I wanted to communicate with you about the tension, pain and violence that has riven our nation these past few days. As your senior pastor, I wish to offer a faith-based perspective on the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing public outcry.
Please understand that I am well aware that no words written by a white, suburban pastor can articulate the depth of pain and oppression people of color have experienced, and of course not just this past week, but for generations. These past few days are the result of prolonged systemic racism in our country, a system many of us, knowingly or unknowingly, participate in, and the anger and frustration has once again reached a boiling point.
It is critical that we not conflate or confuse in our speech, minds and social media posts, the actors in this tragedy.
Protesters — who are on the streets reminding us there is a vision of biblical equality and justice that we imagine but have never achieved — have nothing to do with looters. Nothing.
A racist police officer — who lacked the basic human compassion to not cut off another human being’s airway — is not every, or even most, police officers.
I also wish I could say that it was the actions of a single, racist police officer that triggered all of this pain, anger and protest.
But it was not.
Rather it was, and continues to be, the actions and the inactions of those of us who are part of a society that allows persons of color to be judged by the shade of their skin and not by their character.
Many of you are probably aware of one of the most powerful pieces of American religious and civil thinking and writing. Every time I read it, I feel complicit and indicted. Rev. Dr. King wrote
A Letter from a Birmingham Jail
addressed to those whom he referred to as “white moderate pastors.” He wanted those who were the silent allies of the civil rights movement to understand that their silence was much more devastating and debilitating to the work of God’s justice, than were the overt racist actions of the KKK or the White Citizens’ Council. At least with the latter groups he knew where they stood.
He was right. Silence in the face of injustice is a sin.
From start to finish — the Bible testifies to the endless, exhausting, frustrating work of justice for all people, but in particular, the Bible has a clear preferential option for justice for the poor and the oppressed. In effect, that’s what makes it distinct from other writings about God. It should not be lost on us that our Christian story is formed around two years of the life of a peasant, who was rejected and despised by much of society because he preached good news and power to the poor.
What we may forget is that this good news was revolutionary in nature, and much of Jesus’ world found him dangerous and radical and just wished he would be quiet and mind his own business. So they silenced him.
At least they thought they silenced him. Dr King was right. The church must be the voice of justice for the oppressed.
So, we cannot remain silent in the face of the racism, violence and oppression that are inflicted upon peoples of color, or upon those who simply lack the resources to access the opportunities many of us have taken for granted since our birth.
Finally, one of the most important theologians of the 20th century, James Cone, wrote, “
Our salvation from God, is only available, when we are in solidarity with the crucified people in our midst.
” As an acquaintance wrote, “Let us not forget that our Savior was a brown person of color, who was executed by the Roman state, for standing in solidarity with the oppressed, the marginalized and who took action to liberate those who were suffering from the bondage of injustice.”
Dr. King was right. To be silent is a sin. Our nation and we as a church have work to do.
In Christian Service,
From Pastor Meredith:
I posted the following to our church's
Justice Ministry Group
Racism Discussion Group
: “My heart has been so heavy these past weeks —yet more senseless deaths of black people and deep, deep racism on display that never seems to stop. We must try harder. We must do more. God calls us to work for justice. Here are two resources for your consideration:
I pray that you will be moved to pray AND act.”
Please contact Meredith at
if you would like to be added to these Realm groups for further updates, resources and discussion.
From Pastor Katherine:
Please consider these additional anti-racism resources written from a Christian perspective:
- The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James Cone
- I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown
- Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism by Drew G.I. Hart
- Who Will Be a Witness: Igniting Activism for God’s Justice, Love, and Deliverance by Drew G.I. Hart
- Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that Keep Us Apart by Christena Cleveland
- White Picket Fences: Turning Toward Love in a World Divided by Privilege by Amy Julia Becker