On Friday during prayers, 50 Muslim worshippers in two mosques were murdered in a mass shooting and act of terrorism in Christchurch, New Zealand. These worshippers, ranging in age from over 70 to under 4, were gunned down by high-powered assault rifles and shotguns.
50 human beings, women and men, elders and toddlers.
The one who has been arrested for this atrocity is a 28 year old white man who wrote a very long “manifesto” declaring his White Supremacist and White Nationalist ideology. The document was filled with anti-immigrant and Islamophobic talking points that are very familiar to us here in the United States. It spoke of an “invasion” of immigrants, a “white genocide,” and other hideous and preposterous lies. And it praised the US president as someone restoring white identity. The rhetoric in that document was identical to the rhetoric we hear all too often from voices in this country—even from some who occupy the highest political offices. It is the kind of rhetoric and ideology that has been behind several other attacks in recent memory.
In late October of last year, 11 Jewish worshippers were gunned down in the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. The terrorist who carried out that attack used similar rhetoric calling immigrants “invaders” and saying Jews were “committing genocide to his people.”
In June of 2015, another White Supremacist murdered 9 African American worshippers in Emmanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina. He spouted similar White Supremacist and White Nationalist rhetoric.
The list, sadly, goes on and on.
For far too long, way too many predominately white churches in the U.S., many of which are “Evangelical,” have been afraid to speak out against White Supremacist and White Nationalist ideology. White people, even white people who profess to follow Jesus, can be really fragile and react very strongly when pastors and church leaders start naming these realities. White Christians will make excuses for why speaking out against Racism and Xenophobia isn’t a “Gospel issue.” White Christians will exit churches or fire pastor that make public statements about Black Lives Matter. So pastors and church leaders have remained silent to appease wealthy white parishioners, protecting the church’s bottom line.
Roots Covenant Church won’t be one of those churches.
The leadership of Roots Covenant won’t be those kind of church leaders.
Roots Covenant Church is an intentionally multiethnic and multicultural community of people, many of whom have not “fit” in with other groups. Many of us self-identify as “misfits.” We know what it’s like to feel like an outsider, to be unfairly judged, to not be accepted or feel like we belong. That is why our faith centers around Jesus Christ—the ultimate Misfit. He came to his own people and his own people rejected him. He was a man of sorrows who wasn’t esteemed. And yet, he practiced a Way of life that included radial hospitality. He welcomed the stranger, praised the excluded, loved the unlovely, healed the broken, and included the outcast.
Jesus also fundamentally opposed politics of oppression, exclusion, and violence. Jesus condemned the privileged in society who used their power to hold others down, to disenfranchise them, and to harm them. Jesus pronounced judgment over such systems and persons who did not love others as God has loved them. Our faith is rooted in Jesus’s Way of radical love—the kind of love that is risky and costly. Like Jesus, we will stand in solidarity with those who are marginalized. We will purposefully seek Shalom Justice for our communities, our city, and our world. We will resist the principalities and powers of Racism, White Supremacy/Nationalism, Xenophobia, and Islamophobia. We will embody Jesus’s Way of love right here in St. Paul, MN.
St. Paul has a relatively large community of Muslims, many of whom are Somali. Minnesota is, in fact, the first state to elect a Somali-American Muslim Representative to Congress, Rep. Ilhan Omar. After a terrorist attack like the one in New Zealand, it would be perfectly understandable if the Muslim community in St. Paul were fearful for their safety while worshiping in their own mosques. That’s why it’s especially important that churches like Roots make ourselves heard and clearly condemn the ideologies which produce violence against minorities groups. No longer can “Evangelical” churches sit on the sidelines. To be silent is to be complicit.
That is why this Sunday we will set aside time during our worship gathering to pray for our Muslim neighbors, to plainly condemn Racism, White Supremacy/Nationalism, Xenophobia, and Islamophobia, and to express our solidarity and sympathy to the members of local Mosques in our neighborhood. Attendees will be given the opportunity to write a personal message on a card which we will deliver to those houses of worship.
As a community of misfits, Roots knows that we don’t have to agree with one another to love one another. Jesus taught us to love our neighbors, and in loving our neighbors who are created in the image of God we demonstrate our love for the Creator of us all and gratitude for the love God has shown us in Christ.
We grieve with our Muslim neighbors and want to express our deepest sympathy. We stand with you and you are loved.
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.