Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Book cover “Where do we go from here: chaos or community”
Dr. King’s last book was titled, “Where do we go from here: Chaos or Community?” The book is a must read for those serious about justice, equity, wholeness and peace. Yet, the title itself is a challenge to all of us in these very tragic and difficult days. Where do we go from here?
The Black church was born in resistance to the oppressive system of chattel slavery and the white settler colonial apparatus that made it possible for chattel slavery to operate.
While the Black church was birthed in resistance to oppression, the evangelical church, mostly white and male dominated, was theologically and politically maintaining the system that stripped people of African ancestry of their names, rituals, language, families and homeland to labor in perpetuity for Europeans bent on dominating a continent and its people who were already there.
It is from this perspective that I write to encourage the voices for peace to rise to a crescendo. At a very basic level, Black people in Black churches can first of all study. Read books and articles on the conflict, tension and suffering that is going on right now in Northeast Africa (again, there is no such thing as a “Middle East”).
A good place to start is a book that came out in 2017, titled “Kingdom of Olives and Ash, Writers Confront The Occupation.” This book is edited by a husband-and-wife team, Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman.
Did I also mention that the authors are both Jewish? Chabon was born to Jewish parents in Washington, D.C., while Waldman was born in Jerusalem, Israel, and migrated with her parents to North America.
In their book they talk of visiting Israel and meeting with members of an NGO called “Breaking The Silence.” This organization is made up of former Israelis military who are now breaking their silence about the atrocities of the occupation. It is an important read to understand at a deeper level the complexities of the conflict in Northeast Africa. There are other books by Jewish voices for peace, a ceasefire and a better solution to the conflict between Israeli and Palestinian people.
The other thing that people who attend Black churches can do is recalibrate. Recalibrate the narrative that has been erroneously peddled by many evangelicals that the Israel of today is synonymous with the Israel of the Bible.
That is not the case and could not be farther from the truth. This conflict is not about Jewish people returning to the “Holy Land” and Christ returning to earth. This is not about the end times or the rapture.
This conflict is about politics and a political strategy to control not only a piece of land but the people on that land. This conflict is about power and what the late Walter Wink called “The Domination System.”
People can do themselves a major favor by recalibrating their thought processes from the Constantinian version of Christianity that spiritualizes violence and war to the reality that Jesus never called anyone to go to war for him and that Zionism in the state of Israel is not the biblical Zion—but today’s political one.
As I stated in my last article, “two things can be true at the same time: Hamas does not represent Palestinians, just as the state of Israel does not represent all Jewish people.” The last thing that we can do is pray, promote, preach and pass on the call for peace, first through a ceasefire and then by a real heartfelt strategy that respects the state of Israel’s right to exist and the Palestinian people’s right to govern themselves without oversight or intervention by the state of Israel.
Jesus, that Palestinian Jewish African, is quoted by the apostle John as saying, “the thief comes to only steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Jesus came to nurture life not death. Jesus came to curate a context of peace among people, not competition between ethnic groups or races of people.
Jesus came to empower “peacemakers,” to do the difficult work of fostering peace. If more people in the words of the late John Lennon would “give peace a chance,” it just might redound to our attention and compassion being expanded to the suffering that is also going on right now in Haiti and parts of West Africa, where people are being wantonly murdered by warring factions. Yet western corporate-controlled news outlets will not show or adequately report on these areas because it addresses the suffering of dark-skinned people in this world.
My plea is a humanitarian plea for peace and for peacemakers to raise their voices, particularly from the church, the Black church that was formed as resistance to indiscriminate violence being done to people solely based on the complexion of their skin. It was Martin Niemoller who created the warning after the holocaust that was perpetrated by the Nazis in Germany against Jewish people in Europe.
These words by Niemoller can also be applied to what is going on in Gaza and other parts of the world, where innocent people have become casualties of unnecessary and indiscriminate war. He wrote, “First they came for the socialist, and I did not speak out, because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionist, and I did not speak out, because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Remember that one cannot bomb for peace. Too many have died needlessly—both Jewish and now over 11,000 Palestinian innocent civilians. Ceasefire is needed now. Jesus said, “I came that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” Jesus, who was called “The Prince of Peace,” can only do that through those who say they follow him.
A ceasefire is the first step in a long difficult process to fulfilling Jesus’ words for peace and peacemakers to cultivate life over needless suffering and unnecessary death.
Where do we go from here: Chaos or Community?
Rev. John E. Jackson
Rev. Dr. John E. Jackson, Sr. is the Senior Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ-Gary, 1276 W. 20th Ave. in Gary. “We are not just another church but we are a culturally conscious, Christ-centered church, committed to the community; we are unashamedly Black and unapologetically Christian.”