By: Joanna Shenk
This post was originally written as a message to First Mennonite Church of San Francisco on Friday, July 8, 2016.
Preface (not included in original message): I condemn the loss of life of any person, whether uniformed or civilian. What happened in Dallas is a tragedy which must be mourned. And in this mourning, the violence of a sniper must not be equated with the systemic state violence against Black bodies for hundreds of years in this country.
Dear First Mennonite Church of San Francisco,
It is with great sadness that I send this message. In the last few days the lives of two Black men have been lost to police shootings, Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. Their deaths have catalyzed many to protest and respond, including here in the Bay Area. In Dallas the lives of five police officers were taken, as violence begets violence.
While these recent events—the ongoing killing of Black men by police and a sniper’s response—are unfathomable in one regard, we also must hold these situations in the light of our nation’s history. These systems of oppression are not new. The rage in communities of color, and among their allies, is not new. Our response as a community of faith is not new. We are called to comfort those who mourn and rage with those who rage at injustice.
I offer the following litany, as you reflect and pray.
Let us pray together:
God of justice, we are outraged,
as violence in our country begets violence.
We are outraged at the murder of African American life.
We are outraged at police violence sanctioned by the State.
We are outraged by the idea that guns make us safe.
We acknowledge our complicity when we have not challenged racism, our country’s original sin.
We acknowledge our complicity when we have not recognized the power imbalance between State violence and the violence of those who are oppressed.
We lament the loss of life in Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights and Dallas.
We lament families torn apart and communities shattered.
We lament the history of violence in this country against people of color
We lament that this violence continues today.
We pray God, for your liberation to come.
We pray God, for your comfort to fill the hearts of all who mourn.
We pray God, for your strength as we seek to embody the ways of love and justice.
God, hear our prayer.
Joanna Shenk (at left, pictured with her friend Zephyr) is associate pastor at First Mennonite Church of San Francisco. She is a co-organizer of Jesus Radicals and co-producer of the Iconocast podcast. She is author of Widening the Circle: Experiments in Christian Discipleship and has also written for Geez Magazine, Sojourners, The Christian Century and The Mennonite. She spends her time living in an intentional community, reading local history, running, riding her bike around the Bay Area and kicking it in Reno with her partner.
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