Biblical Scholar, Seminary Professor, Episcopal Priest

Posts tagged “black lives matter

Protest Prayer

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God of Justice who declared black lives matter at the dawn of creation by scooping up a handful of black earth with which to craft humanity in the image of divinity,
We thank you that our radiant blackness is neither accidental nor incidental to your glory.
We join you Holy One, in your lament for the stolen lives of your precious children: Trayvon, Rekia, Mike, Renisha, Tamir, Ayanna and so many, many more. And we partner with you in righteous action to transform this sin-sick world.
We pray your heavenly benediction on those assembled [here], those who will protest and those who will not or cannot. We bless those protesting in other places around this nation and world proclaiming that black lives more than matter but that black life is sacred, and your very image.

And we pray your earthly benediction on and with us, for you are Immanuel, God with us. We pray your protection and know that you are with us in the streets because you are a ride and die God. Lastly we pray for the work: the transformation of the culture of policing, prosecuting and the entire unjust justice system. We pray for those police officers and citizens whose hearts are full of hate and fear. Touch them with your love in and through us. And let us together dismantle white supremacy that all black life: gay, straight, bi, trans, women, men, children in their beds, felons on lock down & homeless teens in the street will survive and thrive because we matter. Black life matters. Black life is sacred. Amen.


A Gospel of Policing: Serve with Integrity

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Luke 3:14 Soldiers Police officers asked John the Baptizer, God’s servant, “And we, what should we do (since we have been moved by the Gospel to be baptized)?” S/he said to them, “Serve with integrity.”*

*Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.

When I was an army chaplain I called this the Soldier’s Gospel. It was important for soldiers to see and hear that their military service was not prohibited by their faith, particularly at a time when non-violence is often lifted up as the only way for Christian, religious or other ethically guided people.

Serve with integrity.

I find myself turning back to that text in these evil days. The models of policing that are dominating our public and private spaces are thuggish, brutal and lethal. And, they are shaped by the racism that pervades our country and our institutions so that individual police officers, without regard to their own ethnicity, violently perpetuate institutional racism. Yet neither policing nor police officers are inherently evil. They are part of a system, of structures which shape their policies and tactics and their own perceptions and responses.

Serve with integrity.

Perpetuating race-based stereotypes is not serving with integrity. Integrity is a difficult path. It means acknowledging and dealing with your own individual racism and that of the system in which you live and work. It means taking a hard look at your own arrest statistics and those of your department. It means coming to terms with the way your own biases shape the way you see, respond and police. It means operating against your biases against black bodies – seeing black boys as men, black girls as promiscuous, black women as prostitutes and black men as thugs. Serving with integrity means holding yourself, your sister and brother officers and your department to a higher standard.

Serve with integrity.

The work of dismantling racism and reversing its programming in public and private, individual and corporate. Police officers have a sacred trust and responsibility to protect and serve, assess, de-escalate and respond appropriately. Lethal violence should always be a last resort.

Officers, we need you. We need to be able to trust you. In the name of all that is holy and humane: Serve with integrity.


Statement on Non-Indictment

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I am proud to have co-authored this statement with my colleague Dr. Keri Day on behalf of the Black Church Studies program and Faculty of Brite Divinity School:

The Black Church Studies program at Brite Divinity School, along with administrators and members of the faculty, lament the recent decision by the Grand Jury not to indict Darren Wilson for the killing of Mike Brown.  We believe that a trial jury should determine whether the facts of the case warrant a murder conviction.  We mourn Mike Brown’s death and believe that racism is subverting the due process of justice in the Ferguson Police Department and Prosecutor’s Office.  The ongoing criminalization of Mike Brown hinders compassion, care, and fairness not only in Ferguson, Missouri, but across our nation.  The cry of Job 34:17 – “Shall one who hates justice govern?” – is an apt warning to America, insofar as racism erodes the legitimacy of our law enforcement.

We at Brite Divinity School stand with the Mike Browns of America.  We demand that public institutions be held accountable for their chronic, oppressive, and often violent bias against African Americans.  “Let justice roll down like waters; and righteousness like an everflowing stream” (Amos 5:24).  African Americans are routinely desecrated by America’s law enforcement and justice system.  We feel outraged by such inhuman practices and trace their roots to a fundamental refusal to acknowledge the sacredness of black bodies.  We deplore the widespread criminalization of African Americans, we denounce the structural racism that corrodes our society, and we join those who embody justice, compassion, and respect for all people.  Let us work together toward equality and fairness in our social, political, and judicial systems.


StayWokeAdvent

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A reading for Advent and a meditation:

 

Isaiah 59:7 Their feet run to evil and they hasten to pour out innocent blood;
their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity, violence and brokenness are in their highways.
8 The path of peace they do not know and there is no justice in their pathways.
Their courses they have made crooked; no one who walks in them knows peace.
9 Therefore justice is far from us and righteousness does not reach us;
we hope for light and look – there is darkness! We wait for brightness yet in gloom we walk.
10 We grope like the blind along a wall, groping like those without eyes;
we stumble at noon as in the twilight, among those fat-with-health as though we were dead.
11 We growl, all of us, like bears; like doves we moan, moan.
We hope for justice, but there is none; we wait for salvation; it is far from us…

14 Justice is turned back and righteousness stands far off;
for truth stumbles in the public square and right cannot come in.
15 It is truth that is lacking and, whoever turns from evil is plundered.
The HOLY ONE saw it, and it was evil in God’s sight that there was no justice.
16 God saw that there was no one – and even God was appalled that there was no one to intervene:
19 Yet they from the west shall fear the name of the HOLY ONE OF SINAI, and those from the east, God’ glory;
for God shall come like a pent-up stream that the Spirit of the HOLY ONE drives forward.

There will be no candle of Hope this year. Hope is no longer enough. There will be no candle of Peace this year. For there is no peace without justice. There will be no candle of Joy this year. There are too many empty places at the table to rejoice. But there will be Light. Light that shines in the darkness illuminating injustice and indifference. The lights I kindle will join with the lights others kindle and expose the depravity that steals, kills and consumes our children and, those complicit with it. This Advent is a season of preparation. We have work to do. Stay awake. Stay awake to injustice. And stay awake to justice, wherever it may be lest we despair. Stay awake. Or, as we say on twitter: #StayWoke.

Translation by Wil Gafney, Ph.D.,  all rights reserved

 


Turning Tables Teach-In Christian Responses to Racialized Violence

Updated!

J. K. Gayle’s response to my address interweaving my (much) earlier work on translation theory as it pertains to the scriptures from a black feminist perspective.

Live recording from 22 Sept 2014 including my talk: Turning Tables and Snatching Wigs: A Biblical Response to Ferguson and Forney


Summer of Horror

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Girls, black like me, abducted to be sex slaves and not for the first time, not for the last time. Tweet this
Abandoned to their fate, all but forgotten. It looks like no one will #BringBackOurGirls. Some of them have brought themselves back.
Hundreds of people lost on a flight and then again hundreds more lost on the same airline shot down, intentionally murdered. Their bodies disrespected, left to rot in the fields for days, perhaps looted. The investigation thwarted. Justice mocked, denied.
A war of disproportionate violence targeting civilians, killing children with reckless abandon, demolishing hospitals, ambulances, schools and refugee centers. And I am complicit. My government, my tax dollars, my army, backing and funding the slaughter and resupplying ammo with one hand while lightly wagging a finger with the other. click to tweet
A black man STRANGLED (lynched?) by a police officer on a city street on video. tweet The flower of black manhood has been shot down in the street like a dog. Left to lay in his blood for hours. tweet this Followed by a police response straight out of the manual of Bull Connor. Riot gear more up-armored than US forces in Iraq. tweet
I have been stunned into silence by this summer of horror. I could not blog. I could not shape a paragraph. I don’t know if I could have preached. Instead I tweeted, I prayed, I raged – keeping vigil in the age of social media.
The story of Job came to mind: for seven days and seven nights his friends sat with him in stunned silence. They did not open their mouths in theological platitudes. They sat with him, they looked at him, they listened to him. When they did open their well-intentioned mouths spilling forth the normative theology of their day it was of no use to God or Job. Job’s rage, including and particularly his rage at and with God, was right (alright, righteous) with God.

All kinds of rage is simmering in the cauldron of this summer. It is not all righteous but some of it istweet that The Church does not have a good track record of responding to holy rage – particularly of black folk. It kills prophetstweet

May the angry words of our mouths and the righteous rage in our hearts fuel the work of our hands and be acceptable in your sight O God of Justice. Amen. tweet prayer

 


The Racist Soil of Ferguson MO

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(Photo: Reuters)

It’s in the soil. It’s in the air. It’s in the water. It’s as American as apple pie.

Racism perfuses the soil and soul of Ferguson MO as it does everywhere in these (dis)United States and the Western world. click to tweet It is our legacy and the stuff shaping the building blocks of this nation.

We’ve scraped it down to the bedrock in places but never removed all of that poisonous soil. So it putrefies, befouls and infects the soil and all that we have built upon it. Like the United States of America, our (in)justice system and penal code.

The Church is build on that racist soil. Which is why the Church, its structures, images and people are affected and infected by racism. We have failed to expose and eradicate the racism in our midst.

The police of Ferguson MO reflect an American reality. They are not an aberrationtweet

At the root of this race-based violence is more than a rejection of the civil rights of African Americans as citizens; rather it is a fundamental rejection of the human status of Black folk. This is a theological issue. I invite religious communities and the Church in particular to begin to have these discussions anew.