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The Nature of Blue Supremacy

 

Blue_Lives_Matter_flag.svg

Commons

 

For the past year, everywhere I’ve gone I’ve seen this flag. Every time, I was reminded that it is the blue lives that actually matter. In these countless encounters, the message was loud and clear…only blue is supreme.

 

I was there when five police officers died. I still grieve for their families. With such affirmed, I am disgusted by how law enforcement has used and abused the memory of their fellow officers to ravenously seek more power. Did the lives of these five officers truly matter? It seems their lives have been most useful to strengthen the power of the blue. The aggressive marketing after their deaths was about one thing and one thing only…blue supremacy.

 

Why don’t governments honor the victims of the blue in the way that they honor the blue? One doesn’t have to wonder long…the answer is clear. Only blue is supreme. They can do whatever they want. In egregious case after egregious case, we’ve seen the blue brutalize citizens and never be held accountable. When you come in contact with the blue, you are right to be scared…any interaction could be your last. Throughout history, oppressors rise up and reign over societies. Many offer contemporary warnings against such a phenomenon. Make no mistake…we’re already there.

 

Not too long ago, we met with multiple officers to try to plan some level of security for a rally. After some conversation, it was clear that the officers didn’t like our plans. Forcefully, we were told that we’d have no security if we went through with it. “We ain’t going to put our officers out there to protect this.” When I found myself incredulous that they would use their position as a means of suppressing free assembly/speech, I let my eyes wonder to right above their shoulders. Stuck to the wall was a message…blue lives matter.

 

In the midst of our blue nightmare, a wild diversity of officers are abusing us everyday. While other descriptions of police brutality are also of primary importance, I think it is important to make sure that we have a descriptor that speaks to the ingrained and institutionalized desire to uplift the blue…even when it is of fatal consequence. Blue supremacy is a both a sickness and a mindset that has to be cleansed from our society. As long as the blue keep creating more blue supremacists, we will continue to see the blood of innocent people flow down our streets. The time to resist was yesterday. The blue is on the march and we’re next.

 

Amen.

Family

When a White Woman Dies: On Blue Supremacy

Family

Family

 

Repeatedly, I’ve stood in front of cameras and audiences to loudly declare to white people, “If you don’t engage in the struggle against police brutality, the next tragedy will be yours.” Yesterday, it was. Not long after calling 911 to report a possible sexual assault, Justine Ruszczyk-Damond was gunned down by one of the responding Minneapolis police officers, a Somali Muslim immigrant named Mohamed Noor. By all accounts, Justine was a beautiful person…loved by everyone who knew her. There is no indication that she did anything to warrant the shots. Regardless, there was no reason to immediately resort to deadly force. People often wonder why I teach my kids not to call the police…this situation and countless others like it is why. While there is no question that communities of color are under invasion by law enforcement, we would be remiss to not acknowledge that this is a phenomenon that impacts us all. So where is everyone?

 

Growing up, I was always taught that men are supposed to protect women. Even though I gave up on such a misogynistic idea long ago, I know that there are countless men and women who still believe in such a misguided principles. One has to wonder where all these folks have been when the police have slaughtered countless women? Where are they today? I would imagine they are driving around with their blue lives matter stickers all over their cars. I would imagine that they are in their homes as the blue lives matter flags and signs adorn their homes. One doesn’t have to imagine long, before they realize that these folks and many others who cling to tyrannical manifestations of ignorance are perpetuating crimes against humanity.

 

Blue supremacy is a pandemic. No one is immune. To those who just can’t seem to kick their blue addiction, I offer you the warning of Jesus…those who live by the blue will die by the blue.

 

Amen.

 

 

source: http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/australian-woman-shot-dead-minneapolis-police-officers-after-calling-911-n783581

credit: Christian Parks

The Phrase: Remembering July 7

credit: Christian Parks

credit: Christian Parks

 

*Originally in Dallas Morning News on July 7, 2017

 

Life is a peculiar thing. Occasionally, you find yourself in places you never expected. The allure of something more pulls you further. Then, the world explodes.

 

I watched last year as police put Alton Sterling down like an animal. The video played over and over again. I didn’t have a choice. I couldn’t walk away. We began to organize a march against police brutality in Dallas. Before our preparations were complete, I saw the video of Philando Castile bleed out after being shot by police. The video played over and over again. I didn’t have a choice. I couldn’t walk away.

 

When the time came for our march on July 7, 2016, I felt God’s presence. People kept coming. Rage was our friend.

 

The times allowed for no other emotion. Our rhetoric reflected the deep collective desire for swift revolutionary change. We believed then as we do now that gradualism is the greatest threat to justice.

My time was drawing near. Pain grew with every word. God drew closer. The feel of the megaphone signaled it was time for me to speak. Though many words poured out of my mouth, people remember four: “God damn white America!” Everything stopped.

 

During the next few days I did countless media interviews. Eventually, reporters stopped asking me to recount the events of the shooting and turned to what I said. I repeatedly heard versions of the same question, “Do you regret using that inflammatory phrase?” Amid the trauma and emotion, I gave a variety of responses.

Things grow clearer with time. This column is not an apology. It is an invitation.

In those moments, I said exactly what needed to be said. As a minister, what stronger language could I have used to condemn the systems that brutalize persons of color in this country?

 

After I spoke, a black man killed five police officers. Though constant racial oppression contributed to the violent climate, killing is always evil.

 

In the days that followed the Dallas police shooting, everybody wanted to talk about unity. In some ways, such talk hasn’t stopped. The problem is that everyone wants to sacrifice justice to achieve it. I will not.

I used the phrase because I am diametrically opposed to a society dominated by white people. How could anyone who has watched the countless videos of police brutality not join me? How can you follow the call of God to love your neighbor and be a white supremacist?

 

We are called to banish that which is evil. Is there anything more evil than protecting and promoting racism? If you want to stop, then stop.

The altar is open. Don’t remain in your seat. Step out into the aisle. Run forward. Salvation is here.

 

Invitations are never without consequences. If you decide to get saved from your racism, you will need to change. White supremacy infests every aspect of society. But the exterminator is within you. It’s called love.

 

For those still questioning my use of that phrase, I must simply ask: Are you serious about honoring the fallen officers?

 

Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, Brent Thompson and Patrick Zamarripa died protecting the rights of all people.

Will you live their legacy?

unsplash / Zurem Meru

The Ethics of Murder

unsplash / Zurem Meru

unsplash / Zurem Meru

 

*The previous iteration of this post was unintentionally hurtful. In the rush of writing, I assumed things that were not true. For these errors/sins, I am truly sorry. In the future, I dedicate myself to navigating/mediating my thoughts more carefully.

 

 

The last week of my life has been filled with murder.

 

I started the week thinking about the murder of young Shavon Randle. That a child would be murdered over drugs is beyond disgusting. Can you imagine what type of people could participate in the murder a child? I can. Warped children of God…but children of God nonetheless. Not long after the tragic news was revealed, I heard a friend of mine demand that the perpetrators be beaten and drug through the streets. What good would that do? It would only make us murderers like them. Murder is murder.

 

Over the last few days, the first anniversary of the July 7 murder of five police officers consumed my life. As I thought about the pursuit of justice in the midst of tragedy, I also remembered the shooter Micah Johnson. Though he perpetuated mayhem, surely he too must be a child of God. When the decision was made to blow him up, something very evil happened…murder. How could his murder be any different from the murders he committed? It’s not…murder is murder.

 

Just yesterday, I found out that my friend Lee Covington was murdered. The accused party is named Yevin Rushing. Violence seems like a proper response. However, there is no future in vengeance. Without love, we will turn into what we hate. Murder is murder.

 

The ethics of murder are clear…and murder is always evil.

 

Amen.

 

 

credit: Christian Parks

The Sermon After the Shooting

credit: Christian Parks

credit: Christian Parks

 

Delivered after the July 7 shooting at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Denton, Texas on July 10, 2016.

 

 

It’s been a very busy time. Just a few days ago, I organized the rally and march that preceded the deaths of five police officers in Dallas. This morning I want to journey through the story of Dallas and end with in the familiar story of the Good Samaritan.

 

On Wednesday, I partnered with others to organize the protest. We were all disgusted at the video of Alton Sterling’s death at the hands of the police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The next day another video showing the death of Philando Castile at the hands of police in Falcon Heights, Minnesota became widely available. Seeing those men bleed out…watching black Americans regularly bleed out in our streets…remembering Ferguson…remembering Baltimore…remembering city after city where black lives do not matter…including our own…Denton, Texas…is overwhelming. We see it over and over again. We see black communities overpoliced. When communities are overpoliced, there is no doubt that tragedies happen in greater frequency.

 

Someone asked me the other day to prove that there is police brutality in Dallas. I simply responded, “Why would a thousand people show up to protest police brutality rally if there wasn’t brutality?” We never expected so many people. We thought there was going to be a hundred or so. When the video of Philando Castile bleeding out went viral, the numbers increased exponentially. We gathered at the rally. When I looked out into the sea of people, I wondered, “What does Jesus have to say in a time like this?” By traditional interpretations, the answer is absolutely nothing. We keep on offering salvation to people who are dying in the streets. We keep on talking about Jesus loving the world and we can’t even take the time to love our neighbors.

 

We say that we are a people who believe that God loves the world…but look around. We don’t do shit. People are being gunned down in our streets and we don’t do shit. Look around! We keep on hearing people demand that the church do more. The church doesn’t have anything to give. The church has no voice. The church has no witness. The church has no purpose.

 

We traded our voice for influence. We traded our witness for political power. We were most concerned about protecting churches. We wanted to make sure we maintained our denominations. In the mean time, we gave everything away. Do you care more about your church or denomination than you do these black bodies that are lying in our streets? If you do, you are not following Jesus…you are following evil. We have to wrestle with difficult questions in these difficult hours. What is salvation? What is love? What is truth? Where do we go from here? We gathered last Thursday night to wrestle with these questions and many others.

 

Anyone who declares that Thursday’s protest should have been less angry…doesn’t understand the daily violence facing black people in this country. People were mad as hell and they had every right to be. Many have criticized the language that I used at the rally. I declared, “God Damn White America!” I’m tired of hearing about White America. There is no White America. There is only America. I’m also tired of hearing about White Christianity. There is no White Christianity. There is only Christianity. A Christianity that is white is not Christianity. I wish a few more people would start damning everything that is contrary to love and justice.

 

Throughout our nation, you have heard the phrase, “Fuck the Police!” Why would people say such a thing? Have we considered that the situation has become so dire that people don’t feel like they have any other language to use? Those who criticize the language of those who are being beaten and killed and don’t stop to help are the enemies of Christ. People are being slaughtered in our streets. Why can’t we love our neighbors as ourselves? We must get saved. We must stop police brutality. We must rip the racism from our hearts. We have to change.

 

As we began the march, we followed the directions of the police. At every turn and with every step, the protest was nonviolent. I remember the officers repeatedly commending the peaceful nature of the protest. I was thankful that the protest remained nonviolent. Why do you think protestors keep calling for nonviolence in this country? I think it’s the same reason that I keep on calling for nonviolence…it’s the only logical choice. Violence never achieves love or justice.

 

Towards the end of the march, we gathered at the Old Courthouse. After hearing about the horrific 1910 lynching of Allen Brooks from multiple speakers, we made our way back toward our starting point…Belo Gardens Park. As I led our march to it’s finish, I talked with a Sergeant from the police department. We talked about how successful the protest had been. I’d just passed Austin Street. I had on my white robe. I was carrying my black cross. I had on one of my favorite stoles. All of a sudden I looked up and heard…pop-pop-pop-pop-pop. I was close enough that I thought I might be shot. My first reaction was to grab my stomach. The Sergeant ran toward the shooting. The eight hundred people behind me were walking directly into the line of fire. I ran to get as many people out as I could. I repeatedly screamed, “Active Shooter! Active Shooter! Run! Run! Run!” My cross very quickly became a staff to push people out of the way. It was total chaos.

 

We didn’t know who was shooting. We just knew that there were many shots. I remember the question that came after: “Why?” I repeatedly heard that one word question. When people asked Jesus questions of meaning, he consistently responded with answers of being. I did too. I kept telling people that we have to learn to be love and justice. We can’t talk about justice without love and we can’t talk about love without justice. When you start talking about peace and nonviolence you better make sure that you are talking about love and justice too. There is no peace or nonviolence without love and justice.

 

The 5 officers who lost their lives during the shooting remain heavy on my heart. It is difficult to experience something like this and not feel like you have some level of responsibility. There might be a million pieces of evidence to prove the contrary…but still you wonder what you could have done to prevent the tragedy. For 24 hours straight, I was on television. I didn’t have time to mourn. I just had to spread the message of love and justice. I did television, newspaper and radio interviews all day long. It went on and on and on. I knew that if I didn’t get the message of love and justice out…somebody else would be ready with a more sinister message. When we are silent, other messages fill the void. As followers of Jesus we are responsible for getting our message out…we are responsible for sharing the good news. If we don’t, there will be other messages.

 

Last Friday night, I arrived home to hundreds of threats. People were looking for someone to blame. When you become a public figure in a time like this, you become a target for hate. People have said all sorts of shit. I even had someone tell me that the reason I act this way is because I’m a vegan. People can make some pretty wild connections. That’s why we have to help them make the right connections.

 

Devastation doesn’t come close to describing the totality of what I feel. I couldn’t believe what happened. Noises scare me. Movement scares me. Crowds scare me. This morning I thought the car might blow up when I turned the ignition. We live in a crazy time…a dangerous time…a dark time. Jesus still has a word for such a time as this.

 

There were two people who saw suffering and walked on by. There were two people who saw great difficulties and walked on by. But in the midst of it all, there was the Samaritan. There was the person who stopped. There was the person who bandaged up the wounds. There was the person who held the hurting. There was the person who refused to walk by.

 

In the midst of great conflict, we keep on walking by. We say that we can’t stop. We say that we can’t talk. We say we don’t have time. Where are the Samaritans amongst us? We need you now more than ever.

 

Amen.

Siyan Ren / Unsplash

Truth=False

Siyan Ren / Unsplash

Siyan Ren / Unsplash

 

God is truth. We are not. The mortal search for truth is continuous. The fullness of truth is never found in this life. Those who believe otherwise are perpetuators of that which is false. Often, I meet these assumed keepers of truth.

 

I was exchanging small talk to a police officer. Then, he realized who I was. For a moment or two, we talked about what that night in Dallas was like. Before we left, he said, “If y’all want police brutality to end…you have to recognize that law enforcement are the keepers of the truth.”

 

Requests for interviews are cranking up as the anniversary nears. When I sat down with a prominent journalist, her first words were, “Journalists are the keepers of the truth in our society. I just want to share your truth.”

 

I encountered a big supporter of a local city councilman. When he asked me what I thought about the councilman, I said, “I just don’t trust him.” Immediately, the supporter responded, “The councilman always tells the truth.”

 

Finally, I heard a preacher talking about, “the truth.” His truth turned out to be the most dismal truth I could have ever imagined.

 

Claims of truth are false. Truth cannot be possessed. Truth cannot be kept. Truth is always beyond us. Our job is to chase it with all that we are. To do anything else is false.

 

Amen.

 

The Park // Denton, Texas

Theology of Abuse in The Park

The Park // Denton, Texas

The Park // Denton, Texas

 

Earlier today, I took my kids to the park. While they were playing, I noticed a mom disciplining her child. When the child refused to do what she asked, the mom slapped the child across the face. Immediately, my son Jeff screamed, “You shouldn’t treat someone you love like that!” My heart was filled with pride. He’d listened to our teachings about speaking up for the abused. Though the woman acted like she was ignoring Jeff, she heard him.

 

God came to mind on the bike home. As the wheels turned, I thought about how twisted it that people believe God is the divine punisher. People who believe such bullshit are ignorant of the love of God and capable of much abuse. We share the love of God to save lives…both literally and figuratively.

 

Amen.

Wikimedia

Heresy is Participation: A Plea to My Colleagues

Wikimedia

Wikimedia

 

Just a few years ago, I traveled to stand in solidarity with a brutalized community. When I arrived, I followed the lead of local activists. They were ready to go. When we arrived at the authorities’ designated protest site, we started to march. For days, we marched along the same path. I even heard someone say, “If we march how we’re told, we’ll get what we want.” Ultimately, I realized that the designated spot was more about control than change. If we stayed in the spot, there would be no problems…and there would be no change. The designated spot was a prison. To follow the designations of public officials was to die.

 

This morning, young passionate clergy will arrive at their designated spots. They will go through the motions. During the sermon, they might even drop a line about justice. The only problem is that they’re not free…and without freedom there can be no change. “Do you want to move to a bigger church?” “What about your salary?” “Do you need health insurance?” The incentives for minding the designations are great, but the cost is greater…justice. Designated systems kill prophetic voices. Jesus collapses and dies in these spaces.

 

Friends, we were made for so much more.

 

Heresy is participation.

 

God is not a designated space.

 

Amen.

The Moore Family

3 Years Later: Don’t You Dare Turn Your Head: The Self-Immolation of The Rev. Charles Moore

The Moore Family

The Moore Family

 

 

As the lightening crashes on this night, the passion of Rev. Charles Moore visits me again…

 

 

Originally written on July 3, 2014

 

 

The fiery passion of 79-year-old retired United Methodist pastor The Rev. Charles Moore is raging in my soul right now.  On June 23 around 5:30pm, Moore exited his vehicle in Grand Saline, Texas, doused his body with gasoline and set himself on fire.  After rescue efforts by bystanders, Moore was taken by helicopter to Parkland Hospital in Dallas and eventually died late last night.  Based on notes left behind, Moore chose to self-immolate based on his frustration with the United Methodist Church’s position on human sexuality, opposition to the death penalty, disdain for racism (especially in his hometown of Grand Saline) and his deep anger at Southern Methodist University’s decision to house the George W. Bush Presidential Center.

 

Rev. Moore knew how we would react.  On June 22, the day before he self-immolated, Moore wrote, “I know that some will judge me insane.”  When I first shared Moore’s story with a table full of people at a Dallas restaurant, everyone immediately declared him insane.  I know different.

 

While a graduate student in history at the University of Alabama, I spent six months studying self-immolations that took place in both the United States and in Vietnam during the Vietnam War.  With stark consistency, the persons who self-immolated that I studied were remarkably sane and unquestionably persons of deep conviction.  The temptation of the hour will be to turn our heads and call The Rev. Charles Moore insane.  If we do…we should also turn our heads from Jesus and call him insane too.  For we must not forget, Jesus sat in the Garden of Gethsemane and made a conscious clear decision to step out into death…just like Moore.

 

Instead of judging Rev. Moore, maybe we should try to ignite the passion for justice that burned so brightly in his life in ours.  When Texas tries to execute Manuel Vasquez on August 6, maybe we should do something more than simply turn our heads and protect our dignity.  When our churches and societies ignore racial segregation and discrimination, maybe we should do something more than simply turn our heads and protect our pride.  When we are asked to perform a same-sex wedding ceremony or ordain a same-gender loving person, maybe we should do something more than turn our heads and protect our salaries/pensions.  When institutional injustices occur all around us, maybe we should do something more that turn our heads and bless them with our silence.  I will go to bed this evening thankful for the public witness of The Rev. Charles Moore and pray that the church would garner even an ounce of his passion and courage.

 

On a personal note, I serve on the Board of Directors of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.  Rev. Moore helped found the organization.  Because Moore lived, I am able to do the work that I do.  My respect for Moore is unwavering and I am proud to follow in his footsteps.  Jesus asks us to give our lives and Moore did.

 

Tonight my passion for Jesus burns as intensely as ever.  When I look straight ahead into the dark, I see Moore’s bespectacled image burning.  I see Moore giving his life so that others might live.  I refuse to turn my head.  I know that Jesus is speaking to me from there.  The courage of a passionate follower of Jesus can set the world afire with love.  May the great martyrdom of The Rev. Charles Moore make it so.

 

Amen.

 

Family Photo

The Murder of a Mom: Justice for Genevive Dawes!

Family Photo

Family Photo

On January 18, 2017, two Dallas police officers trapped a stolen car in the back of a parking lot. When the car started to move, the officers discharged their weapons into the car. Genevive Dawes was mortally wounded and bled out a short time later. The 21-year-old unarmed mother of two was murdered.

 

In the police account of the events, they said that Dawes hit their patrol car and they had to discharge their weapons. The tape doesn’t lie. In various scenes, it is very clear that Dawes was driving too slow for any reasonable person to think that they were in danger. It is also apparent that the officer actually positioned the patrol car to hit Dawes’ vehicle and not the other way around. Initially, the Dallas Police Department lied about what happened. Once the tape was unveiled, lies died. Was anyone held accountable?

 

Yesterday, the grand jury released an indictment against Officer Christopher Hess for his actions that led to the murder of Genevive Dawes. He was the officer closest to Dawes. While the first indictment of a Dallas police officer for killing a citizen in over 40 years is reason to celebrate, we must not stop until the entire Dallas Police Department faces indictment for it’s consistent crimes against the citizens of Dallas. How many more unarmed citizens are going to have to be brutalized and killed before there is a drastic overhaul of the Department?

 

On this day, Genevive Dawes is still dead. Her two children will still grow up without a mother. Why? Because Officer Hess mistook Dawes for a piece of shit that he could pump bullets into. When the shots rang out, God was there. In those moments, there was only one piece of shit present and he was the one holding the murder weapon.

 

Amen.

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