An Open Letter to White Clergy
To my colleagues in ministry, particularly in the Twin Cities,
We are all challenged with how to be a ministering presence during these difficult times. George Floyd was murdered at the hands of the Minneapolis Police department. Many of us took to the streets during a global pandemic to demand justice. As I write this, I witnessed outside my suburban window a steady stream of city buses filled with state troopers speeding towards Minneapolis. Our cities are burning. On top of that many of you are prayerfully attempting to craft this Sunday’s sermon. Pentecost Sunday. When fire came to earth and turned the world upside down. My dear friends, especially my white colleagues in ministry, as you work on your sermons for this Sunday please heed this word of caution.
Right now, you may not know what words to say. You are feeling an impulse to pray and appeal to God for peace. I want you to consider not praying for peace. I know that this seems counter intuitive, but please don’t dismiss me just yet. So often in the midst of unrest we make an appeal for peace, but what is meant by peace? What are we asking for? When the unrest is a reaction to blatant racism; When the righteous anger makes you fearful; When our cities are burning; When in the midst of all this you take your pulpit and pray for peace, it is often a veiled plea for a return to “law and order”. If this is what you plan to do this Sunday, I would implore you to promptly resign your pulpit. To you this may seem extreme but I assure you I am absolutely sincere.
Your desire for law and order may seem peace to you, but it is definitely not peace for our communities of color. The prophet Jeremiah warns against superficial peace. “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace Peace’ they say, when there is no peace.” Your “peace” is based on law and order which itself is based on the Constitution. This constitution didn’t codify into common law that YOU were less than fully human. This Constitution didn’t have to be amended to grant that YOU are not property. This Constitution and the system of laws that grew from it work great for YOU, but make no mistake it was never meant to protect Black and Brown people.
When white people cry for peace it is too often an appeal to silence Black anger to make room for White comfort. We don’t need peace. We don’t need things to return to normal. Normal is what got us here. We need leadership that will bravely face the truth of our white supremacist society and commit to change it. We need white people to get comfortable with dis-comfort. We need many things, but we do not need a superficial peace. For if you declare a shallow peace without the depth of justice; without the upheaval of systems created to intentionally suppress Black and Brown people; the prophet Jeremiah again warns of your awaiting fate. “So, they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when I punish them, Says the Lord”
If this Sunday you plan on praying for peace without committing to work towards justice. If your desire is simply to see the status quo restored, then do yourself a favor and resign your pulpit. Save yourself from God’s judgement.
Rev. Jim Bear Jacobs (Mohican)
Director of Racial Justice, founder of Healing Minnesota Stories
MN Council of Churches