Sharon's Blog

A call for Disciples in this time of violence

July 8, 2016

Dear Church,

The nation is reeling from the shock of the violent loss of lives over the last three days, which has resulted in confusion and a sense of hopelessness. Our grief for the families of the victims, for many of us, is unbearable.

“Thus says the Lord, ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping.  Rachel is weeping for her children, because they are no more.’” (Jeremiah 31:15 – New American Standard). Just as Rachel wept, God is weeping today for the deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and the five police officers who were killed in Dallas, as well as the injured. There is so much grief and anger in the face of these deaths.

There is a fear for our children, particularly our sons. We are saddened that they are being judged, not by their actions, but by the color of their skin. The list of names keeps growing … Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile… Argue what you will about their actions, what is clear in each case is the violent outcome in the street was not justice.

We also fear for those dedicated police officers who care deeply for people who they are called to serve and protect. Our communities are rife with the effects of racism, hate and violence. We know that many police departments and individual police officers are taking measures to identify and address systemic racism in policing. And we pray for all officers on the streets, recognizing the quick decisions they must make.

These tragic incidents are symptoms of a criminal justice system where in the eyes of some officers, the color of a person’s skin is seen as a threat. The disproportionate number of people of color incarcerated in the prisons of the United States speaks volumes about the problem the nation has with equitable treatment and opportunity.

We call on each of you, as Jesus’ followers to pray for the families of those who lost loved ones in these tragic incidents. We pray that we will move beyond numbness to turn our tears and sense of hopelessness into action. We must have honest conversations about race, grounded in the love and hope God gives us. We must model civility and mutual respect even in emotionally charged conversations. We must seek to share God’s love and we must persevere in calling for justice.

As Rachel’s tears were a sign of loss, they were also a sign of hope for the future.  We, too, must live in hope as we denounce violence, bigotry and hatred, and seek to create a world where the dignity of all of God’s creation is affirmed and respected.

Let it be so!

 jbrown-karimu  rdegges  TJames Sig #1  watkins signature
Rev. Julia Brown Karimu Rev. Dr. Ron Degges Rev. Dr. Timothy James Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins
President, Division of Overseas Ministries President, Disciples Home Missions Associate General Minister and Administrative Secretary of the National Convocation General Minister and President

 

Resources

Reconciliation Ministry website
National Benevolent Association website

Other perspectives

National Council of Churches statement

World Council of Churches links :

Ecumenical visitors to US prepare report on churches’ approach to racial justice

WCC news release of 19 April 2016: “WCC visitors to US enter conversations on racial matters in the USA”

Member churches in the USA

15 Responses to “A call for Disciples in this time of violence”

  1. Michael Tefft:

    So this violence is a result of systemic racism in law enforcement and the criminal justice system? That sounds like a press release from #BlackLivesMatter.

    • Mrs. Deborah Brown:

      From your sarcastic question, it seems likely that you are part of the Anglo-American culture that takes for granted, the freedom to live your life as you wish. Historically, unlike African-Americans, you think nothing of seeking jobs, buying in exclusive areas, walking in trendy shopping centers without conscious thought of being profiled or irrationally feared. Anglo Judges, police officers, and ordinary citizen do not truly understand the culture of African-Americans ( and now Muslims) and respond typically with fear and suspicion. Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ says to “lean not to your own understanding”. I suggest, that until you walk in the shoes of a race of people who, historically, have been battered mentally, physically, and emotionally in this “great” country, you adhere to the wisdom of our Lord.

    • Yes, there has been unequal treatment, with greater violence and lack of respect for people of color for decades. It is now being made more widely known by the use of technology. It can no longer be denied by those untouched by this racism. It is fact. #BlackLivesMatter movement is just exposing truth. That is why you see the similarity. Thank God for Disciples leadership acknowledging this truth. Let us pray, let us work toward a time when every human being feels safe, has equal opportunity, and is treated with respect as child of God. Black lives matter but that certainly had not been shown in these recent violent deaths ( which seem more like executions). Life should not have been lost. Our justice system is broken.

    • Dr. Merlin L. Taylor, Jr.:

      God bless you, Mr. Teft. Would you please specify the offense(s) you take at “A call for Disciples in this time of violence”? Since I request this of you, I first will disclose what I love about this call.
      (1) Romans 12:17-21 (KJV): “Recompense to no man evil for evil.” This seems the inspiration for most of the statement, especially the passage “We, too, must live in hope as we denounce violence, bigotry and hatred…” “Provide things honest in the sight of all men” seems the inspiration, for”We must have honest conversations about race, grounded in the love and hope God gives us,” but even more so for “…we must persevere in calling for justice” and most of all for the comment “what is clear in each case is the violent outcome in the street was not justice.” (That last comment applies as much to the murdered police officers in Dallas as it does to Alton Sterling, Philandro Castile, et al.) “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men” is faithfully reflected in “We must model civility and mutual respect even in emotionally charged conversations,” as is “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” “Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head” seems to be one of those contradictory and bloodcurdling passages one encounters in the Bible, but read the words of the late Bishop KC Pillai:
      “To start fires in the East, they would use a flint and stone. Maybe only one family had the flint in a village. There is a village fire carrier. They place a leather cushion on his head and then a bowl on top. The coals of fire go in the bowl and he carries it from house to house where each woman will take coals to start a fire. As he walks the fire will not burn his head but rather it will just warm his head. If you do good to the enemy it will warm his heart, renew his mind. In the East, love is symbolic of fire. Coals of fire warm a person, love warms a person—no greater force than love.”
      Likewise are we reminded in the statement to “seek to share God’s love.” Does “We must model civility and mutual respect even in emotionally charged conversations” in any way contradict “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good”?
      (2) Micah 6:8 (KJV): “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” Does a call for justice and equitable treatment for all in the present day and time contradict Micah’s call to “do justly, and to love mercy” in his time?
      In summary, I believe that the “call for Disciples in this time of violence” could be as much a press release from #GodsWordMatters, or from #DoJustly, or from #LiveInPeace as from #BlackLivesMatter. One last question: What would cause you as an individual to take offense at the meme #BlackLivesMatter?
      Thank you for considering my words, Mr. Teft. God bless you and all those who are yours, and keep all of you from all injustice and harm.

    • Dr. Merlin L. Taylor, Jr.:

      My apologies, Mr. Tefft, for misspelling your name as “Teft.”

      • Jeff Milligan:

        Dr. Taylor,
        Regarding your comment “What would cause you as an individual to take offense at the meme #BlackLivesMatter?”
        The Dallas Morning News published a tweet from the Black Lives Matter Dallas Texas Chapter on July 11, 2016, a portion of which reads as follows: “Good Morning, In lieu of last nights murders of five Dallas Texas officers, it is what it is. Justified!!! These killer cops have been killing our Black Men and Women every day and getting away with it.. Oh well, I have no sympathy for what so ever for those cops lives nor their families…” Dr. Taylor, why would anyone support this movement? I would hope that you too would take offense to this rhetoric..
        http://www.dallasnews.com/news/local-news/20160711-blacklivesmatter-kills-cops-fort-worth-police-group-claims-in-viral-post.ece

        • Dr. Merlin L. Taylor, Jr.:

          Mr. Milligan, my brother in the faith, I understand your distress; that tweet was despicable, and a disgrace to the cause. By now several pages might be dedicated to a list of examples of such ugliness issuing from the mouths (and pens and fingertips) of people vaunting themselves as spokespersons for #BlackLivesMatter. If their sins, however, constitute sufficient basis for concluding #BlackLivesMatter, then what about the Church?
          If any human organization must be judged by the depredations of its self-professed members, then the Church must be damned in the sight of all humankind–the atrocities committed by self-professed agents of the Church in the name of God and Christ could fill more than a few volumes. Consider also our denomination. Jim Jones of Guyana mass suicide infamy was an ordained Disciples minister (http://jonestown.sdsu.edu/?page_id=13778). How can we associate ourselves with the denomination that ordained such a man?
          Thank you for your comment. God bless you and yours, and may we meet again.

  2. Steve Barker:

    Compassion tempered with the love of God and respect for all life is important for all of God’s children. I believe the failure of our society lies in the lack of respect for each other. We cannot fall into the trap of pointing fingers at any one group. Finger pointing keeps us from seeing the other person. All races of people, political views and religions can and do commit crimes and are in our prisons. Law enforcement fights a very tough battle on our street’s everyday in every city in our country. We do not always have the pleasure of knowing all the details. Grand jury’s however do and bring indictments where necessary. Yes Rachel wept for the children but for all of them without prejudice. It is not totally about race as it is the sanctity of all lives. We need to pray more and live our lives with the same conviction as the apostle Paul did once he was called by God. He learned to love all of God’s children so can we today.

  3. Jo Kane:

    Since 1963, I have been very aware of the lack of integration in our churches. On a number of occasions, I have worshipped in large groups of Disciples or Christians as a whole but I have never belonged to a church whose purpose was to bring all God’s children together and worked hard to accomplish a diversified ministry.

    In 1963, in a small town south of Atlanta, I was a member of a small group working with the Georgia Division of Civil Rights. Our aim was to look at resources in the small town that could assist with desegregation. Being around 20 years old and naive, the group decided that the best place to start would be with the ministers of the area churches. We made appointments with nine church officials including rabbis, priests, ministers, and pastors. Not one was willing to sponsor an all church event for the town. The problem was not the difference in the beliefs of the various church groups but the skin colors of their members.
    Later during the mid and later sixties, my hometown had a bi- racial group of church leaders in the community that met to seek ways to solve community problems such as providing safe places for children, feeding the poor by growing vegetable gardens, providing a book for each child entering kindergarten, etc. Yet, few churches worked on integrating their congregations. The masses were told we would not enjoy the services of those of a different color but the same denomination. As Disciples of Christ, we must set the example every Sunday in each of our churches. We can not rightfully speak to the justice system, the school system, the financial institutes, or other societal groups if we are not sitting next to the colors of God’s children in our Disciples’ sanctuaries each and every Sunday.

  4. Jodi Robinett:

    I appreciate your article; however statistics do not lie. Until Black Lives Matter starts addressing black on black crime, this organization has no credibility. This group promotes their “peaceful” protests and many end up with criminal activity. How does that open the lines of communication? As Jesus teaches me to love all, which I do, I do not believe in BLM tactics. They are closing doors on themselves. My prayers are for peace and comfort to ALL families who are mourning the loss of a family member.

  5. Dr. Monza Naff:

    Beautiful and pointed. Thank you!!!

  6. Rev Jim Rawlins:

    This is a tragedy, as any killing is… but the prejudging that takes place does nothing but incite what happened in Dallas. Last week alone, 5 Caucasians were killed by African-American police officers. Why was there no comment on that? Why… because we do not know the circumstances that were involved in the shootings. They may have been justified, they may not have been justified.
    Grieve for the families of those killed, offer support and prayer… but when statements like “white privilege” are used, FUEL HAS BEEN ADDED TO THE FIRE!
    My prayer is that the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ will someday turn back to Matthew 28: 19-20!
    There is no better cure to the ailments of this world than Jesus Christ. The more we understand our calling and His ways, the better we deal; with Satan and his demons.

  7. Virginia B. Hamrick:

    I was taught to obey the law… the laws of God and man. Failure to do either has consequences. In Baton Rouge police were called because a man was outside a store threatening people with a gun. In this age of “video” one can see and hear officers repeatedly telling the man “don’t move” but he continued to resist. An investigation will reveal what was happening that couldn’t be seen or heard via media and it is wrong to pre-judge officers responding to a life-threatening call. Had the gentleman obeyed the officers, done what they told him to do, there would have been an entirely different outcome. The Bible tells us to “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Sad to say, too many children are growing up without guidance of any kind, nor taking responsibility for their actions. Also, our church leaders are not addressing the “seed” must be planted and nurtured to grow healthy and strong; instead of jumping on the racism bandwagon for every encounter. Change can only happen by starting at the root of the problem. Respect for God, for others and for yourself. Stop pre-judging officers responding to a call and instead address the actions of the one who initiated the call in the first place. Every life matters!

  8. Thanks for the good “Violence” letter. It would be great if somewhere there was a greater emphasis on the influence of the FAMILY ! Love and discipline in our family will never be forgotten. Maybe we should start a program and call it- GRANDMAS, ARISE !! More than once my grandma took me aside after I had done something wrong, gave me a good talking to and then she said,”bend over.”Sorry, I guess that is politically wrong. GRANDMAS, ARISE—-We need you !!!!

    • Dr. Merlin L. Taylor, Jr.:

      God bless you, Mr. Hickerson. Recently I turned age 59. My extended family very insistently and consistently taught my sisters and I right from wrong. My mother and father–who I am exceedingly favored by God to still have with me–worked especially hard: using encouragement, logical arguments, family parables, heart-to-heart discussions, and infrequent last-resort applications of hand to bottom, they did their utmost to ensure that my sisters and I would know the righteous course of action, why to take it, and what to do when the path seemed unclear.
      We are Louisiana Creoles of the Cane River strain: our heritage is multiethnic, but by the African essence that flows into our bloodlines by way of Haiti we are known to fellow citizens of these United States. And so I learned at age nine in Atlanta that my precocious reading ability earned me a daily walk through a gauntlet of insults and murderous glares from adolescents whose literacy I had dared to outshine; after school, sometimes that walk became a flat-out run for the safety of home. Even home was not altogether safe: My upright father’s work ethic, sense of justice and courage in efficiently setting up apprenticeship opportunities for young men of color made him a target for armed racists. By the grace of God we all survived that time–which was 49 years ago, so what? I spent most of the first year of my marriage free on bail over a $5.01 bounced check in a small Arkansas town–33 years ago, so what? Two months into my last year as a professor, at a small but prestigious Missouri university, I was called into the the office of the department chair–chair of a department wherein I was the only faculty member of color–and told I needed to “become less like yourself, and more like us,” told that a second time when I protested..but I was also the only male and the only person with Asperger syndrome, and besides…it was almost seven years ago, so what? My family physician is arguably the best internal medicine specialist in Memphis, unfailingly kind, unashamedly Christian–and free on bail (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rhetoricraceandreligion/2015/09/dear-black-people-our-respectability-will-not-save-us-when-police-and-respectability-collide.html). So what…is the pattern here?
      We who have had the blessing of intact and supportive families from childhood are rightly proud of those families. Understandably we who have had such upbringings are inclined to say that upbringings such as ours render social issues moot–but beware, brethren, of that temptation to hubris! The great apostle Paul warned that “they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise (2 Corinthians 10:12b KJV).” From firsthand experience, I can add that–even in the 21st century–an unimpeachable upbringing provides no sure defense against injustice for an African-American. God bless you and yours, and God help us all.

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