TW: police brutality and black violence/death
This Sunday marks the Christian holiday Pentecost, celebrating the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles and followers of Christ, forty-nine days after Jesus’s Easter resurrection.
Pentecost is a joyful celebration, marking the “birthday” of the Christian church and offering us a time to revel in the mystery and wonder of God. Denominations celebrate in a variety of ways including fasting, utilizing the color red to signify the fires of the Holy Spirit, and singing songs and hymns inviting the Holy Spirit to breathe upon us again.
This Pentecost, it feels odd to celebrate and be joyful during such a tumultuous time. We are in the midst of a global pandemic, which is stressful enough. However, we are also experiencing ongoing police brutality against black and brown bodies. Protestors are gathering in the streets to memorialize black men, women, and queers, and to demand justice for their murders. An odd moment to pause and reflect on the joy of Pentecost …
But maybe we can reimagine the celebration. We can practice our celebratory traditions in more meaningful ways while mourning and grieving alongside our siblings.
During our fasting prayers, we can pray and reign down the Spirit for justice, mercy, and righteousness to bring the perpetrators of violence to justice.
We can utilize and wear the color red to signify the fires of the Holy Spirit and to signify the blood of our black siblings being shed in the streets.
We can sing songs and hymns inviting the Holy Spirit to breathe upon us again, and inviting the Holy Spirit to spare the breath of more people. Those infamous words of “I can’t breathe” have been screamed from dying bodies as the breath left them and their soul ascended.
We can ask the Holy Spirit to breathe its own breath of justice and righteousness into bodies, ones that will inevitably be marked for violence because of the color of their skin. And still to other bodies, giving them the ability to scream out in protest of others’ lost breath.
We celebrate Pentecost in remembrance of the spiritual awakening of the Christian people. Over 2000 years later, we are in desperate need of another spiritual awakening. Denominations of all types have been complicit for far too long in the violence perpetrated against God’s children.
This Pentecost, I urge Christians, especially white Christians, to pray down the fires of the Holy Spirit: to protect God’s vulnerable children; to bring justice to the families of the precious children of God that were taken from them; to bring reform – and abolition, where needed – to the systems that target God’s most vulnerable people.
I also urge us to be still and pray. Pray and ask how we have been complicit in oppressing God’s people. Pray for guidance about how to do and be better. Pray about where our skills and money are needed. Pray for peace, and love, and justice in our world, but also pray for how to couple those fruits with tangible action. Pray about how to be actively anti-racist, not just against racism.
Read Matthew 21 and Mark 11, recognizing Jesus’s “violent” protest in the Temple at the mistreatment of holy ground. Now imagine what Jesus’s reaction would be to the mistreatment of holy bodies.
Pentecost is the birthplace of the Christian tradition. It should also be the birthplace of the reawakening of our souls and actions for righteous justice.
For information about the history of the police and their brutality against black people:
Britannica on the history of police brutality
Time article on the racist history of the police
Medium article on policing’s history from the slave economy