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Christians Leaving Palestine, Community Responders, the Gun Industry’s Growth
KTF Weekly Newsletter
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And now, on to this week’s highlights as we leave colonized faith for the kingdom of God.
(Content warning: sexual assault) There’s a brilliant short documentary (just under 20 minutes) now streaming on YouTube, among other sites, called The Recall: Reframed. It’s about the successful campaign to recall the California judge who infamously sentenced Stanford swimmer Brock Turner to just 6 months in prison after Turner’s conviction for the sexual assault of an unconscious woman. The director, the Emmy-nominated film maker and Harvard Law School lecturer Rebecca Richman Cohen, is passionately dedicated to the idea that outrage at pervasive violence against women and outrage at the injustices of the criminal legal system can co-exist. But we must understand that using criminal courts as a vehicle for punitive revenge does not usually affect the Brock Turners of the world. Instead it is poor Black and Brown defendants who suffer. Cohen invites us in her official statement about the film to “hold in our minds both the critical importance of seeking justice for gender violence, and the equally critical understanding that demanding harsher sentences will only make justice more elusive.” I couldn’t agree more. The film encourages us to seek shalom with nuance and compassion toward all by refusing to acquiesce to narratives that turn marginalized groups against each other.
While we’re rethinking the criminal legal system, this article profiles an organization that has been actually taking over the job of the police in a small stretch of Brooklyn for five-day periods several times a year. They are part of a broader movement to experiment with community responses to the harm neighbors cause each other, and diminish our reliance on police officers who often have little investment in the neighborhoods they surveil. Some of the stories from these experiments are remarkable. For instance, one community responder convinced a man to hand over his gun and go home instead of robbing a bodega. The next day, the man returned to volunteer with the organization, and spent the day breaking up fights. These advocates want to shift the emphasis in our response to crime from punishment to support and social services. As followers of the Prince of Peace, we should applaud and encourage these efforts any way we can (including supporting the org profiled in the article).
When we discussed the foster care system on Shake the Dust almost 2 years ago, I mentioned that advocates in New York City were trying to get a bill passed which would require case workers to inform parents of their rights before questioning them or searching their homes, kind of like the Miranda warning that police give. Currently, case workers do not explain that anything parents say can be used against them, or inform them that they have the right to refuse things like a strip search of their children. The bill was never passed. It has reemerged though with the ostensive support of a new and allegedly more progressive administration. But that support turns out to be only lip service. In fact, the administration is trying to quietly drastically weaken the bill. This is disappointing but unsurprising because many do not see the connection between the fight against abuses in the family policing system and other systems of control and oppression. I strongly encourage everyone to read the article, listen to our episode, and learn as much as possible on this subject.
Before Obama was elected, Americans had never purchased more than 7 million guns in a single year. By the time he left office, the new record was 17 million, notes ProPublica in an interview with former gun manufacturing executive Ryan Busse. Gun violence in the United States is the result of a complicated yet connected confluence of social and political factors. This interview helpfully walks us from the NRA’s response to the Columbine shooting in 1999, to the shift in how gun companies advertise, through to the crisis of radicalism in the industry today. As a thousand protestors gathered demanding that Colorado ban all guns, and my brother in Richmond is pastoring those who witnessed yet another mass shooting in that city, this article is a reminder that behind all of it is an intentional push to sell guns, normalize violence, and stoke fear and anxiety. It is possible for things to be different, and followers of Jesus must pray for the prophetic imagination to pursue peace.
Al Jazeera created a highly informative , two-part video about Palestinian Christians. Part 1 explores why these Christians have moved away from the birthplace of Jesus in such exceptional numbers over the last several decades. Part 2 dives into the profoundly misguided role American Evangelicals play in their oppression. The videos feature Reverend Munther Isaac, past guest on Shake the Dust and founder of the Christ at the Checkpoint Conference. Our God loves justice, and as Rev. Isaac notes, Christ incarnated within a military occupation, not among the powerful or the elite. Followers of Jesus who enmesh love for God with love for country are idolatrous and deceived. No matter if their favored state is the Roman Empire, the United States, or in this case, Israel. May God raise up more prophetic leaders like Rev. Isaac, protect the people who suffer under Israeli occupation, and bring His kingdom in His good timing. Amen.
In this review of Monica Potts’ book The Forgotten Girls: A Memoir of Friendship and Lost Promise in Rural America, Stephanie Merritt from The Guardian pushes us to go on a worthwhile journey to Potts’ hometown of Clinton, Arkansas. “Deaths of despair”—those resulting from suicide or substance use—are a trending topic in the media. But rarely do those conversations focus on the population that suffers these deaths the most: poor women. Potts started her investigation when she learned that “over the past decade, the life expectancy of the least-educated white Americans showed the longest and most sustained decline in 100 years.” She couldn’t help but wonder why so many of her hometown friends were emblematic of this trend, and why she wasn’t. This interview with Potts goes deeper into the two people on whom the book focuses: Potts, who “got out” of Clinton, and her childhood best friend, who did not. Her introspection models an honest look back at one’s origins, not with judgement or condemnation, but with compassion, understanding, and mature reflection.
Shake the Dust Preview
Tomorrow, we kick off season three by interviewing CNN reporter John Blake! He speaks with us about his new memoir, More than I Imagined: What a Black Man Discovered about the White Mother He Never Knew. It’s all about how racism and the institutionalization of disabled people fractured his family, and how his faith and “radical integration” brought healing and restoration. It’s a great conversation you don’t want to miss!
Thanks for reading y’all, and please take a second to tell a friend about our work!
Jonathan and Sy