The Work that Remains for the Church To Do After Black Lives Matter Is Over

Desiree Griffiths, 31, of Miami, holds up a sign saying "Black Lives Matter", with the names of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, two black men recently killed by police, during a protest Friday, Dec. 5, 2014, in Miami. People are protesting nationwide against recent decisions not to prosecute white police officers involved in the killing of black men. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Desiree Griffiths, 31, of Miami, holds up a sign saying “Black Lives Matter”, with the names of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, two black men recently killed by police, during a protest Friday, Dec. 5, 2014, in Miami. People are protesting nationwide against recent decisions not to prosecute white police officers involved in the killing of black men. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

The Black Lives Matter movement was born out of the pain and injustice of Trayvon Martin’s death in 2012 and gathered momentum in the wake of the killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Walter Scott, Tamir Rice and far too many others. The movement issued a call to action for people everywhere to recognize the reality of institutionalized racism. 

Christian leaders around the country saw the movement as a critical opportunity to engage their church in conversations about race and privilege. The Huffington Post reached out to some of these leaders for their thoughts about how Black Lives Matter has changed the church — and the work that still needs to be done.

Rev. Jennifer Bailey

Founder of the Faith Matters Network, fellow at the Nathan Cummings Foundation and ordained itinerant elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Nashville, Tennessee.

The Black Lives Matter movement awoke our national consciousness to the persistent system of white supremacy and structural racism that penetrates each of our institutions. By placing violence against black bodies at the center of the movement, BLM has demanded dignity and respect for those who are often disregarded as disposal. This summer, my denomination was hit particularly hard from the attack on Mother Emanuel AME in Charleston, South Carolina, to the death of Sandra Bland, a young AME woman found dead in a jail cell in Texas. My prayer is that the specific pain and grief experienced in my church community this summer can be catalyzed toward concrete action and advocacy on issues ranging from police brutality to intergenerational poverty.

I think American Christianity has been slow to get on board with the message of BLM out of fear and uncertainty. The gospel message of Jesus was, at its core, about embodying God’s love through affirming the inherent dignity of all peoples in general, and of marginalized peoples in particular. I believe BLM is issuing a challenge to the Church to enter into a deep sense of collective lament for the loss of life, repentance for our complicity in systems of white supremacy and courage to be led by those who may not fit our “traditional” models of leadership. I hope that there will be those in the Christian community who are bold enough to take on this challenge wholeheartedly.

Pastor Renita Marie Lamkin

Itinerant elder and pastor in the AME Church, St Charles, Missouri

Black and poor residents of Ferguson have been systematically and intentionally targeted, oppressed, vilified and ignored. The government, affluent white business owners and the greater region are no longer able to claim to be ignorant to the crisis of humanity so many have suffered for so long. The police, though having been exposed by residents and the Department of Justice, continue to practice over-aggression when arresting black citizens. At protests, white activists have been spoken to politely, as black activists were pulled off the sidewalks.

There is a deeper sense of awareness in the church to the levels of injustice being suffered by black and brown people in the greater St. Louis region. Churches have engaged difficult and uncomfortable conversations about race, complicities in white privilege and participation in white supremacy. The Church has broadened its embrace of the “other” and has begun celebrating the work of those who are in the struggle for justice. Clergy have been more visible and audible in their critique of the racist systems from which much oppression flows.

But more action is needed. Too often, meetings and community conversations are held in order to delay progress and to give the illusion of progress, all while the community remains broken. So, action to change the system is needed — not Band-Aid actions.

Click here to read more

Source: Huffington Post | Antonia Blumberg / Carol Kuruvilla

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