Pastor’s Friday Comments (06.12.20)

In response to the death of George Floyd and the civil unrest that followed, the ministers of our community felt the need to respond in some way. There was considerable dialogue about what the best response would be, but we were united in feeling that some statement from our group that calls itself the Johns Creek Interfaith Alliance was necessary. After considerable discussion and revision we released the following statement. We hope this can be part of an ongoing conversation about how to ease the tensions in our culture, right many generations of wrongs done to part of our society, and recover the place of religious groups of all faiths in our culture.

Here is the text of our statement. I’ll be glad to discuss it with you.

Dear friends,

We, the members of the Johns Creek Interfaith Alliance, a group of clergy and religious leaders representing houses of worship in Johns Creek, are profoundly troubled by the current situation in our country. We lament the tragic killing of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer who was sworn to protect and serve, a killing that has drawn thousands into the streets to protest. Despite the pandemic, we’ve seen day after day of peaceful protest, followed by nights of unrest and looting. Often these peaceful protests are disrupted by violence. In short, our country – and even our own city of Atlanta – is hurting and it is breaking our hearts.There is a pervasive, systemic stain on our nation that has led to entire communities feeling marginalized, afraid of police, and convinced they have no other option but to take to the streets in protest. It is a problem that, admittedly, many of us in our Interfaith Alliance have never experienced firsthand. Even still, we are committed to working to address this wrong.

We condemn the racism and excessive force by some members of law enforcement that has led to the death and injury of so many of our black brothers and sisters. We acknowledge and affirm those in law enforcement who make professionalism and care their practice and who also condemn acts that are antithetical to their oath. We urge dialog to begin so these protests can bring understanding and a reform of policies that translates, ultimately, into the respect and equality black Americans deserve. We urge every citizen to examine his or her own misperceptions that create the racial inequities that wound and stubbornly persist. Only when we confront this and work together to combat and dismantle systemic racism will we finally end this plague.

Voices from our religious traditions speak to this:
Dr. King taught, “Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
The Book of Numbers teaches “justice, justice, you shall pursue.”
The Quran teaches “stand firmly for justice, as witnesses to God.”

The Book of 1 John teaches “Those who say ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.”
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel was a leading Jewish theologian and philosopher of the 20th century. He once said that when he marched in Selma with Dr. King and other activists in the Civil Rights movement, it was as if his feet were praying. Let all of our feet do the same, working for justice as we offer this prayer to the Source of hope, healing, compassion, and love:

May the leaders of our community, cities, state, and nation cultivate the wisdom to help bring about this much-needed change in a compassionate, empathetic, and peaceful way.

May we all have the courage to examine our hearts, open up to one other, speak out against the evil of racism, and work together to bring healing and love now.

With peace and in remembrance of the life of George Floyd,
The Johns Creek Interfaith Alliance

Rabbi Jordan Ottenstein,
Rev. Dr. C. Gray Norsworthy,
Mr. Tareef Saeb,
Rev. David White,
Rev. Neal Kuhlhorst,
Mr. Naeemahemed Mulla,
Rev. Brian Daoust
Rev. Dr. Charley Reeb
Rev. Lori Osborn
Rev. Dr. James M. King
Rev. Dr. Shaun King
Rev. Brittany Sanders
Rev. Allen Johnson
Rev. Annie Westbrook