CLC Blog

The Martyrs of Uganda

Today the church commemorates the Martyrs of Uganda, a group of Christians that were killed for their faith in 1885-1886 in what is now Uganda.

Anglican missionaries from Great Britain and Roman Catholic missionaries from France answered an invitation from the King of Buganda (now Uganda) back in the 1870s to send missionaries. Both Christian and Muslim missionaries worked hard and made many converts.

But something happened that led to a mass execution of converts in 1885-1886. While at first glance this may appear to have been done for religious reasons (the King was a Muslim sympathizer), that would not be correct. The King also had many muslims executed.

The problem didn't seem to be with Christianity, but with any religion that required adherence to a set of values, principles, and behaviors different from the King's orders and wishes. The King made clear he must be above any God that would be worshiped.

On a week when President Trump staged a photo op with a Bible in front of church after having those peacefully gathered in the church yard, including the priest, cleared with rubber bullets, tear gas, and flash grenades, all while calling for militarized violence against lawful protesters, The Martyrs of Uganda have an important lesson for us.

Where is our ultimate allegiance? To a President, or to our God? Holding up a Bible while inciting violence clearly shows that the President either doesn't understand, doesn't follow, or doesn't care about the words of Jesus. He certainly is being guided by a different set of moral values, likely his own. 

The protesters demanding racial justice are following Biblical principles. God promises abundant life for all. God sanctions governments that provide safety and welfare for all the people. Our government is looking less and less like that which is sanctioned by God.

Methodical Wound Care

Daily Devotion for June 2, 2020

In the early years of my ministry, I was bi-vocational, that is, I worked part-time in a congregation with my spouse and part-time at a nearby long term care facility as a registered nurse. The last position I had at the facility was as the infection control and wound care nurse and I spent time tracking the various infections in the facility, providing infection prevention education sessions for staff and taking charge of any and all skin wounds.

I remember one resident in particular. She was a delightful lady, well into her 80’s who was admitted with a small pressure ulcer on her hip (there’s a more technical term for where it was located but I’ll just say hip for ease of terms). It didn’t seem too bad, just some raw skin, not very big…but the skin surrounding the open area was dark and that troubled us. It meant that there was more damage than was visible to the eye. We couldn’t see it yet but it was lurking.

And sure enough, one day, her skin just fell away revealing a large gaping wound almost down to the bone. The underlying tissue was gray and dark, indicating infection and dead flesh. There was drainage and a foul odor. It was horrifying and frightening.

We were tested severely in trying to treat that wound. It meant daily cleansing and washing of the wound, packing it with medicated bandages, and weekly trimming or debriding of dead tissue so that healing could take place. It took a long, long time with constant attention and dedication to treatment. And of course, we weren’t just treating a wound, we were caring for this dear lady, tending to her needs, her comfort and her care, all while encouraging her, and committed to treating her as a person and not “a wound”.

Why am I sharing this story? We have just been through one of the worst weeks we have experienced in years. George Floyd was killed just one week ago and less than 24 hours later, the four police officers who were involved in his death were fired. Three days later, one officer was arrested and charged with 3rd degree murder and manslaughter. Quickly, there were calls for the healing to begin with that arrest.

But we cannot make that move so quickly. There have been years and years, generations of racist treatment and brutality, inequality and injustice perpetrated upon our black and brown siblings. One arrest, or even 3 more arrests will not root out and cut away all of the insidious and deadly rot that has festered below the surface of “Minnesota Nice”. I must admit that I felt relieved when the first reports of the looting, arson and vandalism, the burning of so many small businesses were being laid at the feet of “outsiders” out to do us harm. We couldn’t conceive that Minnesotans could behave this way. Sadly, while there may be still “outsiders” doing harm, much of the damage was done by “us”. And by “us” I mean looters, protestors and those who have supported white privilege and institutional racism for years whether we meant to or not.

All of us have contributed to the rot that was lurking below the surface. Before healing can take place, we must acknowledge our own complicity, confess our part, and pledge to learn from these terrible days. We must listen without comment to the stories being told of being profiled, targeted and viewed with suspicion while going about daily life. We must learn to recognize our own white privilege and call it out when we perceive it. We cannot allow racist comments, slurs and “jokes” to be told in our presence without calling it out for what it is. We must seek out relationships that are mutual and respectful with black and brown people, appreciating their culture, traditions, joys and sorrows. We must advocate for change legislatively and institutionally. Whole systems may need to be torn down and rebuilt. We must keep our eyes on the experiences of the victims, of the ones who have suffered and not be distracted by the excuses of “well, what about…”

It is a long, slow process. There are no easy fixes, no bandages that can cover the wound that has now been uncovered and exposed for all of the world to see. Certainly donating goods and volunteering to help clean up shattered neighborhoods is a beginning but it is not all that is needed. We must engage in the debriding of the dead tissue that is racism, prejudice, injustice, suspicion, white privilege and inequality. And we need to constantly examine our own attitudes and actions, cleansing our thoughts and words and deeds so that new tissue can emerge.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. “ Psalm 51:10

Let this be our prayer and our call to action as we grieve for George Floyd and pledge to rid ourselves and our society of the rot of racism. And let us begin the task of cleansing and renewal so that healing may eventually take place.

Peace be with us all,

Pastor Kisten

Messy Thoughts on a Messy Week

Tuesday I woke up to the news that George Floyd had been murdered by a police officer in broad daylight over a forged $20 (that we’re not even sure Floyd new was forged) while 3 other officers stood by and did nothing. Floyd pleaded for his life. Onlookers pleaded for his life. But those pleas fell on deaf ears. Another innocent black life taken at the hands of police brutality.

Today my city (and many cities around the country) is burning. Military presence is heavy. There is an 8:00pm curfew enforced (police will shoot at you with rubber bullets if you are outside…even if you are outside on your own property/balcony).

But there is another story at play as well. The community of Minneapolis is coming together in really beautiful ways. People are taking care of each other and coming together in solidarity to say NO MORE. For the first time in history, all four officers were fired within 24 hours and an arrest made within 4 days (though the other three officers need to be arrested and charged and the charge on the first officer was not what it should have been). People are uniting to create change.

I know many are struggling with the looting and the rioting taking place. But a gentle reminder that we celebrate December 16, 1773 as a proud point in history when in defiance to a government exploiting them, a group of colonists dumped 342 chests of tea into a harbor (we call this event the Boston Tea Party). And for decades there have been peaceful protests…all of them objected or ignored by white audiences. It seems finally, perhaps, voices are being heard.  

The people are fighting for a revolution—a revolution that overthrows the system of white supremacy on which this current society was built. I have read letters from businesses hit during the last week saying property can be replaced by insurance but life cannot, choosing to stand in solidarity with what is happening (even though they lost their business). That is the depth of this fight—it is about the sanctity of life that every human deserves.

A respected community leader Jim Bear Jacobs wrote what follows--I think it offers valuable perspective for white clergy, but also for white Christians. 

I love you--I am with you--I am here. 

-Andrea

An Open Letter to White Clergy

To my colleagues in ministry, particularly in the Twin Cities,
We are all challenged with how to be a ministering presence during these difficult times. George Floyd was murdered at the hands of the Minneapolis Police department. Many of us took to the streets during a global pandemic to demand justice. As I write this, I witnessed outside my suburban window a steady stream of city busses filled with state troopers speeding towards Minneapolis. Our cities are burning. On top of that many of you are prayerfully attempting to craft this Sunday’s sermon. Pentecost Sunday. When fire came to earth and turned the world upside down. My dear friends, especially my white colleagues in ministry, as you work on your sermons for this Sunday please heed this word of caution.

Right now, you may not know what words to say. You are feeling an impulse to pray and appeal to God for peace. I want you to consider not praying for peace. I know that this seems counter intuitive, but please don’t dismiss me just yet. So often in the midst of unrest we make an appeal for peace, but what is meant by peace? What are we asking for? When the unrest is a reaction to blatant racism; When the righteous anger makes you fearful; When our cities are burning; When in the midst of all this you take your pulpit and pray for peace, it is often a veiled plea for a return to “law and order”. If this is what you plan to do this Sunday, I would implore you to promptly resign your pulpit. To you this may seem extreme but I assure you I am absolutely sincere.

Your desire for law and order may seem peace to you, but it is definitely not peace for our communities of color. The prophet Jeremiah warns against superficial peace. “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace Peace’ they say, when there is no peace.” Your “peace” is based on law and order which itself is based on the Constitution. This constitution didn’t codify into common law that YOU were less than fully human. This Constitution didn’t have to be amended to grant that YOU are not property. This Constitution and the system of laws that grew from it work great for YOU, but make no mistake it was never meant to protect Black and Brown people.

When white people cry for peace it is too often an appeal to silence Black anger to make room for White comfort. We don’t need peace. We don't need things to return to normal. Normal is what got us here. We need leadership that will bravely face the truth of our white supremacist society and commit to change it. We need white people to get comfortable with dis-comfort. We need many things, but we do not need a superficial peace. For if you declare a shallow peace without the depth of justice; without the upheaval of systems created to intentionally suppress Black and Brown people; the prophet Jeremiah again warns of your awaiting fate. “So, they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when I punish them, Says the Lord”

If this Sunday you plan on praying for peace without committing to work towards justice. If your desire is simply to see the status quo restored, then do yourself a favor and resign your pulpit. Save yourself from God’s judgement.

Rev. Jim Bear Jacobs (Mohican)
Director of Racial Justice
MN Council of Churches.

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