Social Justice Is a Christian Tradition — Not a Liberal Agenda

Many Christians are wary of participating in social justice because of a deep-rooted fear of being labeled “liberal,” “progressive,” or “secular.” They don’t want to be associated with “secular” movements, and are uncomfortable delving into issues that go beyond their cultural comfort zones.

But the Bible tells us that Jesus cared deeply about the social causes around him.

Instead of saying all lives matter, Jesus said, “Samaritan lives matter.”
Instead of saying all lives matter, Jesus said, “Children’s lives matter.”
Instead of saying all lives matter, Jesus said, “Gentile lives matter.”
Instead of saying all lives matter, Jesus said, “Jewish lives matter.”
Instead of saying all lives matter, Jesus said, “Women’s lives matter.”
Instead of saying all lives matter, Jesus said, “Lepers’ lives matter.”

Even though Jesus loves everyone, even to the point of dying for their sins, he went out of his way to intentionally help specific groups of people — the alienated, mistreated, and those facing injustice.

So saying “Black Lives Matter” and participating in a movement seeking justice, positive reform, and empowerment is one of the most Christ-like things we can do.

Christians must recognize that our society is filled with numerous groups and communities facing systemic oppression, and we must act. We must be willing to admit and address the complex realities within our world that create such problems, and avoid the spiritual laziness that tempts us to rely on generic excuses and solutions.

Christians do a disservice to the gospel message by removing the cultural context from Jesus’s ministry and watering down his message to one of religious platitudes. We like to generalize the words of Jesus and transform his life into a one-size-fits-all model that can apply to all of humanity.

Throughout the New Testament Jesus was more complex than we give him credit for.

He intentionally, purposefully, and passionately addressed very specific causes. He radically addressed the diverse and complicated conflicts of the time and shattered the status quo.

Jesus wasn’t just preaching a universal salvation message for the world, but he was also addressing specific political, social, and racial issues. He was helping those who were being abused, violated, and oppressed.

Involving ourselves within these issues — serving those who need justice — is an example of following Jesus that today’s Christians must adhere to, because throughout the world there are millions of people who are suffering. But many Christians remain simply apathetic, ignorant, or refuse to admit any problems exist.

They’re uncomfortable facing the complex and controversial issues surrounding race, ethnicity, history, and culture.

To avoid such discomfort, many Christians assume that equality and justice looks like a total dismissal — and rejection of — any cultural, ethnic, or distinguishing form of identity. They believe our very humanity should supersede all other labels or descriptions, and that a love of Christ wipes away any “superficial” characteristic such as skin color, heritage, or other cultural identifier.

They see verses such as Galatians 3:28 that states, “ There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (NIV) to mean that nothing else matters beyond our faith in Christ.

Ironically, verses like this show that these things — race, ethnicity, culture — DO matter to God, because God is recognizing the very public fact that there are various laws, expectations, practices, and opinions regarding each distinction mentioned.

Paul is validating all of the cultural issues associated with Jews, Gentiles, slaves, the free, men, and women rather than disregarding them. He’s stating that Jesus is relevant to these differences, and is working throughout their lives by understanding and recognizing the unique pros and cons they’re dealing with — the privileges, disadvantages, stereotypes, assumptions, treatment, rights, social value, and expectations they face on a daily basis.

Participating in social justice is a Christian tradition inspired by Jesus, not liberal causes, populist agendas, media platforms, lawmakers, or mainstream fads. It’s a deeply spiritual practice.

Instead of being motivated by political affiliations, financial gain, power, pride, control, or our own secular motivations, we should be active participants for the sake of following Jesus — for the purpose of glorifying God by through acts of justice, empowerment, and love.

Because everyone is created in the image of God and loved by God, we are responsible for identifying the victimized — not rejecting their existence.

That’s why the New Testament goes into great depth detailing the newfound worth given to the Gentiles, slaves, and women. These countercultural instructions to believers were radically progressive, to the point where the gospel writers had to put them in writing to make sure they were implemented within the newly formed church.

While God does love everyone and all believers are united in Christ, this doesn’t negate the fact that we have a unique cultural identity and upbringing and are called to recognize the marginalized, help the oppressed, and avoid rejecting their significance by denying their identity or ignoring their plight.

By acknowledging and actively participating in the #blacklivesmatter movement, addressing racism, immigration, gender equality, and a litany of other issues, you are following in the steps of Jesus.

It’s not a matter of pitting social causes against the gospel message of Christ; it’s a matter of realizing that these causes ARE actually an important part of that gospel message.

10 Things All White Folks Need to Consider about the #BaltimoreUprising

April 29, 2015 by

Freddie Gray - Baltimore

Freddie Gray – Baltimore

As I reflect upon the most recent Baltimore Uprising taking place in the wider movement for racial justice in the United States, I can’t help but be simultaneously frustrated and inspired by the White people in my life.

I’m inspired by White friends and mentors who are striving for accountable solidarity to Black people within the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and I am constantly taking notes about how I can do more to advance the cause of racial justice through my own work, words, and activism.

But I’m also frustrated and disappointed in how so many of us are choosing to direct as much energy as possible to blaming people of Color for their own oppression and to condemning them for expressions of grief and rage that make us uncomfortable and afraid.

So as I reflect on those simultaneous feelings, I wanted to reach out through the medium of my writing, one White person to another, in hopes of inspiring us to think and engage more critically as people of Color literally fight for their lives.

1. As White People, We Are Not Victims of Racial Oppression

There is not a statistical measure that exists by which White people are oppressed while people of Color are privileged.

As such, we get zero say in how people who are oppressed respond to their oppression.

There is vast dialogue and debate within Black communities and other communities of Color about the most effective ways to realize justice, and in none of those conversations should the voices or leadership we White people who benefit from systems of racial oppression be centered. 

2. A Movement of Nonviolence Has Been Occurring – We Just Weren’t Paying Attention

So many of us call on oppressed people to act nonviolently when they are being brutalized by violent police, institutions, and systems, but people of Color have been in the streets nonviolently for years calling for an end to racist police violence.

Where were we?

Yes, many White folks have shown up and shown out in solidarity, but by and large, we White people have been silent.

It’s entirely possible for us to believe in the transformative power of nonviolent revolution without patronizingly telling Black people how they should express their anger and rage that comes from being murdered in the streets by police.

It pains me to see anger, hurt, frustration, and pain boil over into the throwing of stones and destruction of property, but we need to remember the source of this pain: systemic racism expressed through police violence.

We simply have no right to tell a community that lives with the brutalization of White supremacy daily how they should direct or express their rage.

3. The Destruction of Property Pales in Comparison to the Destruction of Lives

Why is it that we as White folks seem to be ten times more outraged by the destruction of property than by the fact that police kill Black, Indigenous, and Latinx people every 19 hours in 2015

Why are we ten times more outraged by the setting of fires than by the racist, capitalist systems that produce the poverty that devastates communities of Color?

We can say all we like that we are “feeling for the small business owners and individuals who lost their property,” but every one of those broken windows can be replaced and every burnt building can be rebuilt.

The lives of people taken by police and consumed by our systems’ endless appetites for Black, Brown, and Indigenous suffering can never be returned.

Source:  David Ellington Wright

4. Dr. King Wasn’t Here for Us – And He Still Isn’t

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is not a cudgel for White people to use against Black people who respond to their oppression in ways that we do not find palatable.

The Rev. Dr. King was a radical revolutionary who called for a complete overturning of the racist, capitalist system in which we live. We do not get to coopt and distort his legacy or that of any civil rights leaders to maintain the status quo.

We would do well to actually read the writings of Dr. King (rather than cherry pick the quotes that support our agenda) and consider his words for White moderates:

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Quote

5. Stop (Seriously, Stop) with #AllLivesMatter

When we say #AllLivesMatter, we are participating in the erasure of the lives who sadly do not matter within our systems of oppression while injecting our own need to be centered into a movement for racial justice.

#BlackLivesMatter is a revolutionary call for change in systems where Black lives, cultures, and communities are devalued.

Here are a few links that explain this better than I ever could:

What You Mean By #AllLivesMatter” by Arielle Newton of Black Millennials

Please Stop Telling Me That All Lives Matter” by Julia Craven at Huffington Post

What’s Wrong with ‘All Lives Matter?” by George Yancy and Judith Butler at The New York Times

Tweets from Arthur Chu @arthur_affect. "Do people who change #BlackLivesMatter to #AllLivesMatter run thru a cancer fundraiser going "THERE ARE OTHER DISEASES TOO" "WTF is the impulse behind changing #BlackLivesMatter to #AllLivesMatter. Do you crash strangers' funerals shouting I TOO HAVE FELT LOSS"

6. Having a Black President Doesn’t Absolve Us of Racism

It’s racist and tokenizing to point out individual Black people in positions of power while ignoring the vast oppression that impacts the lives of Black people in an attempt to prove that racism is over.

Citing that “we have a Black president” while ignoring the ways that Black people and other people of Color suffer in racist education systems, “justice” systems, healthcare systems, andeconomic systems is disingenuous at best and downright racist at worst.

The existence of individual Black politicians or a Black police chief or a Black mayor doesn’t undo the daily oppression Black people experience in our systems, particularly when Black elected officials often must tow the lines of racist oppression to stay in office.

7. Silence Is Violence

No matter how wonderful our intentions or how good we may be in our daily lives, if we are silent in the face racial injustice, we are complicit in its violence.

Worse, when we actively try to police the actions of those people of Color who are fighting for their freedom, we are committing subtle yet clear acts of racial violence.

8. ‘Being a Race Traitor’ Isn’t a Thing – It’s Called Humanity

To stand against the systems of oppression that afford us privilege does not inherently mean self-hate or White guilt.

To stand against injustice means that we are choosing to get in touch with our own humanityand to divest from systems of Whiteness while working in our own flawed and complicated ways to invest in justice and in anti-racist ways of being in the world as White people.

9. Instead of Investing in Whiteness, Invest in the Movement

If we are willing to listen, show up, and follow the Black, Brown, and Indigenous leadership of this movement, we can find incredible community filled with great love, accountability, and loyalty.

Whiteness attempts to isolate us, to make us invest in our access to oppressive systems rather than in community and people.

But there are alternatives to investing in Whiteness, and one of the most important alternatives is the community found in building trust across difference while fighting for justice under diverse leadership. 

10. Use Your Time and Energy to Call in Other White People

Our voice, energy, and labor is needed in calling in White people – our people – to change.

In doing so, we must act in ways that are accountable to people of Color and that draw upon the history of White resistance to white supremacy.

***

If we are simply going to defend the status quo, then we need to sit down and be quiet.

But if we are going to work with our people to inspire more White folks to accountably work for justice, then our role is clear.

And it is our responsibility to rise into that role and to speak out for justice.

Jamie Utt is a Contributing Writer for Everyday Feminism. He is the Founder and Director of Education at CivilSchools, a comprehensive bullying prevention program, a diversity and inclusion consultant, and sexual violence prevention educator based in Minneapolis, MN.  He lives with his loving partner and his funtastic dog. He blogs weekly at Change from Within. Learn more about his work at his website here and follow him on Twitter @utt_jamie. Read his articles here and book him for speaking engagements.

What It Means To #ReclaimMLK

By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, www.PopularResistance.org
January 16th, 2015

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This week, in honor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, people around the country are organizing actions to #ReclaimMLK as the true person he was; one that recognized the roots of the crises being experienced and who made connections between many issues. Dr. King was a critic of capitalism, racism and imperialism. He said:

“When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

(Photo: Kelly Hayes)

Dr. King called for a “revolution of values,” meaning a shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. A new generation of young activists is embracing the radical Dr. King and rejecting the watered-down version presented in major media. A strong example isthis group of grade school students who organized a powerful celebration of Dr. King’s birthday on Jan. 15 with a march from their school to the juvenile detention center.

While those “giant triplets” continue to ravage our communities, the “revolution of values” is back on track with focused work by activists in the US, sometimes in collaboration with activists around the world, to expose and end systemic racism, to end imperialism and to create a new solidarity economy.

Ending Racist Policing

The #BlackLivesMatter movement continues bold actions to both gain attention for systemic racism and to push for necessary reforms that reign in violence and put communities back in control. Events in New York City have been particularly volatile as police first went on a slowdown, arresting “only those who needed it,” and have now increased arrests for questionable and minimal violations of law.

1richmondThe police union in New York has refused to recognize that it has a problem. In other areas of the country where police chiefs have respected the rights of protestors and have even joined them, police unions and residents have complained. Following numerous peaceful protests in Grand Central Station, transit police banned die-ins, but demonstrators defied the ban.

Coast to coast, communities are organizing for change. In Los Angeles, Black Lives Matter activists camped outside the police department for days asking for a meeting with the police chief over the killing of Ezell Ford.  Two leaders were arrested for entering the station to deliver a letter, but they finally met with the chief.

In Cleveland where young Tamir Rice was killed, more than 40 churches are working together to develop a plan for police reform. And President Obama has convened a task force on “21st Century Policing.” DCFerguson organizer Kymone Freeman attended the task force’s first town hall and felt he was in an alternative universe where police were applauded for reduced crime without much focus on police violence. Will this effort be used to deter real reform? Watch his strong testimony before the task force here.

1ferrg2guanConnecting Militarism at Home and Abroad

Perhaps the greatest speech of Dr. Kingwas the speech he gave a year before his death, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time To Break the Silence” which described the United States as “the greatest purveyor of violence” in the world and urged an end to the Vietnam War. Sadly, the United State continues to be a purveyor of violence, with increasing militarism around the world.

In the new Congress this year, we can expect more war. After meeting recently with the President, leadership stated that they may move to pass a broad authorization of war against ISIS and others. And with more war, comes more military spending and more cuts to public programs. As Allegra Kirkland points out, “This year, we’re on track to spend over $1 trillion on national security, after factoring in nuclear weapons funding, military pensions and ‘overseas contingency funds,’ in addition to the Pentagon’s $580 billion operating budget.”

Dr. King said it best: “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.”

Mother of Emanuel leads procession at US Department of Justice with representatives of Witness Against Torture and Hands Up Coalition DC. Source Witness Against Torture.

We saw that spiritual doom at the weekly Justice Mondays outside the Department of Justice in Washington, DC organized by the HandsUpCoalitionDC. This past Monday, the coalition connected with Witness Against Torture and also remembered Muslims who are targets because of the never-ending war on terror. After a protest at the DOJ, three coffins were carried to the front doors of the DC Police Station and activists held a rally inside and outside the police station for 28 minutes to mark the death of people of color every 28 hours.

Witness Against Torture concluded a week of actions around the 13th anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantanamo Bay. They held a “Torturer’sTour” over the weekend where they visited the homes of Dick Cheney and John Brennan and the CIA. And earlier on Monday, WAT activists were arrested for actions inside the Senate Gallery and the Capitol visitor’s center where they held a banner saying “Ferguson to Guantanamo: White Silence = State Violence.”

Lifting our Communities up With a New Economy

When Dr. King was killed he was organizing the Poor People’s Campaign which would highlight poverty and the unfair economy.  He was killed in Memphis working with sanitation workers who were on strike. The same issues of poverty, low wages and an unfair economy plague the United States today.

It is no secret that in addition to the general gaping wealth divide in the US, there is a huge wealth disparity between black and white communities. To make things worse, a new reportdemonstrates that our state tax systems are fundamentally unfair with the poor paying up to seven times more taxes as a percent of income than the wealthy in the worse states, known as the ‘Terrible Ten.’

Sharing EconomyThe good news is that there is greater awareness that the economy is fundamental when it comes down towhose interests are being representedand shifting political power. Communities are creating new economic institutions that are more cooperative and build wealth instead of allowing it to go to a few at the top.

In New York, faith leaders made it clear on inauguration day that the people need jobs with living wages, fair taxation, investment in public education and a stronger social safety net. In Vermont, advocates pushed the state legislature hard for a public bank and wound up with a commitment from the government to invest in local projects.

People in cities across the country, like Reading, PA, are working at the municipal level to put components of the solidarity economy in place such as cooperatives, loans for local small businesses, urban gardening, public banks, re-municipalization of public services, etc.CommonomicsUSA is a new organization that will work with communities to put components of the solidarity economy into place.

1kickThe idea of the new solidarity economy is growing deep roots in the US. Economics students are rejecting the outdated and false paradigm of neo-classical economics and insisting that they learn about economic systems that are more just and sustainable. And more people are rejecting the two corporate political parties and are building independent political power as well. Dr. King was a strong proponent of independent politics.

An Important Battle for Our Future

As we have written before, we are facing a critical challenge early this year that is a game changer for all of us who care about a livable future. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, known as “NAFTA on steroids,” is an agreement that goes beyond trade to impact everything we care about from our ability to protect our health and safety to our ability to build local economies, stem the tide of privatization, stop extreme energy extraction and protect workers and the environment.

1TPPExpress1We now have the general timetable for the TPP and the Fast Track legislation that Obama is seeking from Congress so that he can conclude negotiations and sign the agreement. We must act quickly. We expect that the President will praise the TPP in his State of the Union Speech on January 20. We’ll need you to flood Congress with calls on January 21 to show that you are not fooled. Go toStopFastTrack.com to call Congress and tell others to do the same. Hearings on fast track and another round of negotiations are expected in late January and the bill will be introduced after that.

We can’t emphasize enough how important stopping Fast Track and the TPP are. They really are a game changer that will set our work back for decades if we lose and given the information coming out almost daily telling us how fragile our future is, we don’t have that much time. We urge you to get involved in stopping fast track. This affects everyone and everybody can do something!

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