Prayer As Protest (1 of 4)

On Monday night my friend, David Swanson, pastor of New Community in Bronzeville, organized a prayer time that included dozens of clergy and hundreds of participants. It was a time of prayer at the Chicago Police Department’s administrative headquarters, prayer specifically and protest generally, insofar as prayer is a particular protestation.

I wanted to follow up to reflect on the action in a few posts. This one is meant to guide my thinking and stepping forward, perhaps, the first being an attempt to sit with and pray with the scriptures informing such prayerful acts.

I invite you to join me in holding some of these heavy words as you pray around some of the sad realities happening in Chicago these days. Where I’ve included only single verses, feel urged to visit the contextual addresses so as to pray more fully.

by Dariusz Sankowski

God said, “I’ve taken a good, long look at the affliction of my people in Egypt. I’ve heard their cries for deliverance from their slave masters; I know all about their pain. And now I have come down to help them, pry them loose from the grip…” (Exodus 3:17, MSG)

Whenever the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge, and he delivered them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the Lord would be moved to pity by their groaning because of those who persecuted and oppressed them (Judges 2:18, NRSV)

In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted (Psalm 77:2, NRSV)

This is what the Lord says: “At just the right time, I will respond to you. On the day of salvation I will help you. I will protect you and give you to the people as my covenant with them. Through you I will reestablish the land of Israel and assign it to its own people again (Isaiah 49:8, NLT)

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end (Lamentations 3:22, NRSV)

Even though the destroyer has destroyed Judah, the Lord will restore its honor. Israel’s vine has been stripped of branches, but he will restore its splendor (Nahum 2:2, NLT)

And I will deal severely with all who have oppressed you. I will save the weak and helpless ones; I will bring together those who were chased away. I will give glory and fame to my former exiles, wherever they have been mocked and shamed.(Zephaniah 3:19, NLT)

…for your Father knows what you need before you ask him (Matthew 6, NRSV)

But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’ (Luke 10:10-11, NRSV)

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him (Ephesians 1:17, NRSV)

So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while.(1 Peter 1:6, NLT)

 

 

Quotes & Small Group

My Monday night group is discussing Kelly Brown Douglas’s Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God. The book is an indispensable theological response to black people’s corporate experience of violence and brutality, while also offering a historical narrative out of which such injustices emerge.

Our small group discussion has so far taken us through United States of American history as it relates to race, strong and illuminating conversations about how easy it is to be black and to not see one’s self spoken of or spoken to in the scriptures, detailed discussions about education and youth and poverty, and quiet but pronounced conversion happening among us.

Photo Thanks to Aaron Burden

Photo Thanks to Aaron Burden

Today’s chapter is “A Father’s Faith” and here are some of the quotes that I’m turning over in anticipation of seeing my friends this evening:

Faith is a response to God. Faith is possible only if God has acted and has initiated a relationship with human beings. Faith is the human response to God’s invitation to be in a relationship. Black faith represents a resounding yes to God’s offer. (p. 139)

Spirituals, essentially, reveal the foundation for a faith that will sustain black people through the paradox of being faithful in a society defined by the Anglo-Saxon myth. (p. 141)

According to the enslaved authors of the spirituals, the freedom of God concerned the very nature of God’s presence in their lives as well as God’s very nature. Theologically speaking, the freedom of God as expressed in the spirituals bore witness both to the economy of God (God’s movement in human history) and the aseity of God (who God is in God’s self). The spiritual’s testimony concerning the freedom of God suggested at least two interrelated things. First, God was by nature free, therefore, complete in God’s self and dependent on no other being or power for existence. Second, God’s movement in human history reflected God’s freedom. (p. 143)

…This African principle maintains that everything the Great High God creates has sacred value because it is intrinsically connected to God. It is the belief that undergirds an African worldview that all reality is sacred. (p. 150)

The freedom of God that the enslaved experienced became the adjudicating principle of their very faith claims. This has implications for the black faith tradition. (p. 162)

…Thus, if the norm of black faith is an understanding of a God who is freedom, then that also means there are certain stories within the Bible that cannot be given authority. If black faith means refusing to capitulate to or compromise with any situation that violates the very freedom of God, then this principle must be maintained even when it comes to the Bible. Therefore no story that compromises the freedom of God, and thus the freedom of those whom God created, can be given authority in the black faith tradition. (p. 163)

As for the black faithful, the best response is indeed a response of faith, which means being relentless in the fight to dismantle this culture of death. (p. 166)

 

Just Mercy

I have a law project called the Equal Justice Initiative, and we’re trying to help people on death row. We’re trying to stop the death penalty, actually. We’re trying to do something about prison conditions and excessive punishment. We want to free people who’ve been wrongly convicted. We want to end unfair sentences in criminal cases and stop racial bias in criminal justice. We’re trying to help the poor and do something about indigent defense and the fact that people don’t get the legal help they need. We’re trying to help people who are mentally ill. We’re trying to stop them from putting children in adult jails and prisons. We’re trying to do something about poverty and the hopelessness that dominates poor communities. We want to see more diversity in decision-making roles in the justice system. We’re trying to educate people about racial history and the need for racial justice. We’re trying to confront abuse of power by police and prosecutors—

Bryan Stevenson in his book, Just Mercy (pg. 293)

Considerations on Peace From Howard Thurman

A cursory glance at human history reveals that men have sought for countless generations to bring peace into the world by the instrumentality of violence. The fact is significant because it is tried repeatedly and to no basic advantage. The remark which someone has made, that perhaps the most important fact we learn from history is that we do not learn from history, is very much to the point. Violence is very deceptive as a technique because of the way in which it comes to rescue the of those who are in a hurry. Violence at first is very efficient, very effective. It stampedes, overruns, pushes aside and carries the day. It becomes the major vehicle of power, or the radical threat of power. It inspires fear and resistance. The fact that it inspires resistance is underestimated, while the fact that it inspires fear is overestimated. This is the secret of its deception. Violence is the ritual and the etiquette of those who stand in a position of overt control in the world. As long as this is true, it will be impossible to make power–economic, social or political–responsive to anything that is morally or socially motivating. Men resort to violence when they are unable or unwilling to tax their resourcefulness for methods that will inspire the confidence or the mental and moral support of other men. This is true, whether in the relationship between parents and children in the home or in great affairs of the state involving the affirmation of masses of the people. Violence rarely, if ever, gets the consent of the spirit of men upon whom it is used. It drives them underground, it makes them seek cover, if they cannot overcome it in other ways. It merely postpones the day of revenge and retaliation. To believe in some other way, that will not inspire retaliation and will curb evil and bring about social change, requires a spiritual maturity that has appeared only sporadically in the life of man on this planet. The statement may provide the machinery, but the functioning of it is dependent upon the climate created by the daily habits of the people.

May we tax our own resourcefulness and may these good peaceful things be so in us. (From Deep Is The Hunger, 34-35)

A Recent Journey With A Friend

The initial question.

The reasons we participated.

The preparation for an interruption which wasn’t really.

The long ride, trading sentences and looking out and catching up.

The nervousness of being surrounded by people so different and so similar.

The mumbling that became words which turned into songs.

The string of cameras and the open streets.

The rhythmic stamping of our feet.

The commitment to stay.

The commitment to stay together.

The rumbles of thunder.

The hard-won meal in a hurry.

The symbols of darkness and light.

The gas masks, water bottles, and signs.

The jumping and chanting and watching and waiting.

The circles of prayer, the clusters of pain.

The playful way we wondered what in the world we were the doing.

The amplified voice of that one man commanding them, not us, to leave.

The joking.  The questions.  The long silence.  The disgust-filled prayers.

The heavyset, sweating leader we stood with and for.

The shock to our bodies from the weight of the evening.

The words of that one sister, the missionary, who checked us all.

The stark contrasting pictures of justice.

The greetings and the welcome words.

The shaking of our heads and the wringing of our hearts.

The long, aching journey home.

The stars, bright like flashes, overhead in the darkness.