To all Pastors of White congregants,
You have a hard and heavy job. We are grateful for the leadership and love you have demonstrated to us throughout our 30+ year journeys as Christians. But pastors, there is a message we never heard you proclaim.
You never told us that we, your white congregants, are the only demographic in America that think that the police killings of black people is not a systemic problem. You never held us to the truth that systemic racism exists and that our demographic is the only one that denies systemic racism as a whole. You have helped allow white Christians to become the political force preventing meaningful police reform.
There is a mountain of evidence that any of your sermons could easily draw from to show the discrepancy in life in America for white people and black people. Whether it is the wealth gap, incarceration rates, life expectancy, education gap or the use of force/lethal force by police we needed you to make us sit in the discomfort of this information. We needed you to tell us that the greatest commandment matters right there--in those discrepancies, in those lives represented by all the numbers. We needed you to guide us through repenting of our beliefs in white supremacy--beliefs we held as closely as our faith. These views, with no basis in biology, continue to live and thrive unchallenged in American churches.
We heard your calls for unity, and we heard you calling for prayer. We heard you advertising and inviting people to church. We ask you for more. Its hollow to suggest to those sitting comfortably in your pews that the solution to racism is to simply tell others about Jesus. If someone is thirsty, we don’t tell them to first make a spiritual conversion and then we’ll get you a drink of water. Love is in the streets, in the protests, in the pain. Hope is in the hands holding signs, the policies being signed into law. We need our spiritual leadership marching there with us.
A worldview built on violence, the need for guns, and the hope that systems of violence can save and protect us has no place in our churches. Policing is a difficult job, but not as dangerous as we were led to believe *(see notes below). We never heard you criticize the actual danger--the violence unleashed by police-- the guns, the violence, the physical, mental, and spiritual harm brought to civilians by law enforcement. We never heard you point out the disproportionate violence against our black and brown neighbors nor the history of racism in policing that is present today **(see notes). Your white congregants continuously impede progress made to reform policing. We need you admonishing and offering a better way. We need you to say that guns do not need to be brought to an air freshener dangling from a mirror. We need you to say that deadly force does not resolve a counterfeit $20.00. We need you to make your congregants curious and creative--that the way of love and justice and resurrection offers something else.
Rather than be the most heartbroken by violence and loss of life of our neighbors, our white Christian congregants have decided to disbelieve. Lives are at stake. Changes are needed. Please don’t wait for the next person to be killed. Pastors, now is the time to lead the sheep rather than follow them along a trail of false information. Now is the time to help your flock die to the sins of white supremacy and rise to radical, imaginative love. Please, proclaim this message.
Kris & Ryan Gifford are a couple of midwesterners who really love each other, their awesome kid, and their ever expanding circle of neighbors. Working to deconstruct their white, conservative, evangelical upbringings and educations has been a process of heartache and hope. They want you to know it is possible to doubt your faith, wander the wilderness, touch and taste reality, and discover you never want to find your way back to your “before.” There is love and there will always be love. Thanks be to God.
*Some would have us believe every act a police officer does is without repute and that they have a terribly dangerous job. It is actually the 22nd most dangerous job in America. Again every loss of life is tragic, but according to the FBI, 46 officers were feloniously killed in the line of duty last year. In that same article, it noted that 47 officers died accidentally last year. That means the danger from the public is just as dangerous as simply going through daily activities as a police officer. However, police take the lives of about a thousand people every year. Last year, during a pandemic, it was 1,126
**Zooming in on Minneapolis provides context for why so many sought change there. From the MPD website, while black people only account for 19.4% of population in Minneapolis they are subject to 62.8% of use of force incidents reported by police and 8 of the 11 officer involved shootings of unarmed people since 2008. White people on the other hand account for 63.8% of the population, but only 23.5% of use of force incidents and 3 of the 11 shootings of unarmed people. Based on population, this means that black people in Minneapolis are 8.8 times more likely to have force used on them and 8.8 times more likely to be shot when unarmed than white people
**This article covers Bob Kroll pretty well. He was elected three times as MPD’s union President despite allegations of having a white power badge sewn into his jacket, 20 internal investigations, and multiple lawsuits made against him.
**Racism openly found online of current and former police officers.