There are good reasons to resist…

[From Ray: Like many of you, we publish a weekly newsletter. These are my comments from today, June 2, that I share for any interested. You should know that when I say “we” or refer to “our congregation” – I am speaking of you as well. I know how hard we continue to work for justice and love and an end to this insanity…]

First, let’s get this out of the way. We do not condone violence. I do not condone violence. We are a peaceful loving people. If you are part of this congregation you know that. If you just found us online, we would like you to know that. We do not condone any of the violence that has taken place in the protests over George Floyd’s death or in dealing with the institutionalized, politicized, and personalized racism in this country. Full Stop.

I start with this because multiple conversations about these protests against racism and injustice outside of the congregation have frequently started with the topic of violence, followed by criticism and dismissal of “the cause.” That’s too easy.  It’s what has plagued every religious, civil, and  justice movement in all our history. “Find a way to dismiss the movement!” That’s what eventually led to the crucifixion of Jesus, “He was a trouble-maker. Get rid of him. He’s a thug. Crucify him.” That’s what has led us here now.

A touchstone document for me is The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail. I hope you will find time to reread Dr. King’s letter. In the meantime, here are three excepts that demonstrate today’s need for resistance fifty-seven years after Dr. King it was written:

[1] “…We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word ‘Wait!’ It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This ‘Wait’ has almost always meant ‘Never.’ We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that ‘justice too long delayed is justice denied.'”

[2] “We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. …Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, ‘Wait.'”

[3] “. . . I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a ‘more convenient season.’ Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

Our resistance as a congregation continues our long history of justice diligence in directly and courageously standing firm, even when that has made us a target. This time, as in the past, is a time of privilege – the privilege to resist, engage in and support non-violent action in changing the conditions: removing the knee and chains from the neck of the “other”. The actions and wrong-headed beliefs that lead to “torture”, the toxic teachings that have carefully corrupted and hardened the hearts of others – these ignorant instructions and practices have no place anywhere in us or on this planet. They have no place in the hands of power or the powerful who embrace them. When that happens, it is our call, our duty and our privilege to work for change that brings love to others.

There are good reasons for resistance. Very good reasons. Please do what you can.

Along with our actions and prayers for the Floyd Family and the safety of all, we pray:

“For leaders who free us from the jails in which some lock us up; for
leaders who open the cages in which anyone is caged; for
leaders who insist that God-given rights never be legislated away.

“We pray for leaders who oppose those who embrace racism; for
leaders who have the courage to oppose the misuse of power; and for
leaders who stand with the truth-tellers, whistle-blowers and troublemakers and us.
We pray for the end to racism, no matter the cost; and
for those unable to serve our nation in such ways to step down.

“And we pray to deeply know our God-given authority to demand love and justice for all and have the courage and faith to resist whenever we must. Regardless the cost…

With love,