My Dear Fellow Clergy:
I am a preacher of the gospel of Jesus — a poor dispossessed peasant whose life was cut short by state violence. For over a century, men and women in my family have preached that a hunted and hated people must always respond with dignity and deep abiding love.
The gospel is not neutral. It is a calling to become the living flesh of justice in a death-dealing society. Born in the heat of slavery and refined in the struggle for justice, this is my ideology. Some have noted I have been seen consorting with anarchists and communists. While I disagree with the ideological proclivities of many people, they are, nonetheless, children of God. And is not the gospel for the anarchist, the faithful and the communist alike? There is room for all at the table of justice.
In August, when militarized police occupied Ferguson, Phil Agnew, co-founder of the Dream Defenders, presented me with a challenge: “Ferguson will determine whether or not the church is still relevant.” Our teargas summer has become a bitter winter of waiting, and the clergy seem to be running that risk of irrelevancy. Some have expressed dismay at the angry youth who responded to both the unconscionable killing of Mike Brown and the unconstitutional repression of protest. It has been noted that the rage-filled protesters make many clergy and their congregants uncomfortable, and that acts of civil disobedience have caused our movement to lose ground in the white community.
White anxiety cannot become the measure of this movement or of the nation. Our movement must not be guided by the need to assuage white discomfort in the face of righteous black rage. Too often, there has been minimal or fleeting efforts by many in the liberal white community to address police brutality and the bone-crushing poverty exacted upon black bodies across this nation. If we rush to accommodate and appease those white liberals whose presence on the streets of Ferguson has been negligible, we betray the blood of the innumerable Mike Browns of America.
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