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July~August 2020

posted Jul 2, 2020, 9:48 AM by Christine Rice

Black Lives Matter:  God is on the side of the oppressed

    Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters.  Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians.” Exodus 3:7-8

    The Lord said this to Moses right after appearing to him in the burning bush. God called Moses to help lead the Israelites out of slavery and bring them to the promised land. God performed all kinds of signs and wonders (plagues) to convince Pharaoh to let God’s people go.  But Pharaoh’s heart was hard.  People with great worldly wealth and power and privilege  seldom give that up willingly. 

    As you may know, more than 30 years ago, I did my year of internship at Fordham Lutheran Church in The Bronx, New York City.  The good people of Fordham Lutheran, black, brown and white, welcomed this awkward 25 year old white boy from the Northwest and helped him in his journey to become a pastor. When I hear and say, “Black Lives Matter” I instantly think of wonderful African American Christians like Nat & Naomi Bachelor and their lovely daughter Edith, Jeanette Puryear and her son Walther, Una Richardson, Madgie Johnson and many others.

    Our country is in the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement.  We have watched with horror as George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and many others have been killed for no reason by law enforcement.  To be sure, the vast majority of law enforcement personnel are good people with a tough job to do. And we will always need law enforcement to keep us safe. But, we have to admit that there is something wrong with the system and it needs to be fixed. 

    Racism is not confined to a few bad apple police officers but is an evil that exists in our society, and if we are willing to admit it, within ourselves. I pray that the Black Lives Matter movement will finally lead to equality and justice for all people of color in the U.S.  God loves all people, but God is on the side of the oppressed.  In the New Testament, Jesus was always on the side of marginalized or oppressed people.

    When I was in The Bronx, Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa was speaking one Sunday afternoon at Riverside Church in Manhattan. So, a bunch of us from Fordham Lutheran rode the subway down to hear him.  Now, this was 1987-88 and apartheid (apart—hate) was still the rule in S. Africa.  S. Africa was still ruled by a white and often brutal minority. But there was no anger or hatred in Bishop Tutu’s voice as he preached that day.  His message to the white ruling class in S. Africa was, “You might as well come on over to our side, because we are going to win.  God is on our side and we are going to win, so you might as well join us.” 

    And the good bishop was right.  Apartheid was soon dismantled.  Nelson Mandela became the leader of S. Africa after 27 years in prison. (27 years!).  Bishop Tutu helped lead the Truth and Reconciliation committee to start the country on the road to healing.  Things have improved in S. Africa, but the country still has a long way to go with equality.

            The U.S. still has a long way to go on the road to justice and equality for people of color.  I pray that the Black Lives Matter Movement will be a major step on that road. Yes, God loves all people, but God is on the side of the oppressed. 

    “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or religion.  People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”  Nelson Mandela         

 

    Justice and Peace in Jesus,  Pastor Dennis    

 

 

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