This morning the news reported that the 17 year old charged with the murder of two people in Kenosha, Wisconsin, is out on bail. Bail money, set at 2 million dollars, was raised online through a crowdfunding site that bills itself as Christian. Comments on the donations website were chilling in their congratulatory tones.
When I read about the release of Kyle Rittenhouse, I thought about Kalief Browder (1993-2015). I thought about his father, Everett and his brother, Akeem, who woke up today without him, and his mother, Venida, who died the year after her son Kalief took his own life. Kalief’s family was not permitted to post bail. So he spent three years at Riker’s Island awaiting trial for an alleged theft of a backpack. He spent two of those years in solitary confinement. When his court date arrived, the case was dismissed.
What does it mean when we refuse to know about the black boy, falsely accused of stealing a backpack, awaiting trial three years in the traumatizing isolation of Rikers, away from his mother Venida and his father, Everett?
What in the name of our suffering Lord does it mean when we refuse to know that a mother drove a son and his gun across state lines and into a crowd, that other prominent Christians fail to speak up when white nationalist Christiandom is crying “hero!” and patting him on the back for taking up arms against the dangerous boogeyman “other”.
Why have not more Christian leaders used their sizable platforms to condemn this hate? This tribalism? This dangerous rhetoric with its appropriation of religious language? This kind of dehumanizing talk that primes a nation for ethno religious conflict?
What does it mean that a mouth cries, “Jesus!” but is silent over the use of that sacred Name to justify the crushing of bones?
It’s not that I expect every Christian leader to be on the cutting edge of every detail of every injustice done in the nations where they live. But when harm is done, when violence comes, when suffering is caused, intentionally, by those who claim that Name, it is the duty of those who preach that Name and hold it sacred, to publicly say, “Not in my name, and not in the Name of my Lord.”