyond about how we continue to allow wealth, power, institutional protections, and cultural complicity to aid, abet, and enable the evil abuse of our most vulnerable children.
I made myself read the Grand Jury report about Sandusky's alleged crimes and it was 23 pages of vile and inhuman behavior not only by the predator but by those who actually saw it, heard of it, or received reports about it across their desk.
Then to also learn that all these children were black deepens my sadness.
I am forced to ask some really hard questions.
Are black people that expendable?
Was the fact that they were black, poor and powerless the reason it was overlooked?
Is football, a school, and personal reputation so important that a 10-year-old black boy being raped in a bathroom can be covered up?
I had an idea that power was corrupt, but this is much more than simply corrupt. It is pure evil.
The condition of former U.S. Marine and Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen, 24, who was badly injured when he was struck in the head reportedly by a projectile fired by police Tuesday night during Occupy Wall Street protests in Oakland, Calif., was upgraded from critical to fair condition overnight.