“Inequity demands a Civil Rights movement,
but iniquity demands a Civil Righteousness movement.”
— Rev. Jonathan Tremaine Thomas and Alex Anaya
INTRODUCTION TO CIVIL RIGHTEOUSNESS
A Brief Introduction:
Our movement pursues reconciliation and restorative justice through spiritual, cultural, and economic renewal. We envision the restoration of all persons, places, and things while pursuing wholeness (justice) and moral excellence (righteousness) according to the biblical pattern. We are accomplishing this work by equipping and empowering followers of Jesus to Engage Injustice, Build Bridges, Mobilize Allies, and Restore Communities.
From the mid-1950s through the late 1960s, dozens of organizations and coalitions pursued justice for Negro Americans within diverse societal sectors. These collective actions comprised what is historically known as the Black Civil Rights movement and it defined an era. Today, many new organizations and coalitions are emerging with an emphasis on pursuing righteousness with justice utilizing Biblical principles. We believe that the collective efforts of these autonomous groups ultimately represent the emergence of a multi-ethnic Civil Righteousness movement which may define a new era of cultural transformation, led once again by the Christian Church.
AFFIRMATION OF OUR SHARED VALUES
A. Imago Dei: We believe that all people are created in the likeness and image of God. As image-bearers, every human being has been uniquely endowed with inestimable worth and value. Every people group carries a distinctive stamp of divine DNA yet we are united in humanity through our shared origins in the first Adam, and our shared redemption in the Second Adam (Jesus). Because of this, we vow to publicly and privately declare that all people are made in the image of God. We also will work tirelessly to see this dignity and value affirmed in every sector of society regardless of culture, ethnicity, gender, or orientation while holding fast to historic biblical convictions concerning all of manners of life.
B. Brokenness of Humanity & The Remedy of the Gospel: We believe that racism, ethnocentrism, and injustice (inequity); are all rooted in sin (iniquity). All humans (though created in God’s image) are broken due to our fallen humanity which has led to a history of violence and trauma. Both the offspring of the oppressed and the offspring of the oppressors have inherited the legacy of this brokenness. However, we have hope for lasting transformation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In practice, Jesus’ justice agenda begins with internal transformation and leads to external reformation.
God’s intention, in the beginning, was the creation of only one race—the human race. (Ephesians 2:14-16) Sin scattered the race of men across the earth and caused divisions among us. Jesus destroyed the enmity between the people groups on the Cross and created a new humanity comprised of every tribe, tongue, and nation. Therefore we commit to faithfully proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ who calls for righteousness and justice for all peoples, reconciling humanity to God, human history to God, and humanity to one another. Through His accomplishment, historic ethnic divisions and complex cultural dynamics can be navigated with wisdom and clarity at the table of brotherhood.
C. Oneness of the Church: In John 17:23, Jesus’ prayer was for the Church to be seen as one, in unity with each other as Christ was in unity with God the Father. Our identity as one family united together in Christ supersedes every personal ideology, cultural allegiance, gender, religion, political affiliation, or creed. As citizens of the Kingdom of God, our highest allegiance is to God and the precepts of His economy.
D. The Responsibility of the Church: The Church has failed to uphold certain basic biblical truths regarding the pursuit of justice and the ministry of reconciliation in the public arena. We have thus in many ways failed society, one another, and God Himself. For these failures, we publicly repent. We seek a change in society starting with a change of our hearts, minds, and actions. We commit to once again embrace and seek to embody the love of God through lived values that bring measurable expressions of justice and righteousness in our respective communities.
CONDEMNATION OF RACIAL VIOLENCE AGAINST PEOPLE OF COLOR
A. Lament the Historical Context: We commit to lament and educate people on the history of ethnic and tribal violations of mankind’s dignity throughout the establishment of the United States. We first acknowledge the broken covenants, treaties, and abominable violations of the Native American (First Nations) peoples. We lament the sorrows endured by countless Africans who arrived at Jamestown from 1619 through to the final day of the Emancipation Proclamation’s execution, June 19, 1865. Approximately 12.5 million African Americans were subjected to chattel slavery in North America. Roughly 61% of North America’s 401-year experiment with democracy involves the dehumanization of enslaved Africans. Post-Civil War America welcomed another one hundred years (1865 -1965) of reconstruction. Within this time frame, it was established that African-Americans were 3/5 of a man. The Black Codes/Jim Crow laws reinforced this ideology. Since the initiation of the Black Civil Rights Movement, we have only lived with the possibility of equal rights for the last 54 years. This only represents a mere 13.5% of Colonial American history and an even shorter timeline in terms of our nation’s opportunity to overcome our painful origins.
Yet even to this day, many refuse to acknowledge racism’s existence and the present ramifications of legacy influence in our culture today. These can most easily be identified through trends in zoning laws, housing, violent crime rates, homicide, healthcare, jobs, education, mass incarceration, the opioid crisis, sex trafficking, physical/sexual abuse, gender equality, food access, the criminal justice system, and more. We acknowledge the tremendous advances that have been made in the sustained pursuit of a more just nation, yet we also refuse to ignore the brokenness and inequity when it comes to the pathologies of oppression that perpetuate systemic injustice.
B. We Mourn with those who Mourn: In light of the gravity of history and the inertia of the tragedies that have been perpetrated against people of color, we are heartbroken but not surprised by the current climate of our country. We are mourning with those who mourn in this hour over the current atrocities and we join our tears with those deep wells that have been filled by those who have gone before us with history’s lamentation. Our hearts go out to the families of every person of color who has died violently, prematurely, and unjustly through the murderous hands of systemic injustice and implicit bias. To the grieving families we say that we are grieving with you, and praying for your strength in the Lord.
CALL TO ACTION FOR THE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY & CIVIC AUTHORITIES
Since judgment begins in the house of God, we call upon the White Evangelical Christian Church, Black Evangelical Christian Church, and every multicultural faith community to enter into a greater level of maturity and manifestation of Christ’s character. We must do better, rejecting a Gospel that embraces and exalts every other “ism” above our heavenly citizenship. We must reject the temptation to embrace and preach men’s agendas versus the commitment to humility, mercy, and doing the work of reformation together through prayer with action. It is our spiritual responsibility, to be foremost concerned with the soul of our nation and its healing. Then we will be able to engage in our spheres of influence to constructively change the story for future generations. We must become the prophetic voice that pricks the conscience of those who are in power by exposing and demanding this repentance. We manifest our ekklesial authority by instituting the ordinances of the Kingdom in the corridors of power.
B. LEGISLATIVE REPENTANCE:
We believe that our societal issues are ultimately spiritual, but also cyclical. In many cases, where one segment of the community feels safe due to legislation and enforcement, another segment feels like they are in danger. There are laws that have kept certain people in places of oppression for generations. We believe it is vital to change and remedy ungodly legislation through legislative repentance.
For example: In 2018, we began lobbying a resolution bill for the State of Missouri to formally renounce the Historic Dred Scott decision. Originating in St. Louis, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dred Scott Decision of 1857 is now recognized as the most embarrassing SCOTUS decision in our history. It laid the foundation for over 100 years of terror in the Jim Crow South and set an ideological precedent for classifying whole groups of people as less than human. It concluded that the best way for the dignity afforded by “all men were created equal” to be restricted to the White ruling class, was to remove the humanity of the Negro people. This ideology (the dehumanization of a person, class, or group of people) has had devastating and far-reaching implications well beyond the boundaries of black and white racial tensions. The 13th and 14th Amendments stripped this decision of its legal power, but did not remove its social or cultural impact. It is somewhat common for modern governments to formally denounce past laws that no longer reflect the ethos or sentiment of present-day society in order to ensure that the law is no longer referred to as a precedent or standard for future law-making. These official pronouncements also add to the record that the present governmental system is not in agreement with that past tradition. Missouri has never done that, so in effect, even if subconsciously, this ruling still holds influence in Missouri. Whether coincidence or providence, today the St.Louis area, including Ferguson, Missouri is the seedbed for continual conflict in relation to the value and quality of black lives in America.
This is why we are calling elected representatives at every level to examine and make such changes in order to draw the line between our broken history and our shared destiny. Together we can begin to implement a measured and sustainable approach to healing. Furthermore, we are calling legislators, interpreters, and law enforcement professionals to ensure that laws, statutes, and all systems of accountability are equitable.
C. U.S. TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION TASK FORCE/COMMISSION
We have had legislative change, resolutions, commemorations, and even a black president, but the deep spiritual, psychological, and emotional wounds of historically oppressed people groups in our nation remain unhealed. No longer can we ignore these infected wounds and expect to see lasting transformation. We will continue to experience devastating times without clear leadership from the Church in concert with deliberate actions at federal, state, and local levels.
Modeled after Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu’s South African Truth and Reconciliation initiatives as well as New Zealand’s Truth Commissions, the U.S. Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) would be a national multi-ethnic task force comprised of civilians and public officials moving in the spirit of restorative justice. This task force would accomplish three main objectives:
1. LEARN: Research and acknowledge harmful policies and practices at the federal, state, and local levels that have deeply influenced the historically disenfranchised in America.
2. LISTEN & LAMENT: Host town halls to address and provide a safe place for the expression of people’s traumatic experiences ,with the goal of promoting national unity and reconciliation.
3. INNOVATE & IMPLEMENT: Develop a comprehensive, long-term strategic plan for redressing the issues that have been discovered through the truth and reconciliation process.
Mandela’s Commission provided citizens with the opportunity to honestly express their grievances and pain without fear of reprisal or censure. In post-apartheid South Africa, they understood the power of intentionally righting the historical wrongs beyond legislative change. Therefore the TRC explored the holistic impact of their history on both the oppressed and the oppressor. They also gave citizens the opportunity to receive counseling and healing from their trauma. The ability to find healing through dialogue and forgiveness is a way to find understanding and bear each other’s burdens. It is shocking that this type of approach to the racial and political divide in our nation has never been attempted in the U.S. at the Federal level to our knowledge. This is the U.S. government’s opportunity to “yield the floor” to the American people. For the last 50+ years, policy has been created and pursued from the "top down" through "experts". But it takes the collective voice of the people to discover and innovate lasting solutions beyond temporal change. Billions have been spent to attempt to address disparities and right the wrongs of our shared history, but these have been futile shots in the dark apart from comprehensive engagement, with bi-partisan support, and the unilateral commitment of Americans which surpasses the convening power of any singular Presidential administration.
We call the Church to unite across cultural, denominational, and party lines to help us rally multi-disciplinary collaboration between major academic institutions, faith communities, social services, mental health experts, private sector, and local municipalities. We see this as an immediate step toward addressing and contextualizing many of the current demands being made by various activist movements, yet providing a long-term engagement strategy toward accomplishing what no other generation has been able to achieve thus far in American history. This is a continuation of Reconstruction, and we are hoping that this administration and the next, would be willing to support such an effort immediately.
D. DO JUSTICE:
We invite people to serve in communities that look different than their own and find resources to educate themselves on diversity issues. Next, speak up, show up, and organize peaceful prayer-filled protests fueled by the power of love and the undercurrent of biblical hope whenever we see injustice that demands our attention. Advocate fiercely, yet in love, in every sphere of influence with which you have capacity and stewardship.
E. BUILD THE TABLE OF BROTHERHOOD
By sharing a meal together, THE TABLE becomes another form of nonviolent protest/resistance against racism and injustice. We are calling the Church to build America’s table and find healing through dialogue and discussion by talking to people who have experiences different than our own. We must create a safe place for every person to be heard. We can choose to open up our homes and our lives to those that look, sound, and even believe differently than us. When we come to the table, we move from hearing to seeing, and from seeing to understanding. By doing so, we not only begin to fulfill Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream that, “the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood,” but we find ourselves at the banquet table of the Lord. The place of friendship cultivated through intentional relationships can now become a place of communion with God where miracles happen. Guess who’s coming to dinner?
F. ECONOMIC RENEWAL IN MINORITY COMMUNITIES
We are calling upon the private sector to help us establish new infrastructures in historically black and minority urban neighborhoods through innovative entrepreneurship and investment. We desire to see sustainable, creative ecosystems with holistic processes for establishing a culture of honor within under-developed communities. These “gardens” would be filled with disciple-making/mentoring mechanisms, life-giving businesses, and creative incubators, harkening back to several historic, fugitive slave communities known as the “dawn settlements”.
For example, The Garden Ferguson is one such urban development project that we are initiating in Ferguson, Missouri modeled after the philosophies of men such as Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver. We desire to establish these “gardens” in urban communities all over the U.S., with the ultimate goal of multiplying and sending out minority leaders as builders and restorers of cities across the globe.
Finally, we acknowledge many other movements who are pursuing justice through biblical hope and we seek to find common ground upon which we can stand in joint pursuit of our shared goals. We commit to finding points agreement and convergence within The And (&) Campaign's Statement on Racialized Violence and their practical steps for engagement.
We encourage every believer who cares about Biblical Justice and Righteousness to unify around these convictions in the name of Jesus Christ.
We still believe that through the divine grace and the unrelenting mercy available in Jesus Christ, we can truly become One Nation, Under God, Indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. History has brought us to this moment, Destiny beckons us far beyond it.
Rev. Jonathan Tremaine Thomas Joshua Clemons & Hazen Stevens
President/CEO-Civil Righteousness, Inc. OneRace ATL