A Prayer for Dallas, a Prayer for Justice

For the past few years, as I’ve learned more about race and privilege in our country, as I’ve learned more about the discrimination against people of color in America, I’ve become more and more passionate about fighting for change, joining the Black Lives Matter movement, and using my privilege to advocate for truth and justice.  But this week, for the  first time, my passion turned to heartbreak.  For the first time, I was broken over our country.  I sat in a circle full of women I love and admire, and choked back sobs as I prayed for racial reconciliation in our country.  I prayed because it was all I knew how to do.  I prayed because I cannot change the hearts of anyone around me, but I know the One who can.  Ultimate truth and ultimate justice come from the One who created it all, and in the midst of the deaths of two more black men and five police officers, all I can do is fall to my knees.

 

Lord, you are good, and you are sovereign.  In the midst of heartbreak and chaos, You are our peace, you are our strength.  I beg that you would bring reconciliation to a broken and hurting world.  I pray that you would bring us together, unite us as one people under You.  I pray that you would open the eyes of your church, that you would open the eyes of the privileged who follow you.  Make it abundantly clear to us that your Kingdom is one of beauty and color, that your Church is not exclusively white.  Open our eyes, open our hearts, let us scream and shout for those who have lost their voices.  

Oh Lord, let change begin with us, with your church.  Let your people be the first to stand up and proclaim that something here is not right.  Let us scream and shout and mourn for our brothers and sisters of color.  Let us join them, let us link arms as we proclaim that their lives matter too.  Let us be slow to speak and quick to listen to those who are in pain.  We are hurting and we need you.  White, black, brown- we need you.  Show us that we need each other.  

Let us unashamedly proclaim the names of those who have not known justice while here on this broken earth.  

Lord we lift up the black men and women, boys and girls, who were forcibly removed from their home countries and brought to America in shackles, where we began a legacy of slavery, brutality, and murder.  Open our eyes to the truth that the system of slavery has left a lasting impact on our country and our communities.

We lift up the leaders who fearlessly fought against the injustice of Jim Crow laws in the 1950’s and 60’s.  We lift up Martin Luther King Jr., whose legacy of of nonviolence was rooted fully in your Gospel.  We lift up Claudette Colvin and Rosa Parks, who refused to believe that they were less than.  We lift up John Lewis and those who sat down in Greensboro sit ins, despite the hate thrown at them.  We lift up all who marched, all who spoke, all who used their bodies and their voices to change the legal systems set up against them.  We lift up those who marched from Selma to Montgomery, not once, but three times, to stand up for justice.  We lift up those who gave up their lives for freedom.

We lift up Emmett Till, who was brutally murdered in 1955 for whistling at a white woman. We lift up all of the men and women of color who were killed at the hands of hate, never to see justice in their lifetimes.  Lord, let our hearts break over the truth that these legal systems have not yet been fully rectified.

We lift up Michael Brown, we pray for his family, that two years after his murder they would continue to heal from the results of police actions taken against their son.  We lift up those affected by the 2014 riots in Ferguson, Missouri, that their battle cry of “Hands up, don’t shoot,” would still be heard around the world.

We lift up Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, Dontre Hamilton, Eric Garner, John Crawford, Ezell Ford, Dante Parker, Tanisha Anderson, Akai Gurley, Rumain Brisbon, Jerame Reid, Tony Robinson, Phillip White, Eric Harris, Walter Scott, and the hundreds of other unarmed men and women of color who have died at the hands of those responsible for protecting them.

We lift up Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, and we beg that these deaths would be the last, that this would be the moment our country proclaims that enough is enough.

We lift up Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, Brent Thompson, and Patrick Zamarripa, the five police officers killed while protecting Dallas citizens’ rights to peacefully protest.  We lift up their families. We ask for healing.  We lift up the officers who ran towards the danger, echoing the cry that Black Lives Matter.

We pray for those who have been told that their lives matter less because of the color of their sin.  We beg for forgiveness for the way we have treated those whose skin does not match our own.  We beg that you would convict our hearts, that you would change us.

We beg that you would raise up leaders in our country brave enough to join the fight, brave enough to proclaim freedom and justice.  Build up a police force dedicated to empowering the communities they serve.  Rebuild the system that has been devastatingly broken.  

Lord, we ask that you would convict the hearts of those who have committed acts of ill intent towards our bothers and sisters of color.  Convict the voices of bias inside all of us.  Give us a hunger and a thirst for justice, a hunger and a thirst that can only point back to You.  This is your battle, Lord.  We are your soldiers, let us be your hands and feet.  Lead us to the victory that belongs to you.  And in the end, sweet Jesus, let us pass through the gates of heaven arm in arm, rejoicing in eternal life together.  Let your sons and your daughters rejoice as one.  

We love you.  Amen.

 

“I am convinced that our present sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed within us.”  Romans 8:18

 

 


Time to Stand Up: Caitlyn Jenner & The Fight for Human Rights

For thousands of years, people have used religious texts to persecute, justify wrong, and dehumanize.  Since Christ walked the earth, people have taken His words and contorted them into something that preaches and breeds intolerance.  Before Christ walked the earth, people used other texts to do the same thing.  And while Christ walked the earth, we took words of scripture and skewed them to persecute him. For centuries we have perverted His words and turned them into our own.  We have taken His words and picked and chosen the ones that fit our current agendas, the ones that help to prove our points.

Two hundred years ago, scripture was used to justify the forcible removal and subsequent slaughter of thousands of Native Americans.  Today this is remembered as genocide.

One hundred years ago, scripture was used to justify the implementation and continuation of slavery within our country, the land of the free and the brave.

Fifty years ago, scripture was used to justify Jim Crow laws, further marginalizing a population due to their skin color.

Scripture is, and always has been, used to further marginalize the marginalized populations for which we should be standing up for.  We have used to words of God to justify hate, greed, and intolerance.  Today we look back at these events with disgust and shame, while moving onto a new population to point fingers at.

Last week I read an article titled “Bruce Jenner is Not a Hero,” and that was the last straw.  The author, Suzanne, essentially said that Bruce Jenner becoming Caitlyn Jenner was not brave, it was a disrespect to the way he was created in God’s image.

I don’t know if this is true or not.  I don’t know what God thinks about the transformation many transgender individuals choose to go through.  I don’t know what God thinks about boob jobs, for that matter.  But frankly, I don’t give a sh*t if you don’t agree with Bruce Jenner becoming Caitlyn Jenner. What I care about is proclaiming the name of Christ in a way that is good and just and loving.  (And yes, I realize I just said sh*t in the same paragraph as Christ and good and just and loving, but this is me flipping over the tables at the temple courts right now.)

Hear me, hear this.  I absolutely believe that Caitlyn Jenner was created in the image of God.  I believe that we were all created in the image of God.  But I have no right to even pretend to understand the struggle that those in the LGBQT community face.  I have no right to tell them what they are allowed to do with their bodies, who they are allowed to marry, or why what they are doing is right or wrong.

As a white, upper middle class, educated, Christian, heterosexual, able-bodied woman, dripping with privilege, (replace woman with man in that list & I’d really have it all), I cannot begin to understand what it is like to live in the margins of our society.  I cannot begin to understand what it is like to wake up every morning and to know that I am an outsider.

I am not on the outside.  I am on the inside, and it is people on the inside who have power. So now,  what am I, a woman on the inside, called to do for those on the outside?  This goes beyond Caitlyn Jenner, this goes beyond the transgender community.  It extends to the pool party incident, and Ferguson, and human rights.

We must stand up for the marginalized.  We must stand up and say that something in our society is wrong, something in our faith has been perverted, because we are called to fight for compassion and humanity and love and peace, and when I look around, that’s just not what I see happening.  I see Christians trying to control and condemn, and in many cases being applauded for their bravery to speak in such a way.

What would the world look like if we fought for justice of instead of spewing hateful words at those whose struggles we can’t understand?  What would it look like if we used scripture to justify the way we love people, and what if we extended that definition of people to include all people?

It is scary to approach a subject we do’t understand.  It is scary to wrestle with quesitons.  It’s scary to learn about something that doesn’t fit into our cognitive schema.  I get it, I really do.  It’s hard to realize that we may not have all of the answers.  But think about what a different world we could live in if Christians were willing to listen before they speak, if we, as Christians, were willing to wrestle with issues that make us uncomfortable, if we were willing to replace our pointing fingers with open palms.

We need to stand up.  We need to scream and shout and tell the world that something isn’t right.  We have introduced far too many people to a Jesus of our own creation, and have withheld from them the Jesus who spent his time with prostitutes and tax collectors.  At His table, there is room for everyone.  You and me and Caitlyn Jenner and Michael Brown and the Ferguson Police Department.  Sinners and screw ups, all of us.