'No justice, no peace!'
Evanston houses of worship organized a lament and rally at Fountain Square yesterday in response to Rittenhouse verdict. The rally was spearheaded by Second Baptist Evanston Pastor Michael Nabors.
“We want to say that our nation is moving in the wrong direction,” said Pastor Nabors yesterday as he addressed a gathering of about 60 people on a windy afternoon to lament the verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse case last Friday.
“We want to say that people of good will of every color, of every creed, of every religion, of every faith, can come together and turn this thing around. If we do not come together, there’s no telling where we’re going to end up tomorrow. We are moving in the wrong direction.”
Here are remarks (edited for length) from Evanston faith leaders:
Pastor Michael Kirby, Northminster Presbyterian Church; Rabbi Andrea London, Beth Emet The Free Synagogue; Pastor Grace Imathiu, First United Methodist Church; Rabbi Rachel Weiss, Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation;
Martha Holmes, Pastor, Bethany Baptist Church of Christ;
Minister Eileen Wiviott, Unitarian Church of Evanston; and
Daniel Biss, Evanston mayor.
Pastor Michael D. Kirby, Northminster Presbyterian Church of Evanston:
"In some Christian Traditions, today is reign of Christ Sunday…a declaration that the God of Hope…the God that makes a way where there was no way…is ultimately sovereign… But today it is ever harder to hear the voice of the maker of the stars… O we remember the songs and the prophets who spoke of torrents of justice just waiting to rush through our world if we would just stop damming them up with our notions of when and where and who is worthy. We remember, but our memories are drowned out by the songs and pledges of allegiance to America’s new gods….
"The god of ME….the god of white male hegemony and privilege…the god of weapons of death. You know those who have worshipped these gods…their deadly discipleship goes before them. Three men participate in the murder of a curious jogger who never posed them any threat…and argue because they feared him…without factual justification…THEY had the right to take his life. Because they are white, privileged, men of means…THEY get to decide who lives or who dies.
"We are brought here today because a man boy worshipped these death-dealing gods by crossing state lines as a self-appointed vigilante purporting to protect property, his tribute to death strapped over his shoulder…he roams free, …terrifying others and then striking out with deadly violence when they seek to disarm him. And now we have said because he was afraid…never mind he created the situation that gave rise to that fear…because he was afraid…he gets to play god himself…with impunity…
"Hear us today. Enough is enough.
"We rebuke today the god of me that says I get to decide when others live or die just because I’m afraid…never mind how unjustifiable that fear is or how I created the fearful situation.
"We rebuke the god of weapons of death. We will not continue to allow the children of Eve to be endlessly sacrificed to a second amendment god who is never more than second rate.
"At creation some of the ancient peoples of our shared traditions believed that the waters of chaos were everywhere until the god of many names spoke a creative word of peace and love and they were pushed back by the power of that word…. creating a space for life and love to flourish. We call on the God of many names to use us, and our words, and our commitment….to push back these falls gods of chaos that consume too many lives and offer nothing in return but an endless hunger for more violence and more death.
"We commit ourselves to the stubborn path of a just peace…it is not a path where mourning is silent, where grief takes us into ourselves…but where our broken hearts direct us to speak out and stand up against oppressive and exploitive systems and to have tough conversations that speak the truth in love while still honoring the divine image in each person…refusing to empower the chaotic and destructive potential in ourselves or anyone else.
"May justice come."
Rabbi Andrea Coustan London, Beth Emet The Free Synagogue
"When you type in the name of the Kenosha Killer, it autocorrects to 'rotten house.' How fitting. Something is rotten in these United States, and we all know it. That’s the reason we are here today.
"We gather together today because we know that what’s going on in our country is wrong, and we will not tolerate that this is the justice system, these are the laws, and this is the society we have created in this country.
"We are angry at the inequities we see, and we are scared by the violence, the arrogance, and the proliferation of deadly weapons. But we are resolved to work together to ensure that there will be equity in this country for all people regardless of the color of their skin, their ethnic background or religion, their sexual orientation, their gender identity, or their socio-economic status.
"We demand a legal system, laws, and institutions that recognize the dignity and worth of every human being. We will not tolerate systemic discrimination of any kind.
"We recognize that in order to live in peaceful coexistence, we cannot simply sweep the problems in our society under the rug and hide behind the reasoning that a jury made a reasonable decision based on the law.
"We need to ask what’s wrong with the laws, our legal system, and our society if an underage white boy can walk around the streets of a city in this country with a semi-automatic rifle and not face any consequences for killing two people and injuring another while a Black man in Georgia is dead for jogging while Black.
"We are angry, and we are scared that this is the state of affairs in our country.
"The mantra of this rally is 'no justice, no peace.'
"Jewish tradition teaches that justice and peace are bound together. The world can only stand if the values of 'din,' 'emet,' and 'shalom'—truth, justice and peace—are upheld together. We cannot have one without the other: Where justice is done, truth is done and peace is made. Every place where there is justice, there is peace.
"We cannot expect to have true peace in our society unless we are willing to reckon with the truth of the unjust systems we have in place and be honest about our racist past and the ongoing discrimination in our country. We need to come to terms with who we are in order to create true peace based on justice and equity for everyone.
"No justice, no peace!
"We are angry and we are scared, but we are not complacent. We are resolved not to accept the rotten state of affairs in this country, but to transform our society. No justice, no peace!"
Pastor Grace Imathiu, First United Methodist Church of Evanston
"On Friday I was afraid in a different way than when Jacob Blake was shot. When Jacob was shot, I felt afraid of the police. On Friday I became afraid of 17-year-old white boys because they have been given permission to walk in and shoot you and me and take the law into their hands. I'm a pastor, and I am concerned for the 17-year-old boy because he didn't make himself. Somebody made him.
"I'm curious: who made him that way? Whose fingerprints are on him?
"I was sorry that on Friday I was saying what many people were saying: we are not surprised. And then I read Sandra Bland's words, 'it's time to start knowing that that was going to happen and it's time to start doing something.'
"We should have met before this. We should have said 'No justice, no peace' before the verdict. So whatever happens in Brunswick [the Arbery murder trial]--no justice no peace! We can't just be reactionary, we must do something to change things.
"Let's not be the people who say, I knew that was going to happen, let's be the people to make sure it does not happen.
"No justice, no peace."
Rabbi Rachel Weiss, Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation - JRC
"I want to speak as someone who is white, serving a congregation of people who are mostly white, and the fact that most of the crowd gathered here today is white, and to say that our outrage and our surprise and our sadness cannot compare to the outrage, and fear, and violation that Black and Brown community members have faced--not just this weekend, not just this year, not just this century, but for millennia.
"We come to our houses of worship when we are in pain, when we are grieving, when we are mourning, when we are celebrating, when we are growing, when we are seeking justice, and seeking truth. I want to challenge all of us to let them be places where we wrestle like Jacob wrestled with the angel and with himself and say, What do we do to confront the painful reality that we are the ones who must change?
What are we willing to do?
"If we can bring the parts of us that
are terrified and scared and broken into our churches and synagogues and sanctuaries, we must also bring the parts of ourselves that realize that we are complacent in a society that is so deeply racist and biased. How we will wrestle with that knowledge?
"Our sanctuaries are strong enough to hold us, and this is what has to happen. So let us commit to using the strength of our traditions, let us commit to living by the examples our sacred texts and our sacred leaders have provided for us, of recognizing that the first place that change has to start is in ourselves.
"If we don't recognize and change ourselves, from confronting the relative who might sit at our Thanksgiving table and say, 'Well, we have to respect the jury,' or from the person on Facebook who says, 'There are multiple sides to consider,' or the people in our community who say, 'Is this the kind of message our spiritual places should hold up, should be sending out about the verdict?'
"Yes. It is. Antiracism, anti-violence are Jewish values, Christian values, Muslim values. They are spiritual values, and they are God's values. Let us add, every day, let us add one more. We gather, and we add, and we bring together. Because it starts with ourselves, but it absolutely will not end there.
"We can create our community and our justice system full of justice and peace."
Martha Holmes, Pastor, Bethany Baptist Church of Christ
"I am as outraged and as grieved in my spirit as each of you that we are again standing in protest of yet another egregious decision and action that seemingly condones vigilante behavior that allows a person to carry a gun and to willfully take lives under the guise that they fear for their own life.
"But more than that, I'm mindful this afternoon. And I'm encouraged and I encourage you with the words from First Timothy 1 and 7: 'For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.' As and we continue to stand our moral ground, we do so in the power of that spirit, with love and not hatred, and with sound mind, but clear about the need to denounce, challenge, change, oppose, and abolish laws and systems and persons who sit in positions of power and are unqualified.
"We must speak with our vote as well as our voice. We must not grow weary in our well- doing. We must not become discouraged in fighting this good fight. For at the proper time, we will reap if we do not give up.
"Our righteous indignation over these continuous behaviors and actions is not in vain. We will move forward in faith and not fear. We will do it one person at a time, we will do it as a community and ultimately as a nation.
"Our greatest weapon of mass destruction against unfair, unjust systems and powers is still prayer. We move forward in prayer.
When there's no justice, there's no peace."
Eileen Wiviott, Unitarian Church of Evanston
"Who created Kyle Rittenhouse? I would argue, all of us did.
"The system has been corrupt from the moment it began. This week is Thanksgiving week. We need to be grateful. But we also need to be honest and truthful about the beginnings of this nation, of genocide, slavery, rape, and above all else, the lifting up of property over human life. It's what this case is about.
"It's about someone taking an AR14 to protect property. He had no regard for human life despite the little medical pack he took to the protest. And that's what those three men who killed Ahmaud Arbery cared about. And that is the essence of our society. That is what our criminal justice system is set up to do. It's there to protect white property.
"Until we start to question that, and everything we do, whose lives matter? It seems property matters more than anyone's life. And when we operate out of fear for protecting our property and hatred for our fellow human beings we are never ever going to heal this world. We are one."
Daniel Biss, mayor
"Thank you for being here on this important and solemn occasion. It's important for us to be together right now.
"I think sometimes we get a little trapped in the conversations about the jury. Was the jury right or was the jury wrong? Were these 12 individuals mistaken or not?
"And to me that's almost beside the point, because the jury is a part of the system, and the system that begins with the law. What the system has told
us this Friday afternoon is that killing as an armed vigilante is okay, as long as you're arming yourself against people who are protesting for justice.
"That's what's on my mind.
"We need to think about the entire system from soup to nuts, that we need to fundamentally transform it.
"The second thing on my mind, though, which I think very obvious to everybody standing here right now, is that Kyle Rittenhouse would not have gone free if his skin wasn't white. The reason that has to be said out loud is because I think there's a backlash going on right now--kind of 'take it easy on the antiracism stuff.'
"It doesn't end with our justice system. Look at the wealth gap. Look at our education system. Look at our health gap. Look at every aspect of American society. This is not the time for us to take our feet off the gas pedal when it comes to antiracism. We are just starting.
"As we stand here lamenting, as we must, we are resolved. We have to keep on going.
"I want to thank you Rabbi for pointing out that those of us who have white skin are the ones that have the work to do. But we need to continue to do that work and we need to push one another forward to do that work, because that is how we build justice.
"Until then -- no justice, no peace."
Pastor Michael Nabors
"As you enjoy Thanksgiving with your families, keep in mind that there are millions of people who are not enjoying themselves because they are despairing, and they are hurting. So keep them in your prayers, but more important, keep them in your actions."
PHOTO CREDITS: Linda Gerber.