Voices: Our Advocacy, Our Words

king quoteI hardly slept on the night of July 8. Many of my friends had attended rallies in Dallas to protest the ongoing injustices and violence committed against people of color by police, and I didn’t know if my friends had been among the crowd that night when a sniper opened fire and set of a frenzy I could do nothing but pray.

Tragically, the shooter killed five brave officers who had rushed to protect the protesters, and other officers were wounded. I grieve that their families and friends will have to live every day with their losses. Since then, shooters have assassinated in places such as Baton Rouge. Police have shot unarmed people of color, such as a behavioral therapist in North Miami who was trying to stop officers from shooting a young man with autism.

And hateful rhetoric has continued. The reality is that our nation has taken sides and each side has made general indictments that are very unfair. We in the church must accept responsibility for our part in it.

We must stop the incendiary language! We must stop the trash talking. That includes a ceasefire of violent rhetoric and perpetuating stereotypes of others on social media sites. The issues we are facing are volatile enough without adding fuel to the fire with our words.

As a pastor, I know life and death are in the power of the tongue, and too often churches, including those advocating for justice, have engaged in harmful rhetoric. Many of us as preachers and leaders are just fueling division. Sometimes I really wonder if in our advocacy we truly want peace, or is this all about making others pay?

We must stop the incendiary language! We must stop the trash talking. That includes a ceasefire of violent rhetoric and perpetuating stereotypes of others on social media sites. The issues we are facing are volatile enough without adding fuel to the fire with our words.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stated, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” That is far from easy, but as Dr. King added, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

But don’t misunderstand what I mean by civil. It doesn’t mean I don’t get to express my anger over injustices. I don’t think it is fair to be labeled just an angry Hispanic or black or whatever other label. We need to allow others to speak and we want to be heard.

As a Latina who grew up in a low-income community, I am well acquainted with profiling and injustices because it happens to us as well. I understand that when people say black lives matter, it is because their lives have not mattered as much as white lives. Centuries of racism and current ridiculous excuses by government officials about why sustainable solutions are not possible have caused people to lose hope for change and fueled the anger of those who have been victims of injustice. It is not an anger that will be appeased by several conversations or singing songs that call us to hold hands.

If we are to have reconciliation, we cannot put our heads in the sand. We in the church must admit that we have deeply rooted problems when it comes to race, gender, and class. We must commit to laying aside our personal agendas and pursue ongoing dialogue that is civil as we seek solutions that promote peace for all sides so that we can truly make our communities, law enforcement officials, and our citizens safe.

But don’t misunderstand what I mean by civil. It doesn’t mean I don’t get to express my anger over injustices. I don’t think it is fair to be labeled just an angry Hispanic or black or whatever other label. We need to allow others to speak and we want to be heard.

For all of us who continue to be victims of unjust and inhumane systems, let us speak out against systemic injustice. However, let us be mindful that as believers our example must be one that is representative of a passionate Jesus who is our moral compass.

That goes beyond our conversations within the church but also includes our words outside of it. When the funeral of one of the murdered officers was held in my neighborhood, there were police all over the place. Afterwards, there were many white officers with their families at a restaurant where I was eating. I went to each one of them and thanked them for their service. It was a moving experience for them, and it was the same for me as their spouses thanked me.

It was a reminder to me to personally unpack the question asked in Micah 6:8: “What does the Lord require of thee? To do justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God.” We can’t forget in our advocacy for justice that we include mercy and humility.

Topics: church and race

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About the Author

Gricel Medina is a Covenant minister ordained to Word and Sacrament. She was the first Hispanic to be chair of the ECC commission on Biblical Gender Equality. She has written for several widely distributed Spanish and English magazines and devotionals and also served in the areas of leadership and community development.

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4 Comments

  1. Great article pastor Medina. We need to hear more about these issues that affect us all. Keep writing !

  2. Yes! And not just victims of injustice, but all people, including those in power, can and should speak and act against unjust and inhumane systems.

  3. Many of us agree with what you said, Pastor Medina. Thank you for speaking for us. An excellent essay!

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