White Church So Silent, White Church So Complicit

*A version of this post has been posted at RaceRhetoricandReligion.

14479586_1272218729477199_2797807119461754697_nOn Wednesday, I awoke to the news that Bethel University’s St. Paul, Minnesota campus – the school I attended for Seminary – experienced a racist incident. The Kresge rock that had been recently painted in solidarity with Black Lives Matter was now painted over in white paint with the message “BLM = Racist, Blue Lives Matter.” As I scrolled through my facebook feed, searching for clarity about the event, I became angry but I wasn’t necessarily surprised. Over the years, Bethel has experienced its share of attacks against Black people specifically and other populations of color as well.*

Back in 2003, there were a slew of incidents targeting people of color on campus which included one student’s car being vandalized with racial slurs. On the night that Obama was elected into office in November 2008, racist language was once against used against black students in reference to the president elect. Then in 2010, a white student dressed in blackface and impersonated Lil Wayne for a campus AIDS fundraiser. Disgusting, right? And sprinkled in between all of these incidents is your typical share of microaggressions and Minnesota Nice covert racism. So once again, I wasn’t surprised. But I was reminded that the school where I spent four years of my life, had a lot of work to do in terms of being an institution that would stand up for racial justice.

But isn’t Bethel University a Christian college?

Yes, it is. Since 1871, this school has been preparing future pastors, lay leaders, administrators, businessmen and women, nurses, and so many others, how to integrate their faith experience into their professions. And while it can be said that not everyone on that campus professes to be a believer, the vast majority of students subscribe to the Christian faith. And yet, these same Christians, who are studying theology and serving in their churches on Sunday, are guilty of racism. How do we reconcile these two realities?

I used to ask myself the same question when I first moved to Minnesota from Milwaukee, WI and attended another Christian college, North Central University, for undergrad. For the very first time in my life, I was surrounded by a sea of white people on a consistent basis – black people were few and far between. Also, for the very first time in my life, I felt as if I was being discriminated against because of my race – the fact that I felt more excluded at a Christian college than I did in one of America’s most segregated cities ought to say something!

In the North Central bubble, as students so affectionately called it, I felt isolated and alone. For nearly two years, I struggled to make and maintain friendships with roommates and classmates. Between the summer of my freshman and sophomore year, I watched my roommates help move each other’s stuff to another dormitory on campus and left me to carry my stuff alone. When I ended up in the emergency room due to a bad allergic reaction to God knows what, the only person who helped me in my moment of desperation was a Sri Lankan woman who happened to live down the hall (thank God for her). When I spent a holiday completely by myself, as all of my family lived in Wisconsin, and the church I attended was just as white as my school, I seriously contemplated hurting myself because the pain of isolation hurt so bad.

Time and time again, no matter how hard I tried, I felt excluded, talked about and ridiculed at NCU. These feelings went on and on, in a Christian school, until I found a diverse church outside of campus that loved me for me, a dark-skinned African American woman. Once I found that place of refuge, I distanced myself from the school as much as possible and was there only to get my degree and leave. Other black students who encountered the same level of hostility at NCU didn’t bother completing their degree, they just left. I am no more brave than they were scared – we all make decisions to the best of our capacity with the resources and knowledge we have in the given moment.

It wasn’t until I learned the history of my denomination, the Assemblies of God, that I started to put things together. The isolation and racism that I experienced on my college campus, which was affiliated with the AG had everything to do with history of exclusion and racism within this body of believers. With intention, the AG broke away from the teachings of William Seymour, an African American man, who was the key leader in the Azuza Street Revival between 1906-1909. With intention, they defamed his leadership and said that it was ungodly for them to submit to it. With intention, they excluded blacks and latinos from their membership. With intention, they upheld the same bigotry and racism that was commonplace in America for far too long.

But it isn’t only the AG who has this tattered and torn history of racism, so many other Christian denominations in America do too. In fact, many churches and Christians themselves, have been complicit if not explicit actors in the terrorism against black lives throughout our country’s history. Everything, from the leadership structure to theology to the way it engages in politics to the way that it conflates the constitution with the Bible, suggests that Western Christianity and more specifically, the white Church, has a strong disregard if not flat out hatred, towards African Americans in this country. Which is why incidents, like those that occurred at Bethel on Wednesday are awful but not shocking.

The white Church’s history of complicity also explains why it, as an institution, remains silent as black bodies are continuously hunted and killed. Through all of the police killings in recent years, the white Church has literally nothing to say. #MichaelBrown. Nothing. #TamirRice. Zilch. #SandraBland. Nope. #PhilandoCastile. Who? Well, that is not exactly true. The white Church has been crying #AllLivesMatter, which sounds great in theory because yes Jesus died for all lives. But in practice, this chant is nothing more than a clever ruse to detract energy and focus from one of the most important movements of our time. Because if all lives truly mattered to the white church, they would not only turn up for our crucified sons and daughters, they would also rally against the senseless police killings of their own sons and daughters.

All Lives Matter lulls a church that is already asleep to the oppression of black people into a further state of hypnosis. And if the white church feigns unconsciousness, they can neither speak or act which is really their point – a clever ruse, right? Here’s the thing though: no matter how silent the white church is or ignorant it pretends to be about #BlackLivesMatter and its importance in this hour, God still holds it accountable. In the same way, that God called after Cain asking the whereabouts of his brother Abel, God calls out to the white church asking the whereabouts of its black brothers, sisters, and sons. Can you hear God calling? Or will you ignore Him, too?

*Thursday afternoon I had the awesome opportunity to participate in a prayer service led by two black students at the site where the racist incident had previously taken place. I am horrible at estimating numbers but it *feels* like hundreds of students, faculty, staff, and alumni showed up in solidarity with the black students on campus. The rock in question has been painted again (by the president and campus pastor) and now reads ‘Us for Us’ a message that the students chose.  

 

 

The Church as a Catalyst for Racial Justice

TheChurchHow can the Church of Jesus Christ
be a vehicle for change and racial justice
in a society that consistently
dehumanizes and devalues black lives?

This is the question that believers of the Gospel, need to ask in earnest as police brutality and white supremacist violence increasingly compromises black American’s ability to live and do life well. In 2015 alone, there hasn’t been one week that has gone by without us hearing about a black life lost too soon, or a black body being physically violated as a result of state sanctioned violence.

Names like Tony Robinson, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Dajerria Becton, Sandra Bland, Kindra Chapman, Sam Dubose, Raynette Turner, not to mention the Charleston 9 – Clementa Pinckney, Sharonda Coleman Singleton, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lance, Susie Jackson, Cynthia Hurd, Myra Thompson, Daniel Simmons Sr., DePayne Middleton Doctor – have become household names in black homes around the country, people who we never knew but whom we recognized as brothers and sisters, aunties and uncles, play cousins and friends, as a result of the affinity we shared. As we mourn their lives, we demand justice for our own, chanting #BlackLivesMatter so loud that our cries shake heaven.

But as we mobilize, educate, advocate, and tweet, the Church sits quietly with its hands folded like a helpless child, often offering trite, wholly inaccurate explanations to the suffering. Persecution. Degradation of the culture. Video games. Black-on-black violence. Sin and immorality. Lack of personal responsibility. Drugs. Obama. And a host of other reasons, all which either minimize or ignore altogether the main issue – that black Americans, solely because of the color of our skin, are not able to fully access the opportunity to live and have our humanity fully embraced in the same way that our white brothers and sisters are able to.

Over the last couple of weeks, this is the point that I have stressed over and over again: that more than lacking access to economic opportunity, black Americans lack the opportunity to fully live. It’s been a hard truth to sell, it doesn’t go down easily. AND it can be a defeating concept to grapple with, I get that. But the reality that bears out, time and time again is that we are hunted and profiled and then assaulted for simply doing everyday, run-of-the-mill type things like walking down the street, asking for help, sleeping, traveling across the country, swimming, playing rap music, and worshipping our God.

As I have mentioned at great length before, I believe that the perfect combination of laws, science, and religion have gotten us in this mess. In my last post, I addressed the ways that law and science has been used to perpetuate racism and white supremacy but also how it can be used to undo it. In this piece, I want to examine religion and specifically Christianity in the same light.

The Church as a Means of Validating Structural Racism

Historically speaking, the Church has been used as a means to validate structural racism and white supremacy. Yet the roots of the Church being used as a vehicle for oppression do not begin on America’s soil, indeed they reach all the way back to 4th century when Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. Up until this time, Christianity posed a real threat to the ruling powers of the day to the extent that those who professed to be followers of Jesus Christ lived under the constant threat of having their property destroyed and being killed.

But Constantine changed this, which had some significant benefits i.e. no more persecution as well as drawbacks. Sharing power with three other emperors, he gradually began to position himself politically speaking so that he could rule the entire empire. Turning to battle in order to defeat the competition, he received a revelation of sorts which instructed him to place a Christian symbol on the shields of the soldiers, which most scholars understand to be the first two letters of the name “Christ.” Constantine then made Christianity the official religion of the empire and also stopped the persecution of Christians which had endured up until this point.

While some believe that this event represents Constantine’s conversion, it is important to note that after this ‘revelation’ he continued to worship the Roman god, the Unconquered Sun. Scholars and theologians alike call into question the legitimacy of Constantine’s conversion, believing that it was more of a political maneuver than anything else. And perhaps it was. Because while Christianity is embraced by the empire, it is also now controlled by the empire and becomes the de facto representation for state sanctioned oppression, exploitation and violence.*

Those in power now control what was once considered an organic, abundant expression of God’s grace and love in the world. Whereas Christianity was previously known for the love and hospitality that it showed to both those inside and without the Christian community, it was now associated power and prestige. The empire continued to operate as it has always done but now it did so with the validation of the Christian faith. And anyone who questioned it, or decided not to opt in, were either ostracized or killed.

This is the way that Christianity has operated for the last 1700 years, wielding a Bible in one hand and a sword in the other. While the face of the empire has changed through the ages, the fact remains that it has long been controlled by the powers that be. And the empire, up until recently, has always needed it to be this way, as it has used the Church as a means for social and economic control. In his book, ‘Prophetic Imagination’ Walter Brueggemann explains:

“In the establishment of a controlled, static religion God and his temple have become part of the royal landscape and the sovereignty of God is fully subordinated to the purpose of the king…obviously, oppressive politics and affluent economics depend on each other. Nevertheless it is my urging that fundamental to both is the religion of the captive God in which all overagainstness is dissipated and the king and his ideology are completely at ease in the presence of God. When that tension concerning God’s freedom has been dissolved, religion easily becomes one more dimension, albeit an important one, for the integration of society (Brueggemann, Prophetic Imagination: p 34, 36).

So you see, when those who wished to colonize the Americas looked for justification to do so, they drew upon a structure that was already in place. They were not so much inventing a new wheel as they were expanding the scope and functionality of it so that Christianity would now be used as a means to subjugate and dehumanize people based on the color of their skin. Slaveholders and others began to pick and choose scriptures (out of context) from the Bible which they believed supported their erroneous claims to the land of the Indigenous people and the bodies of Africans, weaving these disparate verses into a doctrine of supremacy.

While slavery ended some 150 years ago, white supremacy and racism endures. In fact, white supremacy never needed slavery to substantiate its claim to black bodies, what it needed was this Christian faith to legitimize its actions at every turn so that no matter the structure – slavery, convict leasing system, Jim Crow, segregation, war on drugs, mass incarceration, police brutality – it would endure.

The Church as a Means of Undoing Racism

In spite of it’s history, I remain hopeful that the Church can be a vehicle for change and uprooting white supremacy in our society as well as across the globe. My hope is twofold. One, I believe in Jesus Christ and the promise of the Gospel. And as I read this Gospel, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Christ is in the process of redeeming this world, including we ourselves, back to him. The book of Revelation declares:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and earth had ceased to exist, and the sea existed no more. 2 And I saw the holy city—the new Jerusalem—descending out of heaven from God, made ready like a bride adorned for her husband.3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying: “Look! The residence of God is among human beings. He will live among them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death will not exist any more—or mourning, or crying, or pain, for the former things have ceased to exist (Revelation 21.1 – 4, NET).”

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life—water as clear as crystal—pouring out from the throne of God and of the Lamb, 2 flowing down the middle of the city’s main street. On each side of the river is the tree of life producing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month of the year. Its leaves are for the healing of the nations.3 And there will no longer be any curse, and the throne of God and the Lamb will be in the city. His servants will worship him, 4 and they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 Night will be no more, and they will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, because the Lord God will shine on them, and they will reign forever and ever (Revelation 22.1 – 5, NET).”

Reading God’s Word, I am rest assured that the order of this world – and of the United States, for that matter, will one day come to an end. This is reason enough to be hopeful. Secondly, I remain hopeful in the Church because it is Christ’s instrument to announce peace, reconciliation and healing to a broken world:

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it stands written that the Christ would suffer and would rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And look, I am sending you what my Father promised. But stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high (Luke 24.44 – 49, NET).”

So when they had gathered together, they began to ask him, “Lord, is this the time when you are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He told them, “You are not permitted to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth (Acts 1.6 – 8, NET).”

After His death and resurrection, the Church was what God used to proclaim the truth of the Gospel and invalidate the Roman Empire’s faulty claim on eternal rule. While I believe that the Church will be what God uses to break the chains of white supremacy and racism in our time, drawing a nation’s consciousness back to the value of black life, it can’t from a place of power and wielding might in the way that it has done it before. Due to its deep, dark history of oppression, the Church will only point the way to healing and reconciliation if it relinquishes its relationship with empire and associate with the downtrodden and exploited in our society. Indeed, this is what Christ modeled before us, showing us that true transformation does not come through the power of the sword but through finding oneself in relationship with those society has cast off going to the point of sharing in their suffering and pain.

Fortunately, this is the opportunity before us now. Many statisticians are beginning to declare the end of the Christian era in America, as many churches are shrinking their budgets, laying off staff, or closing their doors altogether. Society itself seems to be moving away from defining itself by Christian values and doctrines. Indeed, we live in a time when Bible stories and concepts that were once considered well-known even among unbelievers, are foreign.

But if we look with spiritual eyes and stop licking our wounds, we will realize that what is really happening is that we are entering a post-Constantinian era. The hold that the empire once had on the Church is no longer necessary because the goals and morales of the empire function just well without it. White supremacy is so ingrained in our nation’s soil, and capitalism so much a part of our nation’s ethos, that it no longer needs Christianity; these things thrive just well on its own.

As the empire looses itself of the Church, let us likewise shake off imperialism and wholly and completely embrace Christ for who He truly is. Let the Church relinquish its claim to power and capitalism so that Holy Spirit can work through us in the way that He worked through the first century disciples – completely unrestricted, drawing a nation’s consciousness away from the deception of the Roman Empire to the enduring truth of Christ. In doing so, we will be able to join the chorus of black Americans crying for justice, chanting #blacklivesmatter because in seeking God’s truth, the Church will be able to tell an immoral world that our humanity is the truth. I will be waiting, millions of black people are waiting, for the Church to take its rightful place in proclaiming racial justice and restoration in this hour. Do not delay!

*See Justo Gonzalez’ The Story of Christianity: Volume I

Forgiveness and the State of White Supremacy in America

Charleston2Yesterday, Mother Emanuel AME reopened its doors after experiencing such a traumatic ordeal Wednesday evening. The congregation lost nine precious souls that evening – Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Cynthia Hurd, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Tywanza Sanders, Myra Thompson, Ethel Lee Lance, Susie Jackson, Daniel L. Simmons, and Depayne Middleton Doctor – when a white male opened fire aiming to start a race war. By holding service instead of keeping its doors shut, the congregants displayed the great capacity of the human spirit to forgive. It sends a loud message not only to the shooter, but to the American society as a whole, that racism and terrorism will not stop God’s people from moving forward. Instead of being defined and crippled by white supremacy, this community is demonstrating that it will conquer it through forgiveness.

Forgiveness. It’s a term that has been evoked since Wednesday’s shooting. Just days after the incident, Chris Singleton, the son of Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, was praised for his ‘poise and strength’ and ability to forgive the shooter for killing his mother. Similarly, Marcus Stanley, a gospel singer from Virginia, posted to the shooter’s facebook wall an incredible message of forgiveness and grace. These are the messages that have gone viral and that have been uplifted in the media. They are important messages which reflect such amazing grace and mercy, but on their own, they are incomplete.

You see a message of forgiveness is wholly incomplete without a message of repentance. In times like these, we not only need to hear the words of forgiveness but also words of confession.  As African Americans, who have experienced this level of terrorism in our communities for 400 years, we need to hear “we’re sorry” more than we need to say “we forgive.” Yes, forgiveness is at the heart of the Gospel, but so is repentance. Indeed, we cannot even begin to receive God’s forgiveness until we repent. If this applies to our own relationship with God, why would we expect the arrangement to be any different in our own human dynamics?

Yet, if those in our society who tout the importance of forgiveness are honest with themselves and with us, we will begin to see that the urge to forgive is only masquerading as the gospel. In all actuality, forgiveness is being lifted up at such a critical time as this in order to disarm the grieving and silence the broken hearted. And as a result, the victimized are re-victimized again! In addition, demanding forgiveness without offering deep, sincere repentance, also leaves open the opportunity for such atrocities to happen again because it never deals with the wrongdoing.

Those in power must also be honest and admit that they are deftly afraid of black rage. As such, in rushing a wounded community to forgive they also demand us to put out the godly, justified anger that is welling up in our hearts and force us to quell our raging emotions. But once again, they fail to understand what the essence of forgiveness truly means. Reflecting on the murder of #MikeBrown nearly a year ago, Tracy M Lewis breaks the meaning of forgiveness down:

Forgiveness, and all the good it facilitates, is NOT the equivalent of blind allowance. Forgiveness does not mandate that I be silent. Forgiveness does not mean neutrality. It doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t rally around those who are the victims of violence or demand justice from the same people I know I must forgive. At some point, I have to think that a demand for compassion and forgiveness for those who hurt me or my children must somehow meet up with the demand for repentance and justice. While a demand for peace is certainly right, every action has a reaction. There are consequences–some of which will be meted out by those being commanded to be peaceful. This is especially true in a world that increasingly refuses God and His grace.

As Lewis states, forgiveness and repentance must meet. Together, these two powerful forces will bring about the change that our society needs. Although slavery was abolished 150 years as of this past Friday, the vestiges of white supremacy are still alive and well. The terrorist attack on Mother Emanuel AME this week is evidence of that. It is not an isolated incident but is connected to the larger narrative of dehumanization and marginalization of black life. Police brutality is also connected to that narrative, as is as mass incarceration, housing discrimination, unemployment, health disparities and the educational gap. We will fail in dismantling this horrific narrative if we do not raise repentance to the level of forgiveness.

Hand in hand, forgiveness and repentance will not only bring about change but it will usher in reconciliation. Reconciliation is when two individuals, groups or communities, that have been divided find their way back together, whole and healed. Reconciliation is of value because living in peace and harmony with one another is a worthy goal. We should aim to live in a society where everyone is treated with dignity and respect, and no one is discriminated against on account of their skin color is our goal.

In reporting on the reopening of Mother Emanuel AME’s doors, CNN contributor Van Jones suggested that reconciliation had taken place. I understand the desire to want to claim this as a victory, we certainly need a win, but he was so wrong! Reconciliation was missing because repentance was not present. As Curtiss DeYoung states in his book, Reconciliation: Our Greatest Challenge, Our Only Hope, “reconciliation is impossible until an individual (or a group of people) takes responsibility for the polarization that exists and takes action to create a better future.” To this date, neither the shooter nor America’s white supremacist society have taken action to create a better future for African Americans as a result of this atrocity.

The question before us now is how. How might this society, so entrenched in white supremacy, confess and repent of its sins against African Americans? How might those in power, not just say sorry, but put some teeth behind that sorry so that reconciliation and justice can be a reality and not just some unattainable idea? Here are just a few ways:

1. Confess and repent. The shooter needs to repent. South Carolina needs to repent. Our government needs to repent. The American Church needs to repent. The entire society needs to repent of the ways in which it has perpetually dehumanized, exploited and exterminated black life. This is where we need to start. A verbal “I’m sorry” that goes viral would be nice. At a deeper level, however, this nation needs a process that gives space for public confession of wrongdoing similarly to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up by Canada to address the crimes committed against the Aboriginal people (Native Indians).

2. Call this what it is. It is terrorism that was racially motivated. It needs to be identified as such and prosecuted the same. As much as I believe that gun accessibility needs to be addressed, this is not what this is about. And yes, hollywood has a lot of flaws but this is also not about that, Franklin Graham. It is also not about persecution of the Church, FOX News! It’s about the ongoing persecution of blackness.

3. #TakeDowntheConfederateFlag that flies over South Carolina’s state capitol. No seriously, it needs to go. It is a gross symbol of America’s history and justification of slavery, Jim Crow and segregation. Tear it down.

4. Enact legislation that starts to uproot the remaining vestiges of white supremacy and that puts an end to policies that systematize the dehumanization of black folks including police brutality, the war on drugs, mass incarceration, and the school to prison pipeline.

5. Put your money where your mouth is to ensure: total employment of the black community, quality housing, good schools, access to healthy food, and other economic opportunities that redresses the long standing disparate outcomes in the African American community.

6. Develop and preach a theology of social and biblical justice. Here are two resources written by me that would be a great start: Embracing a Holistic Faith: Essays on Biblical Justice and The Lord’s Prayer as Social Justice Theology.

7. Follow and learn from black theologians, scholars, sociologists, writers and thinkers including: Ta-Nehisi Coates, Charles M Blow, Brittany Cooper, Christena Cleveland, Brenda Salter McNeil, Drew Hart, Austin Channing Brown, Efrem Smith, Michelle Alexander, Lissa Jones, Cornel West, Claudia May, Isabel Wilkerson, and Kimberle Crenshaw. These are just a few, there are many, many more including amazing resources referenced in the #CharlestonSyllabus. Follow them. Learn from them. Support them financially. Just do not appropriate their wisdom or their work.

8. Teach your children about racism. We cannot believe, and we should have never believed, that racial justice and love is learned through osmosis. There is this prevailing notion that younger generations, millennials, are more racially tolerant and open than others. The shooter, who was 21 years old, as well as the students involved in the horrible SAE chant, and the three teens who purposely used their truck to run over and kill a black man in Mississippi, have proven this to be false! Be honest with your children about our nation’s history and ongoing battle with this. They can handle it.

9. Center black folks. Yes, #AllLivesMatter, but all lives are not being threatened. It’s the lives of black men, black women, black children, black clergy, black legislators, black youth, black LGBTQ, black Christians, and black atheists, that are being called into question. If America is serious about valuing all, it must then get serious about valuing those that it treats with the most contempt.

The road to reconciliation in America is long. It will be tough. And it will be arduous. But it is not impossible. If the nation addresses the sin of racism and white supremacy in the ways that I have just outlined above, I believe that we will see the change that we so desperately seek. Let’s not allow that process to be cheapened by inappropriate demands for forgiveness.

The Irrational Politics of Law

cropped-Law2

How does it feel to be a problem? This is the question that W.E.B. du Bois asked reflecting on the black experience in America. Or rather, how does it feel to be intentionally targeted and controlled by the rule of law? How does it feel to know that the laws that are being erected and passed off as just, moral codes, are only there to entrap, ensnare, and essentially eliminate you?

In truth, many people in our society have never harbored such feelings. In fact most, I suspect, go about feeling that the law is here to protect the wellbeing of America’s residents which in and of itself is a noble and very necessary goal. However, there are segments of our population who deeply understand the ways in which the rule of law has only been used to justify their perpetual maltreatment. While this can be said for many communities of color, today I want to focus on the reality of black men, women, and children in our society today.

As cities like Baltimore and Ferguson boil over continued police brutality against black bodies, misinformed talking heads dominate the air waves suggesting what black people need to do to ensure that they are not the latest victim: pull up your pants. Don’t run. Don’t carry anything that remotely resembles a weapon. Dress a certain way. Don’t go here or there. Get an education. Be a law-abiding citizen. Don’t resist, don’t question, don’t raise a fuss. Respectability politics all over the place without understanding that it has never really been about the law as much as it has been about the person that the law is targeting.

If we were step back in time, say several centuries, we would realize that this way of constructing laws isn’t new. Many empires throughout the history of our world have approached the law-making process with the aim of horrifying their subjects into submission, silencing them, or obliterating them altogether. Sometimes the targeting is toward a specific people group or nationality; sometimes it is toward an individual whose presence disrupts the stronghold of power.

Let’s look at two specific examples of this irrational law-making taking place in the Old Testament books of Daniel and Esther. In Daniel, we see a law targeting one individual, namely Daniel himself. Daniel, while in exile, rose to prominence in King Darius’ regime. The Bible tells us that Daniel’s extraordinary spirit caused him to stand out and above the rest of those who were governing affairs in the kingdom, so that King Darius planned to place him in the highest decision making seat in the land. But the commissioners and satraps who also governed alongside Daniel weren’t having it. There was no way they were going to allow a foreigner rule over them! And so they started looking for dirt on Daniel, in hopes of finding something that would tarnish him in King Darius’ eyes.

In spite of their attempts, the commissioners and satraps could not find anything on Daniel. He had that squeaky, clean image that most people love to hate. And so, they came up with a law that would surely trap Daniel, a law against his God. They approached King Darius and petitioned him to pass a law forbidding anyone to pray to any deity or person besides himself for 30 days. The punishment for breaking the law was death by a hungry pit of lions. King Darius, apparently the self-absorbed type, signed off on the law and the fate of Daniel was sealed.

Yet, Daniel refused to be frightened into submission. He maintained his posture before God even though he knew it might cost him his life. Just as he did every day before the law was passed, ‘he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously (Daniel 6.10b).’ And of course Daniel’s enemies watched closely by, anxiously waiting to report their findings back to the king who had no other choice but to throw him into the lion’s den.

Now let’s turn to the book of Esther, which is chronologically situated after Daniel. In the reign of King Xerxes (King Darius’ son and successor to the throne), a decree was issued to kill all of the Jewish people in the land. Their crime? Their religion forbid worship of anyone but God, and Haman the Agagite, who was recently elevated in prominence in the Xerxes’ kingdom, was offended by this. After Xerxes promoted him, he passed a law which demanded that everyone else bow and pay homage to him, which violated the Jewish law. Day after day, Mordecai, a Jew, refused to bow to Haman. And when Haman learned of this, and learned the reason behind Mordecai’s refusal to pay him homage, he not only committed to killing Mordecai but the entire Jewish people as well.

For all intents and purposes, Daniel and Mordecai were law breakers. They were not outstanding citizens who obeyed the commands of the state; they were violators of those commands. But let us remember, these laws were designed in such a way that they would automatically be discriminated against. In the case of Daniel, we come across a law that was intentionally designed to kill him. It did not matter what Daniel did, said, wore, or ate, the commissioners and satraps were going to find a way to get rid of him. That was their aim!

In the case of Mordecai, we find a law that unintentionally targeted the Jewish people. I say unintentionally because while it was not specifically designed with the Jewish people in mind, it was still discriminatory because the Jews naturally fell victim to it which is called disparate impact. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, ‘disparate impact refers to policies, practices, rules, or other systems that appear to be neutral, but result in a disproportionate impact on protected groups.’ And while the initial law was unintentional, the subsequent one which would exterminate them for breaking it, was completely intentional. The punishment for breaking ‘the law’ was extreme, irrational, and unjustified.

In Daniel and Mordecai, we see how the law can be used to inhibit a people whose existence threatens the state. The law, in instances as such, is nothing more than a tool to ensure that the interests of the powerful remain intact. The law, therefore, is not a just, moral document. Instead, it can be a representation of pure evil, something to be fought against rather than obeyed.

As police brutality, mass incarceration, and racial profiling continue to rob our communities of our black men, women, and children, for wearing hoodies, asking for help, running away when sensing danger, selling cigarettes, being in the wrong place at the wrong time, fighting for one’s rights, it is clear that the laws of the land are designed similarly to the ones of the Persian empire. The laws that are being erected are there, not to ensure moral behavior, but to severely inhibit black people so that we are either behind bars, dead, or so extremely poor and disillusioned that our existence does not disrupt the power structure of the state.

As the other ruling authorities felt threatened by Daniel and Haman felt threatened by the Jewish people, our mere existence – daring to breathe, daring to think, daring to imagine a different reality – threatens capitalism which only thrives if we are perpetually oppressed. Laws are passed to ensure this structure stays intact. This being said, it does not matter who is in the oval office, or who the attorney general is; the law of the land continues to function as it has always functioned, because in fact, this is the only way that our economy will continue to thrive and that the state will continue to exist.

Again, I ask, how does it feel to be a problem? How does it feel to know that no matter what you do or don’t do for that matter, that you will be treated like a criminal by the state that you inhabit? How does it feel to know that laws of the land are designed to ensure your criminality at every turn? How does it feel to know that your very existence is under constant monitoring, constant evaluation, constant measuring as those in power pass devise new ways to pass judgment against you simply to make a profit.

It doesn’t feel good. No, it doesn’t feel good at all. But these are the irrational politics of law.

Sidenote: Daniel didn’t get eaten by the lions – God held their mouths closed when he was thrown into their den. And the Jewish people were not exterminated by Haman – God used Esther to turn the heart of the King towards her people. This tells me that in spite of what the empire aims through the use of the law, God has the final say. Because God has the final say, there is always hope!

Race Relations Sunday: Have You Received Since You Believed?

The following is the text of the sermon that I preached this morning for Race Relations Sunday. The Bible reading is out of Acts 19.1 – 7, which was one of the lectionary texts last week Sunday. If you would prefer to listen to the audio, click here.


seymour_williamI have been walking with Christ for over twenty years. I first came to faith back in 1992 at an Assembly of God church in Milwaukee, WI – Easter Sunday. From the moment that I made that decision, my faith in Christ grew significantly. I remember being baptized a year later, I was maybe 9 or 10 at the time, and shortly thereafter committed to daily Bible reading and prayer. I joined our church’s youth group in 1995 – that was the same year that I threw out all of my secular music in exchange for gospel and contemporary Christian sounds. In 1997, I was baptized in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues, or praying/ speaking in an unknown language – an experience that my denomination took very seriously. That same year, I made a decision to attend North Central University for college, a small Christian college in Minneapolis, and did once I graduated from high school 4 years later. To many including myself, I was growing in my faith. I had a vibrant prayer life, evangelized fervently, and was reading the Bible like nobody’s business.

I just didn’t care about social justice. I didn’t care about the poor, I didn’t care about the marginalized, I didn’t care about those people – even though I in fact was among those people. You can imagine the internalized oppression was real. I got anxious anytime I ran across a Bible passage that challenged me to think differently. I remember reading Matthew 25, trying to over-spiritualize what Jesus was saying about caring for the least of these so that I could feel good about my indifference. You see, a theology of justice and compassion just didn’t fit with the quaint Assembles of God box that I was sitting in – a box that prioritized baptism in the Spirit above all else. To be a good Christian, this baptism with the evidence of speaking in tongues mattered the most. Everything else, with the exception of personal evangelism and the rapture, was nice but not necessary and maybe even a distraction.

Fortunately for me, something shifted in 2007 – 15 years after I first committed my life to Christ. This was the year that I started to wake up to the injustices around me. It started with a missions trip that I took to Central Africa’s Rwanda. Leading up to the trip, I studied the nation’s history and was broken by the genocide that took place between two ethnic groups who were so remarkably similar and Christian at that. In my spirit, something just didn’t feel right. As if on cue, I started to pay attention to not only what was going on in Rwanda but around the world pertaining to issues of injustice. And I started to pay attention to what was going on in the United States as well, looking more critically at one of our biggest injustices – slavery and the perpetual dehumanization of black children, women and men.

I knew about slavery. I knew that my ancestors were stolen from their home in Africa and put in forced labor in America. Milwaukee public schools, for all of its limitations, did teach me that. And I also knew about the Civil Rights Movement and the sacrifices that people like Martin Luther King made to ensure that blacks like myself would enjoy freedom, justice, and equality in the country that had denied it of us for so long. What I lacked was race consciousness, or the understanding that racism is the ordinary way that this country does its business. I lacked the critical analysis that would afford me the opportunity to understand that our nation is fundamentally, essentially, at its core racist because of the way that it built its wealth and prominence in the world by exploiting natives, blacks and other people of color.

But then I woke up. I woke up from my slumber. I woke up from the optimistic but naive line of thinking that we were living in a post racial America. I became much more critical, and subsequently, more alive to our present struggle to be recognized as wholly and completely human.

For those of you who are also awake or are waking up to our country’s reality, you will understand that the last several years have been especially trying for black folk. It seems like the moment that Obama got into office, an all out attack against black people ensued. One month into his presidency, the Tea Party Movement was formed, uniting under the adage of taking their country back from black and brown people who were getting too big for their britches, I suppose. In 2010, they did just that! Republicans took over the house at the federal level and also dominated the House of representatives and the Senate at the local level in many states across the country, including Minnesota.

That year alone saw some of the most regressive social policies proposed. In Minnesota, the Human Rights Department budget was almost obliterated, a voter ID amendment which would have drastically compromised black folk’s ability to vote was brought forth, and a version of the Stand Your Ground gun law was also put on the table – none of which passed here in Minnesota but that is not the same story nationwide. Many states have adopted their own version of the Voter ID amendment, and we also know that at least 23 states have adopted some version of the Stand Your Ground laws. In addition to the policies and practices that were already devastating our community, these suggested that Tea Partiers and other sympathetic whites were serious about limiting the progress of black people as well as others of color in this country.

As destructive as these are, I still refer to this as racism lite compared to what is going on right now. In February 2012, the black community was rocked when news broke that Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black youth carrying skittles and an iced tea was killed. Several months later, Jordan Davis, another unarmed black youth accused of blasting his rap music too loud was also killed – both by white men who felt threatened by the presence of black life. The trend of profiling and killing black people has continued – statistics suggesting that every 28 hours a child, woman or man is killed by either a self-appointed vigilante or a police officer.

The later part of 2014 has definitely given witness to this. Eric Garner, John Crawford, Michael Brown, Ezell Ford, Darrien Hunt, Rumain Brisbon, and Tamir Rice – just to name those at the top of my head. All black men and children, all unarmed. All of which tells me that the struggles of my parents, grandparents, and relatives before them are not in some distant past but are overwhelmingly present today.

It is open season on the black community in America. This idea may make some feel uncomfortable, it makes me feel uncomfortable, but lets call a spade a spade and tell it like it is. When white men and police officers can kill black people at will and not be held accountable for their actions, we should know that something insidious is going on. To not understand the signs of the time that are upon our nation, is to be sleep, to be blind, to be dead to our present reality. It is to fail in connecting these recent tragedies to the larger tread of injustice and exploitation that is woven into the very fabric of our nation.

blacklivesmatter

In response to these killings, people across America are speaking. In cities across our country, multicultural, multiethnic, and even multireligious coalitions are forming full of people demanding human rights and police accountability by marching, blocking highway traffic, and staging die ins. Just last month, lead organizers in the #BlackLivesMpls movement organized a peaceful protest at perhaps one of capitalism’s biggest establishments in Minnesota, the Mall of America, understanding that capitalism itself is the force that drives many of these injustices in communities of color across our nation. Behind the scenes, others are working on policy changes, so that police are held accountable when they abuse their authority. In addition, many people are having the awkward conversation that they maybe never wanted to have about race in America.

There is one segment of our population, however, that has been largely quiet – the Church. And when I say the Church, I mean the American White Church. Black Churches have always been speaking up, organizing, protesting, and agonizing about this – our prophetic, audacious faith is what has led us through some of this country’s darkest hours. But the white Church has largely been silent. For many, I am sure it is as a result of not knowing what to say, not knowing what to do, fearing that the wrong course of action could brand one offensive, at best, if not a racist. This type of behavior is called stereotype threat, where white people fear their actions will live out the stereotype of them often being classified as racially biased. But for others, the silence has more to do with not wanting to rock the boat, not wanting to get involved in political fodder, not wanting to sulley one’s hands by siding with black folks.

But the silence on part of the white Church really means complicity, doesn’t it? Those who refuse to speak up and out against evil, whether they like it or not, are actually purveyors themselves in that evil. Silence gives permission for those who assault life, justice, and freedom, ironically core American values, to continue assaulting life, justice, and freedom. Understanding this, silence is not a viable option? So what then will the American Church’s response be?

When I ask myself this question, I look back over my Christian heritage. I think about the baptism in the Spirit that I experienced and reflect on how this gift, so to speak, has been primarily used to build myself up over the years. I have used it to encourage myself, enhance my prayer life – in my closest, in my room, where no one can hear me speak. And then I look at the early Church in Acts and understand that this is not what the baptism that Paul speaks of in Acts 19 is about:

It happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus, and found some disciples. He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said to him, “No, we have not even heard whether [a]there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” And they said, “Into John’s baptism.” Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” When they heard this, they were baptized [b]in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying. There were in all about twelve men (Acts 19.1 – 7, NASB)

If we were to sit down and comb through Acts this morning, we would see that this baptism is about more than personal edification and enrichment. It is about the ability to speak truth to power in a deeply, oppressive context. In Acts 1, Jesus told the disciples that when the Holy Spirit arrived, they would be able to effectively testify on behalf of the Gospel. Prior to this announcement, the disciples couldn’t testify to anything – remember they ran out on Jesus when he was arrested because they feared going down with him.

But now, now that the Spirit was coming, they would be able to stand against the religious leaders, against the Roman Empire and tell the truth about Jesus, and what his inaugurated kingdom meant in light of how Rome was currently running things. Jesus’ reign meant that the reign of Herod Agrripa was coming to an end. The wealth that he enjoyed as a result of oppressing the poor would not only come to an end but be used as evidence to indict him in the kingdom of our Lord. The power of the High Priest, and other religious leaders whose policies led to the death of Jesus, was also coming to an end, meaning that they too would be judged for disowning and killing the Son of God. But how do you tell the truth about that in a context that is ready and willing to crucify anyone over the slightest appearance of wrong? Or let me reword that – what the empire defines as wrong. You see when you are under the rule of a regime like the Roman Empire, or the United States, more and more of the ordinary, not so spectacular activities of people who pose a threat to the empire become criminal.

Such is the reason why Paul questions the disciples of John in Acts 19 about whether or not they had received the Spirit when they came to faith. Paul knows that the stakes are high. In and of themselves, they won’t be able to speak against the corruption that they witnessed in Ephesus. Ephesus, once a hub of commercial activity, is on the decline in the time of Paul. Though on the decline, religious influence continued to draw worshippers to the Temple of Artemis, also known as Diana. Through Artemis they were able to continue to profit and grow their economy.

She was Ephesus’ only economic hope. And this was what believers were supposed to speak against and challenge? Not without the Holy Spirit. But John’s disciples have not even heard about the Holy Spirit. In fact, they have not heard about Jesus. They received John’s baptism of repentance and were probably living a righteous, moral life that modeled the very things that John taught. But John was not the Christ. Jesus was. In fact, John himself told those he baptized that he was only preparing them for the one who was coming after him, Jesus, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Jesus, the lamb of God who critiques, opposes, and completely reforms the systems of this world that force people to choose between God and empire.

Understanding where John’s disciples are in their faith journey, Paul takes the time to explain the way to them and then baptizes them in the name of the Lord Jesus. As the text tells us, as Paul lays his hands on them, they receive the Holy Spirit and begin to speak in tongues and prophesy. From there, Paul ends up confronting some of the very challenges that they were up against, going head to head with those who are making profit off of Artemis and is accused of jeopardizing Ephesus’ prosperous trade. The city, enraged and in confusion, drags off Paul and his traveling companions with the aim of trying them and most likely killing them.

It takes people with a whole lot of audacity to speak to injustice like that, especially when any type of economics are involved because empires hate losing money. Audacity, or the Holy Spirit. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can speak what we would otherwise not say. On our own, we are often weak, frail and timid, but with the Spirit working through us, we can prophetically testify against the powers and structures of injustice in our day.

One of the greatest missed opportunities in the Pentecostal Movement, and believe me there are many, is this right here. Almost instantly, we became attracted to the display of the Spirit’s power and missed just why He was giving us this power. In 1906, in the throes of Jim Crow and segregation, the Holy Spirit visited an obscure street in Los Angeles, California pouring out His Spirit in what can only be likened to Acts 2. There is speaking in tongues. There is prophesy. There is healing. People are being raised from the dead. And it is all being led by a black man. Can you imagine? And get this, whites are sitting under his leadership. For the first time ever in this nation’s history, black, white, Latino, and other people of color are doing worship, compelled to fellowship with each other in perhaps one of our country’s darkest hours.

the-problem-we-all-live-with-1935-e1365972666933Decades removed from this movement, I ask myself what the Holy Spirit was doing back then? What was He trying to bring about? How was He empowering believers to speak against racism, Jim Crow, and segregation prophetically, by first bringing them together in one accord and in one place? But white people didn’t get it. They were so consumed by racism that they separated out from this powerful movement to create their own assembly, led by their own leadership. Quenching the move of the Spirit, the only thing that remained was speaking in tongues. Only form and no power.

Brothers and sisters, as we find ourselves in the midst of the ongoing struggle to dismantle racism in this country, demanding an end to police brutality and every other vice that dehumanizes and devalues black life, I find myself looking, expectant for a move of the Holy Spirit. We missed what the Spirit was doing in our nation 100 years ago through this multicultural coalition of believers led by a black man; we are in desperate need of His outpouring again so that we can do it right this time.

The Pentacostal in me calls out for a fresh visitation of the Spirit because I honestly don’t think the white Church as an institution, not necessarily individuals within, will be what it needs to be in this moment without His prodding.

This is why I call out for a renewed indwelling of the Spirit, not so that the Church can hide behind Him, but so that the Church can rise up and be the prophetic witness it needs to be in this generation. This generation needs the presence and the voice of the Church, not to lead or dominate the movement for racial justice, but to do what unbelievers cannot do in calling out the powers of darkness, commanding them to submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Only the Church can recognize, through the spirit, the demonic spirit that racism is, a spirit that is so divisive, and so potent that it has kept people of color and whites alike, divided and captive to its force for over 400 years. A spirit not only bent on destroying black lives but every life. Only the Church, through the power of the Holy Spirit, can come together, and tell this deadly spirit that it is time to go. Racism, you must leave! We are sick and tired of being sick and tired. You will no longer reign and wreck havoc in our nation. You must flee!

I have alluded many times throughout our time today to my theological background which prioritized speaking in tongues above all else, including using this as the sole physical evidence to indicate whether or not someone was baptized in the Holy Spirit. As I look at the biblical text with these lenses removed and witness the evidence of the Spirit in the lives of brothers and sisters around me, who may not speak in tongues, but are full of love, compassion, and a prophetic witness which I have never seen in believers who were supposedly full of the Spirit, I am beginning to expand my definition of what it means to be baptized and full of the Holy Spirit.

Quite honestly, I ardently believe that the Holy Spirit dwells in the life of every believer. The question that Paul posed to John’s disciples as to whether or not they received the Spirit was relevant then because they did not yet know the Lord, and it showed! This is not the case for many of us in here, as perhaps most of us have committed our lives to the Lord. As believers, his Spirit is a gift to us, given not merely for our own benefit but for the benefit of the world around us. Imagine us as a people of God collectively lifting our prophetic voices to call out white supremacy, to challenge institutional and structural racism, to call foul on our capitalistic democracy, to pronounce God’s judgment upon a nation that has built its empire by going throughout the world exploiting others, to bear witness to the kingdom of God among us as well as the fulfillment of God’s kingdom where He at last redeems this world.

But just maybe, maybe it is the case. I personally hate to judge people’s relationship and authenticity with God. I would rather not spend my time trying to figure out who is in and who is out. First of all it is a waste of time, and kind of weird. But most importantly, God is the judge, I am not. Only He can see the contents of the heart. But perhaps it is appropriate to look very critically at our situation and context here. We have all, whites and people of color a like, been fed the adage that this is a Christian nation. Many of us have grown up in Christian homes, have gone to Christian schools, have partaken in Christian rites such as baptism, confirmation, and communion, pray at dinner, go to church on Sunday, and at least pick up our Bible’s once a week to carry it to church on Sunday.

While all of these things are good, where is the evidence? Where is the prophetic witness? Where is the presence of hospitality, love, respect, respect for human life and heartfelt desire to love mercy, do justice and walk in humility with the Lord? Perhaps many of us really are more like John’s disciples than we realize. There is evidence of some sort of belief and morality. But our very behaviors don’t reflect that we are following Jesus. Our ungodly bent towards white people over people of color in this country, using capitalism, colonialism, and orientalism as a means to uplift and support white supremacy, branding everyone who is not white as the enemy to the extent that our government and others in power such as the police, are willing to literally silence, through imprisonment, public shame, and death, anything or anyone who poses a threat the structure of white supremacy suggests that many of us are not following Jesus. These things do not reflect who He was, what He said, or what He came to do, no matter what version of the Bible you use to paint a different picture. These attitudes, behaviors and structural, systemic oppression, in fact, suggests that many of us, like John’s disciples, first need Jesus before we can receive power to speak prophetically and authentically that #BlackLivesMatter!

Receive Jesus this morning! Receive His peace, receive His love, receive and embrace His Word for your life. Be born again, embrace new life in the same way that John’s disciples did. And in your renewed relationship with Him, submit to God through the Holy Spirit, and become still before Him to hear what He might be saying to you in this hour. Repent of your own complicity and hardness of heart toward blacks and others of color in this nation. Grieve our nation’s history, lament and wail over it in the same way that Jeremiah and the prophets of old wept over Israel. But then allow the Holy Spirit to fill your mouth with the words to say and your heart with the boldness to say it in this renewed movement for racial justice.

Links to photos:
1: http://www.blackpast.org/aaw/seymour-william-j-1870-1922
2: http://www.fortruthssake.com/2014/12/black-lives-matter-race-baiters-silent-about-death-of-lontrell-turner/
3: http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2013/04/15/1863561/georgia-governors-office-calls-push-to-end-segregated-prom-a-silly-publicity-stunt/

Racial Justice: A Multifaceted Approach


Hands upThe roots of racism run deep in the soil of the United States of America. These roots did not grow overnight, but as a result of policy, practices and procedures over the course of hundreds of years, the roots are there and the system is massive.

The roots were first planted with the systematic removal of indigenous peoples from the land. Documents such as the Doctrine of Discovery gave Europeans permission to come to a land that did not belong to them and colonize it, nearly exterminating all evidence that anyone had lived on the land prior to their arrival. The system continued to grow under chattel slavery, and further still through the Mexican-American war, the Immigration Act of 1924 which drastically limited Asian immigration to the United States, and creation of the War Relocation Authority, permitting the forced relocation of Japanese Americans to internment camps. These actions and more have made it expressly clear that to be anything but white in America guarantees a life of pain and constant struggle.

And if we were to look into the soul of our nation, we would see that racism has created an intricate, stubborn reality that is hard to break, let alone penetrate. The roots have grown so deep and thick that very little else can grow in the nation’s soil. Racism is our culture; it has become our nation’s identity! It is in the air we breathe, the water we drink, the way that we think and even in the words we speak.

The question of the moment is how do we rid our nation of this poison? How do we destroy this living, breathing system that permeates everything that we do? In spite of the progress that we have made across many indicators, people of color and indigenous folk in this nation still deal with the harsh realities of racism on a daily basis. The untimely deaths of black men, women and children at the hands of police officers, officers who are never held accountable for their crimes, proves this to be true. How do we move forward from here?

Given the nature of the beast before us, we need a multifaceted approach that brings together all who are willing to dig up the roots. We need techniques that draw on various skill sets and levels of expertise to cut through the cords of racism that suffocate us all. There is space for protesters, for statisticians, for writers, for activists, for theologians, for educators, for musicians, for doctors, for comedians, for intercessors – we need everyone coming with the little bit that they have, committed to the deep work of undoing racism and bringing about justice in our society.

If you are interested in the intercessory piece and you live in or near the Twin Cities, come and join us for the Racial Justice and Healing Prayer Meeting next Sunday. We are not only going to pray and ask God for direction in this moment, but we are going to ask God to heal the poisoned racist, soul of this nation.

Racial Justice and Healing Prayer Meeting
Sunday, December 28
6 – 7.30 p.m.
Church of All Nations
4301 Benjamin Street NE
Columbia Heights, MN 55421

Hope you can make it! Spread the word even if you can’t.