We mourn the loss of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and all others who have lost their lives due to racialized violence. The grief of their loved ones is our grief and we share in their agony. The riots in Minneapolis are not to be glorified or romanticized, but we must realize that they are a product of a riotous and unjust system. The disorder began when a man’s rights were violated and his life was taken. American racism was rioting against the people long before they took to the streets. We must condemn and address the cause before we can appropriately address the broken reaction.
The Bible very clearly demands justice in the sight of oppression and murder. In response to vain worship, the Lord told ancient Israel, “Take away from Me the noise of your songs, For I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments. But let justice run down like water, And righteousness like a mighty stream” (Amos 5:23-24, NKJV). Any theology or ideology that minimizes or denies the importance of justice in a social context is not biblical and must be called out accordingly. We cannot place our cultural preferences, partisan interests and flawed race narratives ahead of the Christian justice imperative.
A spirit of racial hatred and violence has engulfed the United States of America for too long; in fact, it’s our nation’s original sin. This reality presents Christians with the difficult task of rising to a biblical standard of love and truth while enduring extreme evil. This task is the sine qua non of Christian discipleship, but it can’t be accomplished by our own strength. While some flee, dismiss or exploit the tragedy, we must uphold the compassion and conviction of Jesus Christ through the Spirit’s power. We must acknowledge the gravity of the moment without being carried away by the moment. We must seek justice and hold the perpetrators accountable without reciprocating their cruelty or refusing to pray for their spiritual redemption. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., we must have the “strength to love” our enemies as Jesus commands us.
Yet, justice must be served and institutional racism in America must be dismantled. The Church must act now. Our social action doesn’t save us, but it serves as an indication of what is written on our hearts. The Church cannot quietly reside in a society where Black people are murdered because of their skin. It cannot lie dormant in a culture where one’s race too often determines the duration and quality of their life. The Church in America has too often been the handmaiden of white supremacy. Now, the Church must offer a sober, determined and steadfast witness against white supremacy as contrary to no less than the very word and judgment of God. This is where we stand: not on the shaky ground of man-made ideology or carried by the shifting winds of societal judgment, but with the Lord our rock, in whom we take refuge, our shield and the horn of our salvation, our stronghold (Psalm 18:2). We don’t have to deny our pain, sadness or anger, but we do have to turn it over to God and respond in ways that glorify Him. Pray, mourn and bear witness to the justice and peace that are constitutive of Christ’s reign. With the help of the Spirit, the Church can again be at the vanguard of a truly transformative movement for the soul of America.
- Sign 2020 Statement: Sign the AND Campaign’s 2020 Statement and make clear that criminal justice reform is an issue you consider when you vote.
- Criminal Justice Elections: Engage in local criminal justice elections (i.e. judges, prosecutors and sheriffs) and advocate for legislative criminal justice reform. We tend to focus our attention on federal elections, but local and state elections are very important as well. Christians can come together and weigh in on criminal justice issues by hosting panels and meeting with criminal justice candidates and elected officials, while holding electeds accountable to our Gospel imperatives.
- Strategic Protest: We share the principles of Kingian nonviolent civil disobedience and believe it to be an effective way to send a message to those in power. Civic protest should be oriented toward civic change, and violent protest is often counterproductive and inconsistent with demands for justice. Ultimately, protest should lead to long-term advocacy to change policy, policymakers, and the systemic conditions that produce the need for protests.
- Police and Community Relations: Police officers seeking to engage their communities in healthy ways should be encouraged. However, many police unions that represent them too often stridently advocate for the total elimination of consequences for unjust policing actions. Write your local Policemen’s Benevolent Association, and if your family already contributes to a police union, let them know your donation is contingent on their having a commitment to justice and upholding a proper standard of conduct that benefits the entire police force and the community law enforcement agencies are intended to serve.
- Bold (&) Charitable Communication: It is important that we “speak truth to power,” but also that we “speak the truth to one another in love.” This means that we must encourage our friends, family, colleagues, and church members to appreciate the real traumas overpoliced black and brown communities face daily, which lead to distrust of law enforcement.
- Get informed: Here’s some reading that might help:
Locked In: The True Causes of Mass Incarceration and How to Achieve Reform by John Pfaff
Just Mercy by Bryan StevensonRethinking Incarceration: Advocating for Justice That Restores by Dominique Gilliard
Welcoming Justice: God’s Movement Toward Beloved Community by Charles Marsh and John M. Perkins
The Speeches of Fannie Lou Hamer: Telling it Like it Is by Maegan Parker Brooks and Davis W. Houck