“Black lives matter.”– Gabe Horton
Gabe Horton is a student at Vanderbilt Divinity School in Nashville, Tenn., and a pastoral intern at Belle Meade United Methodist Church. I don’t know Mr. Horton’s ethnicity, but his thoughts seem worthy of consideration in light of recent events in the U.S., events carried out in the streets and in court rooms.
“The three words ‘black lives matter’ are disputed by the systems in U.S. society that continue to function as if black and brown lives do not, in fact, matter.
“When police violence is exercised dispro-portionately against people with darker skin, for instance, black lives do not seem to matter. When news organizations gloss over some colossal number of deaths incurred during a civil conflict in Africa, black lives do not seem to matter.
“When we send black people to prison at an unbelievably higher rate than white people, for equal or lesser crimes, our justice system says that black lives do not matter.
“When a lack of access to quality education disproportionately sends black and brown children on a pipeline to prison, our education system says that black lives do not matter.”
Blame is a wasted endeavor here, according to Horton. “The system is the way the system is, and we are all a part of it, through no fault of our own,” he asserts. “But like the alcoholic who is responsible for recovery but cannot be blamed for her disease, we are responsible for helping to heal a system we did not create.”
Horton says the same question is before those of us who profess faith as individuals, as congregations, as The United Methodist Church or whatever group with which you affiliate, including the Church universal: What are we going to do about it?
Horton points out that John Wesley famously asked three questions at his early conferences:
- What shall we teach?
- How shall we teach?
- What shall we do?
“Today, we have the chance to affirm as a Church that black lives matter,” Horton emphasizes. “I do not discount the efforts of individual churchgoers and pastors today and during our history, but as the Church universal, we have all too often been on the wrong side.”
Horton proposes that something be done, as The United Methodist Church, as congre-gations, as Sunday School classes. He says lots of opportunities exist to join the prophet in asking, “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?” (Isaiah 58:6).
“We can attend educational events sponsored by local organizers. We can visit those in prison and let their stories speak louder than statistics. We can get involved in the political issues that speak directly to the realities of injustice. We can learn how the gentrification that is renewing our cities also has the unintended effect of forcing people out of their communities.”Our church is committed to the idea that the rights and privileges a society bestows upon or withholds from its inhabitants indicate the relative respect in which that society holds particular persons and groups of persons. We affirm all persons as equally valuable in the sight of God and therefore work toward societies in which each person’s value is recognized, maintained, and strengthened.
Restorative Justice asks:
Who has been hurt?
What are their needs?
Whose obligations are they?