Signing The Declaration as a team during 911 and UNDRIP anniversaries

I love being part of the Circle of Hope pastors and staff team. We’ve grown and changed over the years and continue to hold to what holds us together, love. Since its release last Tuesday, our team of pastors and staff have signed the Theological Declaration on Christian Faith and White Supremacy out of love for Jesus, one another, for the church, the victims of unjust systems, and for those caught up in these deceitful ideologies.

I hope that you have caught wind of The Declaration by now. One of my mentors, Randy Woodley, became an instrumental figure in drafting this theological and practical response for Christians in the midst of overt white supremacy and white nationalism in our communities. He personally invited me to partake in this move, inspired by the Barmen Declaration of 1934 by Christians in Germany who opposed the harmful influence of Christians adopting Nazi ideals and infecting and misshaping the Church.

When Unite the Right gathered in Charlottesville a few weeks ago, a long, sick story added a new iconic chapter. Since 11/9 (the last US federal election), white supremacy has been emboldened and become more overt. Many Christians in the US have fallen prey to norms and ideals that contradict the Good News of Christ. #theDeclaration isn’t just about pointing out the speck in our proverbial brother’s eye, it is a tool “to acknowledge and repent of the church’s complicity in perpetuating white male supremacy in all of its forms and to hear and to heed the call to return to the truth of scripture, fully revealed in the person of Jesus.”

As a continuing expression of the Anabaptist movement, we don’t all think that making statements to the Powers That Be or to those not part of the covenanted community is essential to what the church is given to do. We form alternative community to the domination system, participating in the cultivation of God’s harmonious reign slowly and together. One of our main partners, MCC, released a potent Statement on White Supremacy and Racism last month.

911 and UNDRIP anniversaries give us tangible reminders of work to be done

September 11, 2001 (remember to never forget, btw) often gets memorialized with loss, grief, and a promise that unity under the US American government will make everyone safer from violence, through violence. We would like to forget (or not learn) that the death toll for the War on Terror has grown into the millions. On that anniversary, I still resonate with what Terry Rockefeller of September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows shared at Jesus, Bombs, and Ice Cream, “There can be no war on terror. War is terror.

After 25 years of organizing, we can celebrate today the 10th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. The US, of course, was with the main settler colonial states of Australia, Canada, and New Zealand to oppose the landmark victory. Former President Obama officially lent US support to the declaration in 2010. Along with over 560 federally recognized Indian tribes, over 60 state recognized tribes, and countless other native relatives in the US—we’re still waiting for action.

Signing the Declaration isn’t just word, it comes with action.In response to these truths and in rejection of these false doctrines, we implore people of Christian faith to match confession with repentance. Let us find new ways to be together in the world. We offer four actions we might take toward the healing of our nation:” to listen, lament, repent, and re-imagine. I’m grateful that Circle of Hope has been a space where these practices are part of our rhythms of life and path of discipleship. I hope that more of our siblings in Christ can be present to our moment in time, and the Holy Spirit’s power and direction to healthy and authentic expressions of life in Christ. I hope more Christians will sign and implement the Declaration. I hope more people will be freed up to join in Jesus’ world redemption project.

Learning to climb while churches are burning

I got to have breakfast with people from two different states who each had a personal connection to Bree Newsome during last week’s US Social Forum. One was a mentor in organizing/activism and the other a friend of the person who taught her how to climb a pole for her action a few days ago. After reading her statement two days ago, I’m even more grateful for the Spirit and precision of what she did, what she said, and how she did it. I think we need to learn how to climb like Bree right now in some literal and many metaphorical ways.

As she was about to get arrested, Bree said You come against me with hatred, oppression, and violence. I come against you in the name of God. This flag comes down today! Then she gets into Psalm 27 and eventually 23 on the video. Not a lightweight. Not a single act of one person (read her statement above) but a reflection of a group strategizing for how to empower communities to understand and resist white supremacy.

Recently eight black churches were burned in eight days. Maybe they weren’t all arson. Maybe they weren’t all acts to terrorize black people. Maybe they weren’t all burned down by white people. It might be a good time to rebuild – see theRebuild the Churches Fund. It might be a good time to remember that 2,000 black churches got burnt from 1995-2005. I think just rebuilding doesn’t get to the root of the problem or the root of the solution. 

Back in Philadelphia, Septa police admitted overreaching when a dad with his preschooler didn’t pay the fare and got manhandled, while still holding his daughter. We now know the rookies who killed Brandon Tate Brown and future officer involved shootings will have more info. Will that stop the attacks on young black men? 

I remember the first time I took a roadtrip through the South. I saw state buildings bearing a surprising

GA State flag from 1956-2001

symbol – the Stars and Bars. It was explained to me as both a “part of our history” from white people from various backgrounds and black people. Not everybody thought that history was worth celebrating – many felt like it was a twisted reminder of the Good Ole Days when humans were property rather than a “remember this so it never happens again.” As people around the country have been rallying for it to be removed and even put in a museum, I’ve been wondering about the outcome of that could be.

If South Carolina actually does have the two thirds legislative votes to remove the symbol from government buildings, what would that do? If I were a devious leader of that State, I’d take it down immediately so people would be appeased then business can go on as normal with a different symbol up. I’d do whatever it took to not change the systemic withholding of societal rewards and dis-advantage. That would be pretty devious.

For 28 more Clever Drawings Will Make You Question Everything Wrong With The World go to https://www.distractify.com/satirical-paintings-1197696130.html

I’m afraid that what may actually happen is even more devious. Pulling down the Confederate Flag turns us back to the flag we all should love…the American Flag. This flag hasn’t had such good PR since WWII. Leave that symbol of oppression and embrace the true freedom that comes from the US! This flag, for many, unconsciously serves as a remedy to the current ailment and gets forgiven for its own past and current atrocities. I think turning to another flag perpetuates the empire cycle – rather than breaking it with Jesus whose Kingdom doesn’t even have a flag.

Learning to climb like Bree takes some spiritual listening – to God, one another, and to people experiencing systematic violent oppression as well as doing something creative and Spirit-inspired about it. I’m grateful to be surrounded in Philadelphia and specifically at Circle of Hope by so many people that want to learn to climb, too. Wherever you are, it’s going to be hard work – so get the spiritual stuff from God because the journey is long.

Four things for Christians to Never Forget on September 11

I was surprised by how many of my Facebook friends this morning were posting #neverforget. I looked at how it was trending and there were various politicians like Congressman Joseph Kennedy III referencing our “darkest days” and how we learned about defending and protecting. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a number of conversations around 9/11 with people I love that generate more anxiety than understanding over the years. I want to appeal specifically to those of us following Jesus to never forget a few things today because there is so much we could forget if we’re too ensnared by the status quo.

Today reminds people of their pain and sometimes brings hurt feelings back up. No need to be too terse or cynical on or about a day that many Americans – especially for people from the NYC area – find to be really sensitive. 

One time I had someone end a conversation about 9/11 with me by saying “I guess we just feel it more because we’re from around there” as a way to not question anything about the CNN version of the story. I’ve talked to a surprising number of people who lost friends, family or had their dad working in the building, or had a friend who was home sick when he should have been at his desk in one of the towers. For many Americans, it’s easy to feel belittled or get defensive as soon as dialogue begins. For people of Arab decent (also South Asians and others who might resemble Arabs to the ignorant) 911 was a watershed moment for an exponential increase of anti-Arab racism in the US and islamophobia.

We need to learn what to do with our pain so it doesn’t just hurt others. We have possibilities to mend, connect, forgive, listen, speak, and be heard. We also have the option to respond by inflicting more damage. Thankfully, there are many who allow their grief and loss to be transformed into something beautiful. This post from Shaner today about an event that we did a few years ago carries a potent message…”On the 10th anniversary of 9/11, we hosted an event called ‘Jesus, Bombs, and Ice Cream’ and one of the folks who moved us with her testimony was Terry Rockefeller who lost her sister in the World Trade Center. She has used her pain to fuel a movement of victims working for peace.”

Today is a rally cry for both the war machine and the resistance. Perpetual preemptive war rages on. Statistics Brain, with their narrative, lists causalities of the day including in the towers, NYC, the flights, and in the Pentagon – it’s almost 3,000 deaths. Costs of War breaks out just the direct deaths in Afghanistan (21,000 civilians), Iraq (133,000 civilians), and the secret war in Pakistan (20,000-50,000 civilians).

Some of the resistance has a different rally cry, one that some find as offensive as others find slogans such as “these colors don’t run” or a certain Toby Keith song. One of my friends from high school worked on one of the early 9/11 Truth Films and one of my favorite rappers (who happens to be from Harlem) wrote a song about it [warning: lots of bad words]. I think there are a lot of ways to resist war making and war profiteering, I think the best is making peace with Jesus.

Jesus is making peace like it was His job as the church continues to fracture. Some fly American flags during their worship, others speak out for those oppressed by the military the flag represents, and others remain ambivalent. Even though it’s uncomfortable, I think we still need to be in the mix with Jesus – speaking and acting for peace. While we need to be in the middle of conflict, let’s be caring and as sensitive as possible; for God, for those who died and those are still hurting in the US, as well as those who seem further away but suffer no less. Working for peace is not just criticizing the fighting or being correct about an issue. It is cultivating possibilities for healing, respect, and justice.