Baptist churches should emulate Black Lives Matter movement, says advocate

Michelle Higgins (Photo/CBF)
Michelle Higgins (Photo/CBF)

Baptist News Global, Blake Tommey, June 28, 2016

A Black Lives Matter advocate fired a shot across the bow of Baptist churches, challenging them and other Christians to embrace Christ’s calling to care for society’s most oppressed.

“The story of the church in recent years is that that we have failed to be the Black Lives Matter movement,” said Michelle Higgins, director of worship and outreach at South City Church in St. Louis. “So we must bear the reproach of confessing to people on the margins that we care more about building new buildings, moving out of dangerous neighborhoods, creating state-of-the-art children’s centers — that the people of God have abandoned God’s covenant. …” Continue reading Baptist churches should emulate Black Lives Matter movement, says advocate

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People Of Faith Encourage Candidates To Address Disability Concerns

AAPDThe Interfaith Disability Advocacy Coalition, a program of AAPD (Association of People with Disabilities), is mobilizing people of faith to sign a letter encouraging candidates to address disability concerns in their campaigns. The letter notes that Americans with disabilities “make remarkable and valuable contributions to our communities,” yet, “continue to face discrimination in many areas including employment, transportation, and education.” The letter encourages candidates for public office to address these disparities and set forth a “vision to encourage the civil rights of people with disabilities, and to promote their full inclusion in society.”

Dear Candidate:

We, the undersigned, are people of faith from across the nation concerned about the civil rights of the more than 56 million Americans living with a disability. Our faith communities are diverse and include people living with all types of disability: physical, sensory, intellectual, visible and non-apparent. We write to urge you to lay out a comprehensive agenda that addresses the civil rights of Americans with disabilities….

Candidates for public office must address these disparities and must set forth a vision to encourage the civil rights of people with disabilities and to promote their full inclusion in society. This is imperative in light of the gifts and talents Americans with disabilities bring to their schools, jobs, and faith communities. If elected, we strongly recommend taking action to:

  • Further expand opportunities for people with disabilities to live and work independently in their communities, including expanding access to affordable, accessible, integrated housing and transportation options.
  • Increase productivity and innovation in the public and private sector by expanding employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
  • Further the progress made in the graduation rate of students with disabilities from high school  by addressing remaining barriers to success in public education and transition to employment or post-secondary education.
  • Support the continuation of reforms passed into law as part of the Affordable Care Act that help people with disabilities lead healthy lives and increase their access to long term services and supports, as well as support further expansion of mental health and substance use services.

Read more and sign the letter…

Black Lives MatterRight around the time of the rioting in Baltimore, I posted on Facebook a meme with a picture and quotation from, James Lawson, a wellrespected and beloved figure, active in the US Civil Rights movement of the 60s. Lawson says, “Violence has no practical results – toward building a strengthened community or solving the problems of human prejudice, bias, and injustice. People accept the ideological or even religious myth that if you want to get things done, violence is the way. But violence is not even the faster way. It complicates issues, increases and escalates the pain, postpones the hard work of facing the problem and healing it. Violence can kill somebody and destroy buildings. But it cannot build a house or create a community that is more just and fair.” I found these words timely, instructive and inspiring.

Since last fall, when American Baptist Global Peace and Justice Specialist, Dan Buttry, visited our congregation, I have been thinking about the practice of nonviolent resistance. Using one of Dan’s books, Blessed Are the Peacemakers, which focuses on stories of people who have dedicated their lives to making peace – both famous and hidden heroes – our Adult Spiritual Formation group spent time meeting some of these figures in the fall. We also took the opportunity to share with each other our own peacemaking heroes. Then, in January, one of the texts we read in my Spiritual Direction program was Walter Wink’s The Powers that Be, again with an emphasis on peacemaking and the genius of nonviolent resistance. Eventually, we also used this resource in Adult Spiritual Formation.

The challenge of nonviolent resistance is that it takes incredible discipline and planning. It asks that we contain our anger in such a way that we can then channel it creatively and constructively rather than acting it out in spontaneous combustion. This is not easy. I have known anger in my life and I have lashed out more than once in ways that were unhelpful and only fueled the fire. Perhaps my early commitment to pacifism (I registered as a conscientious objector in 1965 at age 18) was an attempt to contain angry feelings and destructive impulses in the service of a greater good – the fulfillment of the Beloved Community of God in my own life and in the world around me.

Pacifism in our world often seems as quixotic as Jesus’ proclamation of the Beloved Community. “Get real! No one can live like that. What would you do if someone was raping your sister or threatening your own life?” “What do you mean, ‘love God with your whole being and love your neighbor as yourself,’ ‘love your enemy, ‘love Samaritans and tax collectors and prostitutes?’ You’re a fool. You have to take care of number one first. It’s hard enough just to get along with our own kind.” This is such a common world view. Let’s not upset the status quo.

And isn’t it just this commitment, or at least default, to protecting the way things are that led to the rioting in Baltimore as well as to demonstrations elsewhere? People are angry, fed up with a system that clings to security for some of us while others suffer the pain and indignity of injustice and inequity.  When people are in pain they cry out. They lash out. They act out. I get that. But what I’m looking for is a better way to express frustration and suffering, a way that will lead to real systemic change and not just polarize us into extremes.

In the past couple of weeks, I have seen Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words posted a number of times, “…a riot is the language of the unheard.” It is a powerful perspective. It insists that we look for, listen to, walk with those who have been silenced, forced to the margins, trampled on and ignored. Yes, right here in “greatest country on earth,” there’s work to be done. But let’s look a little more closely at King’s comment. Let’s put it in the context in which he first embedded it.

I think America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality, and humanity. And so in a real sense our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our nation’s winters of delay. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.

“Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.” To me this speaks to the wisdom and rich possibilities of nonviolent resistance and peacemaking. In fact, I believe these are crucial dimensions of Christian theology, drawing on the life and witness of Jesus as he attempted to bring God’s Beloved Community fully into existence. This is Gospel. There is no peace, there is no freedom, there is no Beloved Community when we fail to be just and fair.

How do we resist injustice, inequity, evil without resorting to violence? How do we make real peace in a world dying for it? How do we learn to love our enemies and our neighbors and ourselves enough to turn the world right side up and bring to life the Beloved Community God imagined from the foundations of creation? I have no simple answers nor can I promise the work will be easy, but as a disciple of Jesus (along with Lawson, King, Thurman, Mandela, Gandhi, Wink, Dorothy Day, Dorothee Soelle, and so many others in the great cloud of witness,) I want to commit myself to this discipline because I believe it is the only real hope we have of a different, better future. “We make the road by walking” has been our journey this year. If this is so what sort of road do we want to make and leave as a legacy?

Yours on the journey,
Pastor Rick

Statement Applauds ABC contributions to civil rights

Edmund Pettis bridge
Edmund Pettis bridge in Selma

A leadership group in the American Baptist Churches USA adopted a statement March 13 celebrating the role of American Baptists in the civil rights movement and recognizing the 50th anniversary of the March 1965 five-day march from Selma, Ala., to Montgomery led by Martin Luther King Jr.

The executive committee of the ABC/USA Board of General Ministries of American Baptist Churches, said a March 7 ceremony honoring marchers for voting rights attacked by police as they tried to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge “reminds us that this moral movement for justice and equality was birthed in the church from a faith that believes that all are created in the image of God and are worthy of love, justice and respect.

Read full article at Baptist News Global…