Jenkins is right, we have to do something
On Monday, during the National Anthem, Eagles veteran safety and team leader Malcolm Jenkins raised his fist to point out racial inequality and injustice. And I raise my fist with him. I’m not trying to sort through all of the politics here, but when I witness a cop killing another black man “who could be seen raising his hands” on video, I know we have to do something.
— Billy Penn (@billy_penn) September 20, 2016
You probably remember that just a few years ago, the players would stay in their locker rooms during the national worship service before the game—that is, when the “congregation” (the spectators) would sing a “hymn” (the National Anthem) to their “idol” (the flag). The U.S. Military then paid teams a total sum of $6.8 million to host patriotic demonstrations, including standing for the anthem. This business deal is now an obligation. Colin Kaepernick did something about it and many players followed. I stand with them because I have an answer to their question. They want a fair, just, and safe world. I don’t think the marketplace or the state offers us that. But I do think the church can, and honestly, I think our church does.
Six years later, looking for partners
Six years ago, about 60 of us started doing something about it. We planted a Circle of Hope congregation in North Philly. We started another expression of the alternative that Jesus embodies in his life, death, and resurrection. I don’t expect Malcolm Jenkins to have all of the answers, but being the church is a great response to the violence that we witness everyday. And I’m not just talking about the cop killings, I’m also talking about the end of the seven-day cease-fire in Syria. I’m talking about peace in Colombia, which we are now begging the Congress to support. I’m talking about another way of living and another way of being, which the violence in Tulsa, Colombia, and Syria demand of us.
As the Daily Prayer writer told us a few weeks ago, this alternative is about loving who God loves. “Racism kills belovedness.” I’m not mourning the loss of Terence Crutcher because he’s innocent—none of us are innocent. But the entire point of Christianity is that Jesus died once and for all. Jesus’ death is the only one that matters. No one else needs to die. Jesus himself was a victim of state violence and embodied the alternative that we continue to express in our body.
An answer to the question of alternativity
Being a part of Circle of Hope isn’t just another consumable choice. It’s not just another “activity” amidst your busy life. It is a way to be unique, set apart from the world, yet generously invasive and inclusive. We want to open our doors wide for the world to taste and see what we have. Rather than just sampling the community to satisfy our appetites, I want people to help us bring about the radical changes that the world needs.
I think people are looking for the alternative. I don’t put my hope in the political system. But I do want to invite the world into our movement of alternativity. I’m not interested in how “successful” we are, but we are looking for partners to help bring about the changes that the world needs, the change for which Malcolm Jenkins is raising his fist, the change that ends violence in Syria, offers peace to the Colombians, and makes our region more whole.
It’s all about a vision for alternativity that shows the world that Jesus is alive. When John is wondering if Jesus is the Messiah, he sends his own disciples to find out. Here’s what Jesus tells them:
Those who were blind are able to see. Those who were crippled are walking. People with skin diseases are cleansed. Those who were deaf now hear. Those who were dead are raised up. The poor have good news proclaimed to them. (Matthew 11:5)
Put another way, the alternative that Jesus offers and our expression of it shows the world that he is alive. We have a real opportunity to put our money where our mouth is. To put action and life behind the raised fists. Let’s do it.