From the Executive Director of Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of NJ, Rev. Rob Gregson:
Dear fellow Unitarian Universalists and our friends:
I sent you all an email last week immediately following the all-too-familiar shooting deaths by the police of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, LA and Philando Castile outside St. Paul, MN.
I need to do the same now following the terrible violence against the police in Dallas last Thursday night, with five officers killed: Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Lorne Ahrens, and Michael Smith. We must also note that, according to news accounts, at least 3 other police officers were shot in alleged copy cat ambushes in Georgia, Tennessee and Missouri. As of today, the officer in St. Louis MO is listed as being in critical but stable condition.
For now these events send us even deeper into mourning and a kind of national despair.
I hope you have had a chance to reflect and mourn–perhaps on Sunday in the embrace of your home congregation, or with those you love and can speak to about your deepest thoughts and fears.
I won’t reiterate what so many have said already, and better than I ever could. I want instead to say we are here, we are doing the long-term work necessary in New Jersey to halt the abuse and neglect of people of color and people struggling to get by, economically and otherwise.
You will see specific actions you can take in New Jersey now to act on your deepest feelings and convictions around the terrible events of last week and the months (and years) before. You would be very welcome to join our Racial Justice Task Force or Criminal Justice Task Force to push for longer-term gains.
For an excellent article on the uniquely American confluence of violence and guns I recommend this article by Adam Gopnik in the July 8 The New Yorker. The Horrific, Predictable Result of A Widely Armed Citizenry
I believe it is disingenuous of us not to state, openly and without fear, how our national gun policy has facilitated both racially-biased killings, but many preventable deaths across a range of groups.
I have another idea I would like to float and see where it might take our faith witness together in this state.
If you would be interested in joining with me to create an organized, well thought out approach to local and county-level police on the part of NJ UU congregations, please be in touch.
If we are to be both a gadfly AND support to our police–if we are to cry out against institutionalized racism as it affects policing as well as help those who stand on the front lines of violence and guns in American culture–then it seems to me, we have a special responsibility to engage with the police. As Unitarian Universalists. Long term. Building relationships. Reaching out to a group we often think of in our progressive circles as “the other.” Not Us.
Spiritual work, always. Justice work, and hands on work too. I would like to hear from you if this idea appeals. Please see my contact information below. If you have other ideas, please let me know them as well. Meanwhile, we will remain in touch and we here at UULMNJ will continue to advocate on your behalf on bail reform, income inequality, criminal and reproductive and environmental justice, and how institutional racism intersects with them all. At least some of the reasons that a group like the UU Legislative Ministry matters.
I trust that you and your families and friends are well and keeping your spirits up. We walk on together.
In faith and abiding hope,