Last Saturday, a heavily armed white man entered a grocery store in a predominantly African American neighborhood in Buffalo, New York and fired 50 rounds, killing 10 and injuring 3. His own ‘manifesto’, the racist words he scrawled on his firearm, and a history of social media posts all make one thing clear: this act of violence that took so many precious lives and terrorized an entire community was driven by white supremacy and the shooter’s own twisted fear and belief that white people are being ‘replaced’ by persons of color.
White supremacy and systematic violence against persons of color have been ugly stains on this nation’s history since white ancestors first stepped foot on this land. Today it continues to show up in a thousand different ways that harm, kill, and destroy, and it’s on the rise. The FBI reported that in 2020 the number of hate crimes were the highest they’d been in twelve years. (That number included violent crimes motivated by bias toward race, ethnicity, ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender, and gender identity.)
In the days since this horrific violence took place in Buffalo, many politicians and pundits have offered analysis, suggested necessary policy change, and extended their thoughts and prayers. As people of faith, of course we also lift our prayers for those who are grieving and those traumatized by this unfathomable event. But while we should join others in seeking substantive change legislatively and societally, our voice as Church must also be distinctive, rooted in the language of our faith.
In the Minnesota Conference United Church of Christ, we are called in this moment to:
- Confess the historic complicity of the Church in upholding white supremacy, and repent of the ways we as Church continue to do so today
- Remember that God in Jesus Christ is a God of infinite, embodied love, and that a faith that asks us to love our neighbor as ourselves has no room for hatred that excludes or destroys others
- Commit our energies and resources to dismantling racism in our time as a sign of our faithful dedication to creating the beloved community God intends for us all
- Join our prayers with those of others, beseeching God to comfort the grieving, stir our thirst for justice and peace, and guide our feet away from the things that make for bitterness and violence
- Recognize and honor the precious image of God, and the inherent dignity and worth thereof, in every person of all races, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, disabilities, and gender identities
- Testify in word and in deed to our kind of faith: a faith of extravagant welcome, Christ-like grace and mercy, fearless courage, and justice-seeking action in the world
May it be so.
Reverend Shari Prestemon, Conference Minister
(image from The Guardian)