Tag Archives: violence

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When Your Existence Is Your Crime

Friday, June 16.  Philando Castile’s extrajudicial executioner was acquitted on all charges by a Minneapolis jury.

Wednesday, June 21.  Sylville Smith’s extrajudicial executioner was acquitted on all charges by a Milwaukee jury.

Friday, June 23.  Samuel DuBose’s killer is free because a jury in Cincinnati was deadlocked and this for a second time.

Two Sundays ago, I preached a sermon, PROUD, in honor of PRIDE week and in remembrance of the victims of the Pulse Nightclub massacre. In that sermon I quoted from the novel,  Notes From a Crocodile by Qui Miaojin, in which her major character, Lazi, a young gay woman in Taiwan, talks about her life and the life of LGB persons in post-martial Taiwan in the 1980s, saying that she and others like her are confined to the prison of stigma and abuse simply because, “your crime is your existence.”

Philando, a gun owner whom, were he white and shot like he was by a policeman, would have had the NRA howling in protest but of course, because he was Black, the NRA is strangely silent, was guilty of one thing that day that led to his execution. His crime was his existence.

This happens over and over in our country.  If you’re a White Republican congressman who is shot, then a howl goes up but strangely enough, it is not a howl about the proliferation of guns but a howling aimed at demonizing liberals as if the only ones killing in this country of upwards of 30 and 40 thousand handgun deaths annually were committed by ideological leftists.  This would be analogous to blaming liberal waiters for food poisoning diners and then refusing to ever investigate the root cause of the outbreak.  But I digress. You can read my blog post about that here, “Armed and Dangerous.”

Any number of groups of our fellow citizens are threatened daily—women, African Americans, GLBT, Jews, Immigrants of various kinds by a hatred and violence that is simply unacceptable.  We won’t pretend, by the way, that many of these groups aren’t demonized and abused and even killed within their own minority communities.  But here is the terrible fact facing us today:  not only is a withering violence permitted by police (and others) against persons who are deemed by their very existence to be criminal but we have a Congress and a President who perpetuate it and we have, as a people, condoned it.

I’m a clergyperson and am very tempted to say to these perpetrators and their advocates who are now complicit in their heinous crimes that they are going to hell. But that won’t solve the hell we have created right here, right now.  White folks, you got a ton of atoning work to do.  Mr. President, you should grow up and lend your voice to healing our country.   Congress, you are about to commit a crime against millions of Americans, sending them down a river of suffering and loss by opposing their fundamental right to healthcare. And we know you have sold your souls–Democrats and Republicans alike–for NRA money.   Church, fellow citizens, there are better angels calling to our natures and our actions.  We should listen to them.

Black Lives Matter.  Stop Violence Against Women and convict their rapists and murderers.  Love your neighbor, including immigrants.  Stop blaming Jews for the murder of Christ, Roman soldiers in the First Century did that.  LGBT citizens deserve to live fully, freely and protected by the Constitution.  And for once, hold accountable a police officer who carries out what is an extrajudicial execution.

By muralist Judy Baca

Ten Days Into the New Year: Defying Injustice, Speaking Truth

By the second Sunday of a “new” year, exactly 10 days in, we are haunted by headlines of last year.  The forces of evil –and if you do not like that term, “evil,” then you are pressed to come up with some other term that captures the depravity of the human race and its nations roiling in war and terrorism–as I was saying, the forces of evil have marched into the new year, trampling the confetti and ribbons of our New Year’s celebrations underfoot.

What are we to do? What am I to do?  The purveyors of violence have bought politicians; guns flood our streets; governmental and police response to perpetrators of violence is predicated on race or ethnicity; our cities implode; riding on the metro is not just a consideration about timeliness but one’s safety.  Who are we?  Who am I?

Perhaps the first pair of questions–rotated around the question of action–can only be answered by answering that second pair of questions–which rotate around identity and self-awareness.

Here is how we describe ourselves at Riverside Baptist Church, declaring at the close of our communion Sundays:  we are a table fellowship, a covenant people, a welcoming table; we are a people loved by Christ and are in turn sent into the world to love the world, heal it, repair it and redeem it.  When the question of identity is answered that way, then it becomes imperative that we treat others not only as we ourselves wish to be treated, but as Christ has loved us. By this power, the world can be transformed. Gandhi called this satyagraha or truth force.  King created a non-violent movement that was founded on this idea.  What are we to do? What am I to do?  Resist for the truth, defy injustice, speak up for lovingly regarding others as fully human.  And you might consider joining us in worship where every week, we remind one another about who we are and Whose we are.  ~ See you Sunday

*Pastor Bledsoe’s sermon title for this Sunday is, myCloud (of witnesses)

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Advent Hope and Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath

Riverside Baptist Church joined in the national effort of Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath in this Advent Season of hope. We intentionally and intensely joined hope with our alarm at the number of mass shootings and gun homicides in our nation. Be sure to listen to Pastor Bledsoe’s sermon in response to this issue entitled, Song of Despair, Song of Hope.  Visit the National Gun Violence collaborative page promoted by Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence.  There is an array of resources available there.

Finally, take time to read and to pray Deacon Terryn Nelson’s prayer offered in worship today after she read the names of those Christian souls whose lives were cruelly ended at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.

A Prayer for the Prevention of Gun Violence

By Deacon Terryn Nelson in worship at Riverside Baptist Church, Washington DC

 O God of life, Creator of the universe, Sustainer of all:

We come before you in sorrow and anger at the killing on our streets and in our schools, workplaces and houses of worship.

We come in repentance at our own participation in the culture of violence in our land.

We come in hope borne of our past victories over injustice, asking for strength and clarity and fortitude, that we might bring about transformation in our laws, in the ways we resolve conflict and address fear, in our tolerance for violence, in the hearts of our leaders and our fellow Americans.

May we become a people who put our trust in You, not in our weapons. By your mighty power, and in your overwhelming love, renew our vision for peace and safety in our land, beginning with us today, we pray.

Amen

Votive Candles

Something Is Terribly Wrong. Advent First Sunday.

Exactly how much mayhem does one need to witness before concluding that something is terribly wrong?  Daily headlines of extrajudicial killings of African-American citizens, war, mass migrations of persons fleeing from war, terrorist attacks in the name of God and the rude  slander of persons by leading presidential contenders are enough to convince us that something is off balance.  Right?  But the fact is, Americans polarize into extremes and some, on the left, want to naively believe in the last superstition, progress (as Christopher Lasch wrote in his book, The True and Only Heaven).  Or those on the right hunker down, double down and promote more violence as the solution to violence. It is a self-defeating proposition but logic is not a strong suit of the NRApocalyptic view of the world.

Enter the biblical narrative of Advent, which is to say, the coming of the Christ in our midst.  This Sunday is the First Sunday of Advent.  How much we need to hear this account again!  The world is plunged into darkness.  It is more than evident to anyone willing to put down their ideological playbook that human beings are sinners in need of a Redeemer.  Don’t like the word “sin?”  Try this:  human beings are deeply alienated and in need of reconciliation.   However we state the obvious, we would do well to begin our journey to a sanctuary of peace such is offered by our church. Not to the mall, clawing our way through crowds and the push-and-shove of consumer frenzy.  Not to a party.  But to the sanctuary of the Holy One who would speak to us again of peace and justice and a Redeemer.

See that field of shepherds?  It is night.  And it is night in more ways than one, for they are poor and live in the midst of a brutal Roman occupation.  Set in the night sky is a star.  That is a luminous symbol of Christ’s presence in our world as the dim tides of history and the inhumane plots of wicked persons blot out the light. The Gospel of John captures that scene in another way, saying, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (1:5)

This is the First Sunday of Advent.  Let us take a step toward light, toward love and peace.  ~See you Sunday.

Nation’s Triathlon To Interfere With Traffic Sunday

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Just a heads up everyone:  the DC Gov’t has announced road closings for the Nation’s Triathlon Sunday morning.  Much of this seems confined to the Tidal Basin and Arlington but 14th Street will be impacted, apparently heading South after Independence Avenue. Here is a list of road closings and times.  Plan ahead and be safe.

Pastor Bledsoe will be preaching on “Black Riot/White Power:  Can We Talk About Race and Violence?”  Meant to speak forthrightly and  through a Christian lens, this sermon will inaugurate our Faith & Justice Team that meets immediately following the service.

~See You Sunday