Oakland church

Archive for Racism

“Our Democracy Hangs in the Balance”

We are living at an inflection point in the history of our country, and in the history of this planet. 

Michelle Alexander; a writer, civil rights advocate,  visiting professor at Union Theological Seminary, and author of The New Jim Crow; writes in the NY Times:

“Our democracy hangs in the balance. This is not an overstatement.

As protests, riots, and police violence roiled the nation last week, the president vowed to send the military to quell persistent rebellions and looting, whether governors wanted a military occupation or not. “

Is this the beginning or the end? Where lies our hope? Where do we begin? We must face our racial history and our racial present. We must re-imagine justice.

Michelle Alexander continues:

My hope lies in the movement that brings together people of all  ethnicities, genders and backgrounds as they rise up together, standing in solidarity for justice, protesting, marching and singing together, even as SWAT teams and tanks roll in.  — a reflection of the best of who we are and what we can become. It is a glimpse,  of a beautiful, courageous nation struggling to be born.

Let us, as people of faith, be inspired by this Spirit.  

Blessings, Pastor Laurie 

Take Action:

The Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III is the senior pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. He has recently recorded and posted two video messages about the killings of African Americans that have been fueled by white supremacy. I hope you will make, over the next couple days, the forty minutes it will take to watch and listen to them both.

The Trinity UCC YouTube channel suggests watching “When Is Someday?” first.  The other video to watch, whatever order you watch them in, is “The Cross and the Lynching Tree: A Requiem for Ahmaud Arbery.” 

May these two messages to awaken your spirit, open your hearts, and inspire you to action.

P.S. The petition Dr. Moss refers to in “When Is Someday?” can be found here.

Poor People’s Campaign Town Hall: In the context of the uprisings across the country against police killings of Black people and the devastation of COVID-19, people will come together across movements at a virtual town hall entitled “Poor People’s Campaign 1968-2020: Everybody’s Got A Right to Live! We Won’t Be Silent Anymore,” which will be held on Saturday, June 13, at 11:00 a.m. (Pacific time). Rev. Liz Theoharis, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival will be the keynote speaker. RSVP to join the online town hall on Saturday, June 13, at 11:00 a.m.

Being Grateful in Difficult Times:  Theologian and historian Diana Butler Bass  is offering an online class on “Being Grateful in Difficult Times.” It includes mini-lectures, suggested practices, and conversations with other writers (including some surprise guests whose books you probably love!). It is a completely self-paced online course – you decide when you start and when you finish. The course goes live on June 22 and only costs $59 if you register by June 20. Learn more and register here.

Advocacy: For those of us who can’t take to the streets, we need to take to our phones and computers to make our opinions known to the politicians. Here are two ways you can do that:

  1. Sign up to be part of the Poor People’s Campaign.
  2. Become part of the United Church of Christ’s Justice and Peace Action Network.

Care for the Earth at Home: Undertake some (or all) of the environmental activities that can be done at home listed here. The list maker says they are activities kids can do; adults can do them, too.

A Requieum for Ahmaud Arbery

The Cross and the Lynching Tree
A Requieum for Ahmaud Arbery – Webinar 

Sunday, May 31, 3PM

Hi Visitors and Members,

I thought you’d be especially interested in this upcoming webinar on dismantling racism, in light of the recent murders of Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd. The reflections are based upon the writings of late great
American theologian, specializing in black liberation theology, Dr James Cone, from Union Theological seminary. In his book, The Cross and the Lynching Tree, Cone draws connections between the means of execution of the innocent Jesus 2,000 years ago and the ongoing executions of innocent black men in this country.  Please share widely!!   I’ve registered! I loved  Dr Cone, and loved his courses in Black Liberation  and womanist theology. 

The Cross and the Lynching Tree. Join a national conversation sponsored by the United Church of Christ about how Christians can be actively involved in dismantling racism. Learn more about the webinar HERE.  Register for the webinar here.
Peace to you,
Pastor Laurie 

“As serious as I know the Coronavirus is, I wish…”

I’d like to share with you, especially in this season of searching  for leaders and policies that represent and protect all people, these words of the Executive Minister of Justice and Witness for the UCC, The Rev Traci Blackmon:

Dear God,

As serious as I know the Coronavirus is…

I wish Poverty was classified as a deadly virus so the world would respond to the deaths of the 2.6 million people who die annually in the US alone with precautions to contain its effect and protect the most vulnerable among us.

I wish Racism was classified as a deadly virus so the world would begin studying its origin and its mutations and investing adequate resources in developing a response to completely eradicate the effects of this disease on all citizens, globally.

I wish Sexism was classified as a deadly virus so that literally 50% of this world’s population might receive the attention, investment, and escalation of time and resources necessary to remove it from society.

I wish Homophobia was classified as a deadly virus so those showing symptoms could be effectively screened and, if infected, quarantined to protect the rest of us from getting sick.

I wish Transphobia was classified as a deadly virus so that we might actually work to save lives by stopping the spread of this disease.

I wish Xenophobia was classified as a deadly virus so that we would finally isolate the right people instead of those just seeking a safe place to lay their heads.

Basically…I wish the pain, silencing and marginalization of so many were enough to move us to panic mode…with daily updates…and urgent precautions…and monetary allocations…dedicated people at every level…working together like ALL of our lives depended on it…because they do.

I wish we were as ready and willing to wash our souls as we are our hands.

Hear my prayer, oh Lord.
And grant my request.

May we wash our hands, and our souls! 

Blessings upon your week, Pastor Laurie 

Gratitude

Photo by Pro Church Media on Unsplash


It has been a hard week, especially for children and those with respiratory conditions given the poor air quality in the aftermath of the worst fire in California history. Yet, the faithful remnant arrived to worship on Sunday, donning our  M95 masks, and focusing on gratitude and compassion. Special thanks to Tim Carter, David G. and Al Figeroid for their amazing Thanksgiving skit! (Please see photos and video below.)
 
We also  offered gifts to support the people of Butte County, especially in Paradise and have opportunities to share more (please see article below). 
 
We are reminded with every breath that we share the same air, and that we are more connected than we realize. May the breath, the Spirit of God, unite us together despite all that seeks to divide us. May we resolve to care more deeply for the earth, for one another, for future generations, and for poor people of color, globally and locally,  who live in disproportionally more polluted areas. 
 
May we remember, especially on this Thanksgiving, the heroism of Squanto who showed unconditional love to the Pilgrims despite his entrapment and enslavement by white skinned people; to those he could have easily seen as the enemy. May we remember that this sacred land that we live on was first their land.  May we remember the wisdom of the Native Americans who recognized their deep connection with this precious planet. 
 
Next Sunday join us for a conversation about becoming more conscious of our own white privilege, and a discussion after worship on Robin D’Angelo’s book, “White Fragility”. If you haven’t ordered the book, and don’t have time to read it, I encourage you to read this white paper
 
Blessings and safe and easy travels, to all of you who are traveling for Thanksgiving. 
 
I leave you with a quote written in Nov, 2016 about Thanksgiving by Dianna Butler Bass entitled, “Choose Gratitude”.

God, there are days we do not feel grateful. When we are anxious or angry. When we feel alone. When we do not understand what is happening in the world or with our neighbors. When the news is bleak, confusing. God, we struggle to feel grateful.

But this Thanksgiving, we choose gratitude.

We choose to accept life as a gift from you, and as a gift from the unfolding work of all creation.

We choose to be grateful for the earth from which our food comes; for the water that gives life; and for the air we all breathe.

We choose to thank our ancestors, those who came before us, grateful for their stories and struggles, and we receive their wisdom as a continuing gift for today.

We choose to see our families and friends with new eyes, appreciating and accepting them for who they are. We are thankful for our homes, whether humble or grand.

We will be grateful for our neighbors, no matter how they voted, whatever our differences, or how much we feel hurt or misunderstood by them.

We choose to see the whole planet as our shared commons, the stage of the future of humankind and creation.

God, this Thanksgiving, we do not give thanks. We choose it. We will make this choice of thanks with courageous hearts, knowing that it is humbling to say “thank you.” We choose to see your sacred generosity, aware that we live in an infinite circle of gratitude. That we all are guests at a hospitable table around which gifts are passed and received. We will not let anything opposed to love take over this table. Instead, we choose grace, free and unmerited love, the giftedness of life everywhere. In this choosing, and in the making, we will pass gratitude onto the world.

Thus, with you, and with all those gathered at this table, we pledge to make thanks. We ask you to strengthen us in this resolve. Here, now, and into the future. Around our family table. Around the table of our nation. Around the table of the earth.

We choose thanks.

Amen.

MLK Sunday – a Drum Major for Justice

50 yrs ago the Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr. preached his last sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church before his assassination. It is a remarkable sermon. In it, he discusses his own death and how he wanted to be remembered. In addition, he skillfully used the “Drum Major Instinct” theme – “thinking that you are somebody big because you are white” – to offer a deep critique of contemporary culture and an inspired, practical vision for living the Gospel. Specifically, he critiqued the dangerous down-side of the drum major instinct. He addresses white supremacy, racism, economic injustice and war.

Like so many of his sermons, this one has incredible relevance for us today, the year after an election in which various forms of the drum major instinct are on parade all across our nation.  It is also what makes the message King brings home so poignant: the call of the Gospel to be a drum major for justice and peace, a drum major for serving humanity, that we may “make of this old world a new world.”

Join us this Sunday, as we listen to the prophetic voice of Dr King, 50 yrs later.

I share with you an excerpt from his sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church:

… And when we were in jail in Birmingham the other day, the white wardens and all enjoyed coming around the cell to talk about the race problem. And they were showing us where we were so wrong demonstrating. And they were showing us where segregation was so right. And they were showing us where intermarriage was so wrong. …And then we got down one day to the point—that was the second or third day—to talk about where they lived, and how much they were earning. And when those brothers told me what they were earning, I said, “Now, you know what? You ought to be marching with us. [laughter] You’re just as poor as Negroes.” And I said, “You are put in the position of supporting your oppressor, because through prejudice and blindness, you fail to see that the same forces that oppress Negroes in American society oppress poor white people. (Yes) And all you are living on is the satisfaction of your skin being white, and the drum major instinct of thinking that you are somebody big because you are white. And you’re so poor you can’t send your children to school. You ought to be out here marching with every one of us every time we have a march.”

Now that’s a fact. That the poor white has been put into this position, where through blindness and prejudice, (Make it plain) he is forced to support his oppressors. And the only thing he has going for him is the false feeling that he’s superior because his skin is white—and can’t hardly eat and make his ends meet week in and week out. (Amen)

Delivered February 4, 1968.  listen to the audio.

Offer Love’s Response to White Supremacy’s Hatred

I am sickened by the latest incidence of violence, this time  in Charlottesville, Virginia. I pray for the families of the two police officers who died on their way to help. I pray for the family of Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old paralegal who was killed by a 20-year-old white supremacist, a terrorist whose name I will not speak, who turned his car into a weapon against non-violent protesters. Heather was killed, and 19 other people were struck down by malice, hatred and racism.

They were struck down by what has stricken our nation since its founding: the horrible lie that is white supremacy. This lie was formed in the mouth of Thomas Jefferson, who had a suspicion that the Africans who had been enslaved by the freedom-seeking colonists were inferior to their white owners. This horrible lie was fanned into pseudo-science about racial hierarchy. This lie spits in the face of the truth: there is only one race, and that race is called human.

We who know the truth must be set free from apathy and boldly challenge the falsehood of white supremacy every time and everywhere we see it. We who are people of faith must not pretend that what happened in Charlottesville was violence and hatred on “many sides.” We must say the truth out loud.

This is the truth: White supremacists organized themselves and descended on Charlottesville to protest the removal of a symbol of hatred and racism. They will keep organizing and use every tool in their power to make America racist, again and again.

And we who believe in freedom, we who believe in the power of revolutionary love must keep organizing as well, and use every tool in our power to fight this hatred, to renounce this bigotry, and to call our leaders into account. This is NOT the America for us. This rising ugly tide of white supremacy, if unchecked, will become a tsunami that will drown the liberties espoused by our constitution, and will end more and more innocent lives.

Hatred kills.

We must recognize that all of these movements (black lives matter, women’s march, immigration reform, LGBTQ Pride, affordable housing, education, and healthcare, prison reform, climate justice, etc) are all part of the human rights movement. We must join together to stand on the side of love. Here are some things we can all do now in response to white supremacy:

  1. Tweet the president or retweet a prayer that @POTUS joins us to name and fight #WhiteSupremacy and the #terrorism that accompanies it.
  2. Read “UCC Pastoral Letter condemns racist violence in Charlottesville, demands equality for all”
  3. Read these articles and learn more about what’s happening here in the Bay area, Aug 26-27 weekend:
    1. Message from Mayor of Berkeley – The Aug 27 Rally does not have a permit
    2. Nancy Pelosi asks if White House had a hand in approving the permit for Aug 26    
    3. Don’t give the haters any bragging rights 
  4. Sign this petition from Faith in Public Life that calls on the @POTUS to behave like a president. It calls “on all elected officials to explicitly and publicly condemn white supremacy and the organizations that advance and seek to give it mainstream credibility.” And it asks “President Trump to remove Steve Bannon and other supporters of the alt-right from his White House and stand against the racist policies they propose.”
  5. Join us for an interfaith worship service on Sat Aug 26th, in which our very own music director, Benjamin Mertz, will be performing; stay tuned for more as plans unfold. 
  6. Join us for a conversation immediately following worship this Sunday about our own personal discernment in response. 

And never forget that when we take these actions, we are praying with our hands and our feet. We are mourning, and we are organizing against white supremacy with revolutionary love,  until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.

I leave you with the prophetic words of Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr: 

Hate cannot drive out hate: Only love can do that. 
The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, 
begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. 
Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
Through violence you may murder the liar, 
but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. 
Through violence you may murder the hater, 
but you do not murder hate. 
In fact, violence merely increases hate. 
So it goes. 
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, 
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. 
Darkness cannot drive out darkness: 
only light can do that. 
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
A time to end the Silence. 

History will have to record the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the vitriolic words and other violent actions of the bad people but the appalling silence and indifference of the good people. Our generation will have to repent not only the words and acts of the children of darkness but also for the fears and apathy of the children of light.” “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”