Why Persist in Our Countercultural Habit?

The story in Exodus 34 narrates Moses on the mountain again, getting a second set of stone tablets from God, having busted the first set in sheer frustration of his people’s preoccupation with the idols of Egypt. This portrait offers the starkest possible contrast to the spectacle we witnessed last week. We’re speaking of course of Donald Trump clearing the streets with teargas so he could walk to an Episcopal Church that didn’t want him there, in order to brandish a Bible he didn’t open. These two images of a man carrying Holy Writ could not be more different. On Sinai we see Moses, a prophet of liberation, ascending yet again to the Source, trying again to bring instruction to a hard hearted people, on whose behalf he begs mercy. Moses is reminded that this Creator is indeed “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and rich in kindness.” This is a story of loving solidarity between God, prophet and community.


In DC, on the other hand, we see Trump descending from the White House, posing for a gratuitous photo opportunity in yet another attempt to weaponize the scriptures—of which he is ignorant, and from which he has never taken instruction—in order to legitimate his war on the citizenry. This is a story of unbridled cynicism. Friends, this is why we persist in our countercultural habit of turning to these ancient texts: because they offer a different narrative with which to counter the fabulations and manipulations of empire. This wisdom born from mountain peaks is how we do battle with the deadly hubris born from ziggurats and Trump Towers. “Our sacred stories,” as the great Indigenous writer Leslie Marmon Silko put it in her acclaimed novel Ceremony, “are all we have to fight illness and death.”

Ched Myers, “For God So Loved The World … A Tribute to Liz McAlister” (delivered on June 7, 2020)

The End of Predatory Policing

Photo by Jessica Griffin

The movement to end predatory policing is part of a national turn toward nonviolent civilian control of public safety. The rise of militarized police is a problem faced around the world. Militarization of police not only brings about more violence and abuse of authority, but it is based on a presumption of the citizen as a threat. This is antithetical to liberal democracies.

“A presumption of threat,” write Eliav Lieblich and Adam Shinar, “assumes that citizens, usually from marginalized communities, pose a threat of such caliber that might require the use of extreme violence. This presumption, communicated symbolically through the deployment of militarized police, marks the policed community as an enemy, and thereby excludes it from the body politic. Crucially, the pervasiveness of police militarization has led to its normalization, thus exacerbating its exclusionary effect. Indeed, whereas the domestic deployment of militaries has always been reserved for exceptional times, the process of police militarization has normalized what was once exceptional.”

“The police need to understand that this is a new day. The consent of the governed for predatory policing and mass incarceration racial injustice is hereby revoked. They need to understand they either change how they police or we will dismantle police departments as they exist today and create wrap-around safety strategies and institutions. They’ve got a choice now: They can either do it on their terms or it will be done to them by people who don’t understand as much about what they know.”–Connie Rice, civil rights lawyer, co-founder of the Advancement Project on As It Happens (8 June 2020)

“The only way we’re going to stop these endless cycles of police violence is by creating alternatives to policing. … More training or diversity among police officers won’t end police brutality, nor will firing and charging individual officers. … The focus on training, diversity and technology like body cameras shifts focus away from the root cause of police violence and instead gives the police more power and resources. The problem is that the entire criminal justice system gives police officers the power and opportunity to systematically harass and kill with impunity. … The solution to ending police violence and cultivating a safer country lies in reducing the power of the police and their contact with the public. We can do that by reinvesting the $100 billion spent on policing nationwide in alternative emergency response programs, as protesters in Minneapolis have called for. City, state and federal grants can also fund these programs.”– Philip V. McHarris and Thenjiwe McHarris, No More Money for Police (New York Times, 30 may 2020)

‘The Debt to Black America in this Democracy Continues’

Episcopal Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde at frontlines in D.C. on Wednesday, 3 June 2020 (Photo credit: Jim Simpson)

“So let’s be clear about one of the events of this past week. The president of the united states threatened to use military force against American citizens. And then proceeded to use federal officers to disperse peaceful protesters outside of the White house. The African American mayor of this city stood her ground. She stood the ground for all of us. The debt to Black America in this democracy continues.”—Mariann Edgar Budde, Episcopal Bishop of Washington, sermon from the Washington National Cathedral (June 7, 2020)

Prayer Vigil at Military Cordon, Washington, DC

Dozens of Christian clergy and others held a prayer service near St. John’s Episcopal Church on June 3 in Washington, D.C. to demand an end to police brutality and to show solidarity with demonstrators who took to the streets after George Floyd’s death. Rose Berger from the Christian organization Sojourners prays in front of national guard. (Photo credit: James Simpson)

Christ at the Military Cordon

Rev. Glenna Huber (left, Epiphany Episcopal DC) and Rose Berger (right, Sojourners) at military cordon near St. John’s Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C. on 3 June 2020.

Episcopal bishop Mariann Budde and Methodist bishop LaTrelle Easterling called for a prayer vigil on 3 June at St. John’s Episcopal Church at Lafayette Square. For several days, Episcopalians and Methodists have been providing food, shelter, and medical attention to Black Lives Matter demonstrators. On Monday night, those in the church as well as a packed street were tear gassed without warning by the police and driven from the area. As soon as the area was clear of citizens, President Trump and members of his team used the church for a photo op. Since that time, St. John’s has been captive behind military lines. Today, we hoped that Bishop Budde would be allowed to visit her church. But no such luck. So we prayed and kept vigil at the military cordon instead.–Rose Berger

#Lament 100k Pentecost Sunday

Empty chairs public witness

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”— 2 Corinthians 5:17

Jesus knew what we numb ones must always learn again: that weeping must be real because endings are real; and that weeping permits newness. Christ’s weeping with us permits the kingdom to come. The Holy Spirit’s indwelling opens us to envision a new “normal,” to envision an America true to her dreams, true to our native land to have a new birth of freedom and justice for all. Lord, open our eyes to a new and holy vision that your people may be your people in the days to come. Make us brave, O Lord, together. Hear our prayer. Amen.

On this Sunday, Christians welcome the coming of the Holy Spirit as our Advocate to embolden us with the good news and push the church into public spaces. Even if we have to do this virtually, we can still be driven out into the world with a new vision for our world.

This week our nation will cross a grim marker of 100,000 Americans dead from Covid-19. Many around the country will be putting out empty chairs at 12p noon on Monday, June 1, in public places with names or numbers or photos of those who have died. Monday, June 1, will be the National day of Mourning and Lament. #Lament100k #DayofMourning

#Lament100k Saturday

Empty Chairs public witness

“May your way may be known upon earth, your saving health among all nations.”—Psalm 67:2

To those who have lost loved ones, we—your fellow citizens—offer you comfort, not condolence, empathy, not sympathy. As a people we have borne this pandemic’s cost in the lives of our families; as a nation we shall honor and mourn them together. Let peace and good health prevail among all the nations, O God, and may it be so in our own families, communities, states, and land on this day and each day to come. These families are your families, O Lord. Hear our prayer.

This week our nation will cross a grim marker of 100,000 Americans dead from Covid-19. Many around the country will be putting out empty chairs at 12p noon on Monday, June 1, in public places with names or numbers or photos of those who have died. Monday, June 1, will be the National day of Mourning and Lament. #Lament100k #DayofMourning

#Lament100k Friday

Empty chairs public witness

“I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”—Ephesians 4:1-2

As we American face together this unprecedented season, let love fills all our hearts, so that the greatness of our nation continues to break open before us. Draw every American, into the values of courage, duty, honorable action, self-sacrifice, generosity, neighborliness, responsibility, and mercy, which are the hallmarks of our country. Give us courage, O Lord. Hear our prayer.

This week our nation will cross a grim marker of 100,000 Americans dead from Covid-19. Many around the country will be putting out empty chairs at 12p noon on Monday, June 1, in public places with names or numbers or photos of those who have died. Monday, June 1, will be the National day of Mourning and Lament. #Lament100k #DayofMourning

#Lament100k Thursday

Empty Chair public witness

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”—Romans 12:15

Give us the gift of weeping, O God, for tears of love are always holy. It is not only our loved one who are lost, but our jobs, our neighborhoods, our familiarity with family, and graduations and classes. May our mourning, lamenting, remembering, and learning from these losses not disappear like water in sand, but push us to weep from time to time. Keep us tenderhearted, we pray. Hear our prayer.

This week our nation will cross a grim marker of 100,000 Americans dead from Covid-19. Many around the country will be putting out empty chairs at 12p noon on Monday, June 1, in public places with names or numbers or photos of those who have died. Monday, June 1, will be the National day of Mourning and Lament. #Lament100k #DayofMourning