GA-1539 & GA-1518 Black Lives Matter

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GA-1539 CHARLESTON AND BEYOND: TERROR, INTIMIDATION AND THE BURNING OF BLACK CHURCHES and

GA-1518 BLACK LIVES MATTER: A MOVEMENT FOR ALL

I speak to these two Sense-of-the-Assembly Resolutions together because they are similar in content, not because they are unworthy of individual treatment.

GA-1539 is a timely resolution rising from the meditations of our hearts. The events of June 17, 2015 at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina further exposed the deep hatred and racism still existing as a present danger within our nation. The Church mourns with those who mourn; likewise, we should labor with those who labor. This resolution includes an appropriate and applicable call to action: “Predominantly white Disciples congregations [are encouraged to] worship and serve with predominantly African American congregations to work to eliminate the sin of systemic racism.”

GA-1518 endorses the movement known as Black Lives Matter by encouraging all expressions of Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) by “joining the cause; sharing awareness; supporting and encouraging our congregations to be safe spaces and sanctuary for peaceful protesters, participate in and host sacred conversations and dialogue on race relations and inclusion, and be spiritual allies in prayer, for God to enable the pursuit of justice through those who take a stand and lift their voices for justice.” More contentious than the former, GA-1518 was overwhelmingly adopted regardless of what I observed as the two oppositional arguments: a) It is too political to endorse an actual activist group – I do not believe GA-1518 does so, and b) The resolution should read “All Lives Matter” – My friend, Rev. Brad McDowell beautifully addresses this concern in his recent post: To the Woman at the Red Microphone.

On January 1, 2015, the Washington Post began gathering all data on police shootings resulting in death nationwide. With all the crime statistics we gather, store, and publicize, it is shocking that this might be the first successful effort to gather data on deadly police encounters. Thus far, the data shows the majority of police shootings were “justified,” and the officers involved followed their procedural requirements; which is not to say de-escalation was impossible. Nevertheless, as I pointed out a few days ago, in GA-1521 ON GUN VIOLENCE, from January 1 to May 30, 2015 at least 385 people have been shot and killed by police, and among the unarmed victims, two-thirds were black or Hispanic.[1]

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I am 31 years old, and I am ashamed. In only the last few years and only with the added benefit of cold, impersonal numbers – I ashamed it has taken me so long to wholeheartedly listen and repeat the testimony of my non-white neighbors: There are “systemic and symptomatic pathologies present in the United States since slavery, resulting in the fact that Black men are killed by police four times more than any other race and represent a disproportionate portion of the United States’ prison population by mass incarceration.”[2]

Those involved in Black Lives Matter, a movement to right this wrong are doing a Gospel service. They are resisting evil and oppression. They are calling to repentance ideologies that serve to maintain white supremacy. They are radically critiquing the violent status quo.

Which leads me to a question: Why do I say, “They”? Why am I not involved? When will I start saying, “We”?

We must not sit idly by, silent in our support yet unmoved every time another post-mortem name is added to the protest proclaiming black lives are just as sacred as all others lives. Each congregation, each individual Christian ought to find his or her place in this movement for all!

[1] http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/fatal-police-shootings-in-2015-approaching-400-nationwide/2015/05/30/d322256a-058e-11e5-a428-c984eb077d4e_story.html

[2] The first “Whereas” in GA-1518 BLACK LIVES MATTER

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