Black Lives Matter
Let me be crystal clear: Black Lives Matter is, for me, a spiritual affirmation. It has political implications to be certain, but it is a spiritual statement. It is not exclusionary. Black Lives Matter is a justice statement that is meant to affirm a fundamental truth that has been obscured by a 400-year-old lie. The construct of white supremacy was a lie that was told to give cover to, and justify, the chattel enslavement of black people. The unfortunate extension of this lie is written into the constitution that counts slaves as 3/5 of a person. While we have done important things to bring justice and fairness to our community, the events of this year have demonstrated that our work is not yet done. White supremacy in all of its manifestations is an evil which has no place in any community, least of all a community that would claim Jesus as Lord and Savior. The beloved community, the Kindom of God, is not merely tolerant of the ‘other’, it is fundamentally anti-racist. The Beloved Community works for the inclusion, affirmation and valuing of the whole human community. There is no place in it for white supremacy.
Our Core Values
The leaders of the early church had a huge challenge (as any leaders do) to help define the core values that would form the basis of their identity and work in the world. As the church moved into the world beyond Palestine, the Apostle Paul spent his life writing, teaching and encouraging the fledgling Christian communities under his care to be faithful to the life, ministry and teaching of Jesus. A cursory reading of Paul might lead some to believe that the church, the ekklesia, was just another ‘do good’ charity organization. However, one thing that Paul makes clear time and again is that our identity isn’t rooted in the work we do. We are the church because we are immersed in the life and work of Jesus of Nazareth. It is Jesus’ example and call to self-giving love, in service and relationship to the ‘other’ that defines us. This isn’t a work of charity. This is a work of justice. It is the work of righting the world. In our work of self-giving love with all we meet, especially those who have been marginalized, that we reflect the Beloved Community. We align the world with God’s purpose of love, mercy, compassion and reconciliation.
The practice of justice is deeply rooted in the Scriptural witness. The prophets, during times of great upheaval made the practice of justice a high priority. For them, the practice of justice was inextricably linked to their covenantal relationship with God. The prophet Micah linked justice, kindness and an abiding relationship with God. In Scripture, justice has a specific meaning. While some in our day would say that justice has to do with law and order, in the biblical sense, it has to do with working in concert with what God is doing in the world. This work is fully reflected in the life, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. It is the work of loving our neighbor as our self, in all the specific ways that Jesus lived that out. If we are to follow the path of Christ, this becomes our work as well. We are empowered to do this work. In the United Methodist Church one of our membership vows addresses this. It asks: “Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?” As I think about the enormous challenges that lie ahead, I draw great strength from the hope and promise that God grants me the strength to resist and work against all of the dehumanizing evils that we might encounter. And, that together we can work for the day when God’s Beloved Community can be realized for all.