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Essay

Rest in Peace and Rise in Power #AltonSterling

By July 6, 2016 26 Comments
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In the last year 558 people have been killed by the police in just 2016 alone. That’s more than one person a day. That feels like an astonishing number.

My social media circles  today are participating in the faithful ritual of public lamenting and crying out in anguish for the 558th person killed the early in the morning on July 5, 2016, Mr. Alton Sterling. Another black man killed by the cops. As Jesse Williams recently said in his acceptance speech “The police manage to de-escalate, disarm, and not kill white people everyday.” Or as another friend, and colleague in ministery said on his facebook today, “Black Lives Still Struggling to Matter in America.”

The Belhar Confession makes it pretty clear that this is of ecclesiastical integrity for us. We must be concerned about the disproportionate ratio of people of color killed at the hands of law enforcement. The “church must therefore stand by people in any form of suffering and need, which implies, among other things, that the church must witness against and strive against any form of injustice, so that justice may roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Justice is a faith issue. Racial equality is a matter of faith.

Mr. Sterling we speak your name. Your family we see and we will work for justice and mercy. To my siblings in Christ in the Reformed Church who are people of color, Black Lives Matter here in this church. We will work to end the sin of racism, personal and systematic. Today we lament with Mr. Sterling’s family.

Alton Sterling, may you rest in peace and rise in power.

Jes Kast

The Reverend Jes Kast is an ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament and serves West End Collegiate Church as their Associate Pastor.

26 Comments

  • lorraine says:

    By saying Black lives matter a line has been drawn once again by creating a racial divide. All lives matter….they should matter to the churched and unchurched. Very tired of hearing this. I’m not excusing police violence but nor will I think all police are racially targeting people. I wouldnt want to be in law enforcement in todays world for one minute!

    • Jes Kast says:

      Lorraine, when black lives actually matter in this country is when all lives will matter. Until then we will keep saying black lives matter. This is faithful.

  • Kevin says:

    The facts haven’t even been made public and the investigation into this shooting has barely begun and is far from being finished and you seem already think either that this shooting was unjustified or racially motivated. Why not wait for the facts to come out first?

  • Bill says:

    Racial tension and division has increased over the past few years. I think we need to ask the question why? I do not believe that it is because the general public has become more racist. Conditions for poor minorities have not improved and maybe it is time to reevaluate the effectiveness of government programs designed to help but apparently don’t. Over 60 black kids killed in Chicago 3-4 weeks ago. Over 50 killed this past holiday weekend. That kind of violence was not caused by either guns or racism.

  • Arlyn bossenbrook says:

    Amen.

  • Amory Jewett says:

    Lorraine, Try to see it from a minority’s (black people) point of view. This is the first step to try to understand what has been happening to black people for far too long in the United States.

    How long, O God, before your justice is done in our land? I am a white Caucasian man and I am lamenting the unjust treatment of black people in the United States. Our God is a righteous and just God. He is the God of the black person as well as the white person.

  • Jan says:

    Lorraine, the big difference is that many more white folks have a voice than African-Americans. Systemic injustice is powerful.

  • Amory Jewett says:

    Thank you, Jan!

  • Kevin says:

    It’s actually the author that made this about race. The man was a convicted felon, with a long rap sheet. He already had a violent confrontation with the police on his record along with many other crimes. He wasn’t giving in to the authority of the police and listening to their commands. His race has nothing to do with it, it has everything to do with him not respecting the police, not doing what they said and that they already knew that he had been violent with them in the past, coupled with that he had a gun. That made for a bad combination.

    • Jes Kast says:

      Kevin, you are gravely misled. I did not make this about race. The consistent killing of people of color at the hands of the police is about race…racism actually. I am simply highlighting a fact. I don’t care what Mr.Sterling’s “rap sheet” is, he doesn’t deserve do die at the hands of supposedly “public servants.” I encourage you to listen instead of finding the need to defend today.

      • Kevin says:

        And I would encourage you to fully understand the facts of the situation and let the investigation run its course before accusing two cops of a racially motivated killing when you don’t have all the facts.

        I’m curious as to what you think the cops should have done?

        • Jes Kast says:

          Not kill Mr. Sterling. Stop killing black people.

          • Kevin says:

            Is every incident of white cops killing black people racial? Have there been any incidents that the police were justified in your opinion?

  • Amory Jewett says:

    Kevin, Then why, according to the Washington Post, are federal officials with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Dept. of Justice investigating Sterling’s death? Your missing what could very well be a civil rights violation.

    • Kevin says:

      I agree that there should be an investigation. If the facts come out that the officers acted wrongfully, then they should be punished but the facts of this case aren’t public yet and yet the author has judged this to be a racially motivated killing when it might not and that the officers were fully justified in defending their lives

  • Amory Jewett says:

    That should be, “You’re missing…”

  • Eric Van Dyken says:

    A few observations/thought questions come to my mind:

    – I am unclear as to what the “rise in power” reference means in this context. It’s a nice sentiment, but are we speaking of this man as a brother in Christ and speaking of his actual resurrection, or is this more of a cultural buzz phrase of some sort?

    – Does our concern over “the disproportionate ratio of people of color killed at the hands of law enforcement” lead us to try to understand and remedy cultural pathologies that lead to increased incidents of violent criminal behavior by people of color, or is it just a jumping off point to thoughtlessly accuse law enforcement officers of being racist and part of a “racist system”.

    – Across the nation black people are killed in violent crime in their neighborhoods every day (take for instance, the blight in Chicago). Do their lives matter? Will Rev. Kast be “naming their names”? Who are the gatekeepers of who is worthy of broad public lament?

    – Across the nation, countless black lives are snuffed out in the womb on a continual basis, and at rates greater than whites. Do their lives matter? I’ve not seen the lament from Rev. Kast on their behalf. I suppose we can’t “name their names” since they were deemed not worthy to be named.

    – Across the nation, multitudes of young black men are being “fathered” in the biological sense only, and we know empirically that this will doom many of them to lives of struggle, criminality, and violence. What does the worth of their lives mean for the church in terms of how we speak into the public arena about family, casual sex, fatherhood, sexual messages in music and pop culture, etc?

    – Today we are constantly told that we are not to judge outward moral actions. Can we now see into and judge the hearts of these men whom we do not know and conclude that they are racist?

    – Does the author realize that police also “manage to de-escalate, disarm, and not kill black people everyday”?

    – Does the mere fact that “In the last year 558 people have been killed by the police in just 2016 alone” tell us anything more than a reality that we already know, namely that law enforcement officers place themselves on the front lines of protection and deal with violent and volatile situations day after day?

    – Is it worth mentioning that the vast majority of these killings are found to be justified in order to protect the lives of the police officer or others?

    – Is the church driven by headlines mainly? What about all of the other violent crimes and murders occurring right now? What makes one situation more worthy of lament than another? Take for instance “mass shooting”. Does the loss of life in one location simultaneously make those lost lives more worthy of lament? Should the church mainly follow the culture and the news that is deemed worth mentioning?

    – Should it matter to Christians that Black Lives Matter is itself (as a larger movement) quite racist and has shown itself to often be more concerned with promotion of a narrative than actual truth?

  • Daniel James Meeter says:

    Jes, I’m with you. It’s grievous. Where’s ti going to end? Ordinary people in America want to carry their own handguns, even into church. But if a black man carries a handgun, he is automatically a threat and must be killed in self-defense. There is something spiritual going on. We in the churches have to discern and face the principalities and powers at work.

  • Amory Jewett says:

    Eric, please do stick to the issue at hand: Injustice toward a minority. That minority is black people in our land. You are on a tirade and “steam rolling” over the rest of the readers by bringing in too many other issues without acknowledging or addressing the core issue. Consequently, your opinions lack any constructive purpose. Quite the contrary, your reactions and denial of the core problem of injustice for black people in the United States of America is destructive and of very real concern.

    • Eric Van Dyken says:

      Amory,

      If you choose not to engage the content of my comment, that is your choice. I am not at all interested in your attempt to browbeat me into not asking questions that you don’t want to grapple with. I addressed the content and implications of the post. You are free not to read my comments or think on them any further if they bother you.

  • Amory Jewett says:

    “Rest in peace and rise in power,” Alton Sterling!

  • Amory Jewett says:

    Eric, Sir, your arrogance is simply astounding! Your questions/comments are not germane to the issue of racial injustice in American society. You seem completing unwilling to acknowledge the injustice and sin of racial oppression that does indeed exist in this country and that has become systematic and part of American society. Also, I refuse to make any of this personal and hurtful.

  • Eric Van Dyken says:

    Dear Amory,

    This is fairly simple. The author wrote a blog post. I responded to the blog post in the comments section with a number of questions/observations that relate directly (including many direct quotes) to the blog post. You seem uncomfortable with the questions I have asked, tell me to stop, and now somehow conclude that I am “unwilling to acknowledge the injustice and sin of racial oppression” or that I have a “denial of the core problem”. I’ve made no such statements or insinuations. By all means, let’s not make this personal. You can start that effort by not putting words in my mouth. And you can continue that effort by avoiding allegations of arrogance based on my straightforward and civil response in which I merely invited you to ignore my comments/questions if you didn’t want to deal with them.

    You don’t have some magical authority over me whereby you can insist that I have no business taking part in a discussion or asking questions. If you want to engage on substance, I am glad to engage with you.

  • Amory Jewett says:

    Eric, Sir, As I’ve said, I refuse to make any of this personal.

  • Amory Jewett says:

    This essay from the UCC is still so very relevant. http://uccfiles.com/pdf/pastoralltr-racism2015.pdf

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