We have have been grief-stricken and overwhelmed with the display of systemic racism at work in the violent police response following the murder of Michael Brown. Our prayers go out to all our friends with children of color who have to somehow explain this terrible event to them. Teenagers of color are most impacted by this legitimate threat to their lives, but this affects all of us. This is a reality all we must face. Racism is deeply embedded in and at work in our institutions, and only people power (and maybe prayer) has ever been able to change that.We pray and call for a church that is moved to action to actively and deeply participate in efforts that transform our communities and the institutions that govern them, like our police departments.

This devastating act of violence borne of fear, as well as its root causes, must be transformed. As the body of Christ we are called to serve the other and to heal the diseased parts of the body. We must acknowledge the disease of institutionalized racism (alongside all other -isms) and acknowledge the wounds before we can begin to heal.

To practice our faith is to act for equality while embracing the other with Christ-like love. That alone should be enough motivation to speak out and demand justice when there is none. But the ego in us is self-serving, so a theology of mutual liberation can be helpful here. Richard Rohr speaks to mutual gifts of other embracing other:

“When there is the encounter with the other, when there is mutuality, when there is presence, when there is giving and receiving, and both are changed in that encounter, that is the moment when you can begin to move toward transformation. Maybe the word transformation scares you, but it means exactly the same as its Latin roots—to ‘change forms.’ When you allow other people or events to change you, you look back at life with new and different eyes. That is the only real meaning of human growth.”

We call for action that leads to this kind of exchange on the streets between cops and communities. We call for action that transforms all of us toward growth and toward a better world.

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