November 25, 2014

It was with sadness and growing anger that many in our community at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York took in today’s news out of Missouri. While we cannot claim to know all that led to the decision, we are deeply concerned about all it implies about our nation and the violence that lives with us.

The state-sanctioned violence perpetrated against young men of color in this country is abominable. It is cruel and sadistic, and undergirding it is the scourge of white racism with the myriad privileges and fears attached to whiteness.

The brutality of racism and the harms it inflicts on black and brown bodies directly contradict every tenant of our Christian faith — indeed, the tenets of all the world’s major religions. Until it is addressed directly and with sustained commitment by all of us, we will repeatedly fail to be the country we dream of being.

We must not turn back from facing this harsh truth.

As John F. Kennedy cautioned years ago, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” We are committed to peaceful change, and we confess that our democracy is so profoundly broken that nothing short of a people’s movement for deep, systemic change can fix it.

We are hopeful that out of our anger will continue to spring forth activism rooted in a faith bigger than any one community. We remain firm in our belief in a God that gives life and seeks goodness in all things. Using the fierce, biblical model of love and nonviolence claimed by our forebearers, we stand evermore committed to working together for real change.

That change must start today, growing out of our profound sadness, disappointment, and anger at what has occurred — not only in Ferguson but also in far too many of our communities — and flowering in the righteous will to overcome the challenges we face to build the nation we believe in.

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