Pastoral Letter Concerning the Racist Massacre in Buffalo and Anti-Black and Racist Violence
As Christian leaders formed by the love and justice of Jesus Christ, we feel compelled to speak:
Once again, a young White American man, misguided by racist ideology and armed with military-grade firearms carried out a domestic terrorist attack on unsuspecting African Americans. In a Buffalo grocery store, this young man’s violent rampage claimed the lives of 10 African American people while injuring three others.
As people of faith and moral conviction, we are absolutely outraged by this unspeakably horrific assault on African Americans and by the acid-like “replacement theory” and anti-Black that sparked it.
Of course, we do not view this young man’s perverse actions as an isolated incident. It is linked to the vicious shootings of Taiwanese worshippers in Southern California, just two days after the Buffalo killings; it is linked to the deadly 2015 terrorist attack inflicted upon Charleston’s Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church by White supremacist Dylan Roof; it is linked to the unjust and needless killing of African Americans by law enforcement personnel and vigilantes; it is linked to the anti-Jewish killings at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue; it is linked to the anti-Asian salon murders of Korean women in Atlanta; it is linked to the idea that whiteness and anti-Semitism should prevail over every other reality of human experience no matter the cost to human life; it is supported by multi-state legislation that surgically suppresses African American voters; and it is linked to the feverish efforts of many to ensure access to weapons designed to kill and maim as simultaneously they pass laws to block academic integrity and historical honesty that have the potential to decode structural racism and encourage systemic mutuality and the full flourishing of every human being.
We believe it is not unreasonable for people of faith and goodwill to wonder aloud if visible and unseen tentacles of replacement theory serve as the common denominator behind the abovementioned assaults, strategic silencing laws, and the increasing number of violent attacks on People of Color and Jewish communities in the United States.
To be sure, the racist Buffalo massacre has left us reeling. However, it has not left us hopeless, for we are people who trust the vision and values of God. With the conviction of the Prophet Isaiah, we believe that every valley that harbors the sin of racism shall be lifted up, and every mountain of hate-infused violence will be made low. Informed by the teachings of Jesus Christ our Savior, we believe that God’s will of love and justice can and will be enacted on earth as in heaven.
Therefore, we stand with fellow Christians, people of other faiths, and our neighbors of no faith in demanding the end of the social and political scapegoating and trivialization of African American lives, Jewish lives, and the lives of People of Color. We demand the end of voter suppression, partisan gerrymandering, and the banning of books and academic pursuits that help students grasp more truthful understandings of the history of institutional racism and hate. Finally, we demand that policymakers enact laws that will make it extremely difficult for racist terrorists to obtain guns and ammunition.
Now is not the time for speaking only to one’s base while claiming God’s name as part of a strategy for winning elections, for authentic faith presents adherents with the non-negotiable facts that all people are created in the image and likeness of God, and that all people deserve to live peacefully and justly. It is now time for all who claim God’s name to also claim God’s agenda of love and justice for all of humanity.
In the loving and life-giving name of Jesus Christ, we demand that political and social leaders who often describe themselves as non-racist present coherent and effective measures and strategies that will address the clear and present danger that systemic racism poses to People of Color communities. Trustworthy and responsible leadership must be that which clearly and decisively rejects the racial fear-stoking replacement theory while endorsing and leading visible actions that replace hate and fear with love and truth, while countering structural unfairness with justice.
Through such acts, we will be able to work together in building and sustaining a future where younger people and older people will be committed to acts that enable human flourishing instead of human destruction.
To our distressed African American sisters and brothers in Buffalo, we are praying for your comfort and peace during these very difficult hours. We are also praying for our hurting Taiwanese siblings in Southern California, and for all who have been targets of hate and violence. Know that as we pray, we and scores of people like us are rededicating ourselves to the sacred ministry of detecting, disrupting, and dismantling racism wherever it exists. This we do in the name of the one who came that all may have life, Jesus Christ. Amen.
The Governing Board and Staff of the Ohio Council of Churches
Rev. Dr. Jack Sullivan, Jr., Executive Director
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