The Chattanooga Statement


Written by Mercy Junction Pastor Alaina Cobb and endorsed by the Mercy Junction Council

In the darkness of recent events both within the church and without. It falls upon those of us within the sacred communion of believers to call upon each other to dispel the workings of evil within our own lives. A significant portion of our nation is now unwillingly baptized in flood waters and seeing their misery brings to life the sins that so easily befall our nation, revealed starkly in the half-light of tragedy. 

In the ancient rites of baptism, the church is asked to renounce the devil and all his works. The devil, the accuser, Satan, is not some red faced imp sent to cause mischief, but rather a choice we embody when we forsake the path of love. This is a choice we face each day when we interact with systems of power. We see Jesus call his own disciples “Satan” when they choose this path of worldly might. 

As Paul taught us in his letter to the Ephesians we do not struggle against flesh and blood, we do not struggle against our brothers and sisters trapped in systems of oppressive belief or blinded by hate. Those bitter souls we seek to bring to light and love. Instead, our struggle is against the powers and principalities, the systems and institutions of darkness that strip humanity of its sacred diversity and keep the marginalized shackled in structures of despair. 

So in keeping with Christian tradition let me now give name to the sins which so easily confound our city and our nation. A statement against the sins our country has brought into herself and given power. These are the principalities and powers, and in naming them I call on Chattanooga and the US as a whole to look within ourselves to ferret out our ties to these sins. 

May the Spirit of God cleanse and purify her Church. Amen. 

Capitalism.

As we have been taught that the love of money is the root of all evil. Let us start at the root of our wickedness. Capitalism is, if it is anything, a system that positions greed and the love of wealth above all else. Capitalism devalues the lives and bodies of human beings, especially the elderly or disabled, and relegates the Children of God to grist for a mill. Capitalism is the god of our age and our idolatry has sown the seeds for the destruction of our planet, made sickness profitable, and has turned wickedness into a virtue. We marvel at the ruthlessness of businesses that denigrate humanity but refuse to own our part in making them possible. We have become a nation of bankrupt millionaires and it has stolen our joy and our empathy. We have turned abundance into scarcity and all to serve a system that cares nothing for our lives and families. 

May God have mercy on us, Sinners.

Racism.

From the very foundation of our country, our people have committed the sin of racism. We bound our brothers and sisters in chains and stole them away from their land so that we may feed our first sin. We constructed beliefs and narratives that allowed us to ignore their suffering at our hands and we perpetuate those narratives to this very day. We the United States have never repented of our sin, we refused to make right what we made wrong and we continue to enrich ourselves off the children of those we enslaved. Whiteness itself was a creation of our racist desires and we wield it like a cudgel. We desecrate the lands and lives of indigenous peoples and steal their children’s futures. We incarcerate the next generation of Black Americans to profit from their labor and then pat ourselves on the back for ending slavery. We, a nation built on the genocide of those who dwelt here before us, dare to not welcome the stranger in need. We refuse to acknowledge the violence that plagues our Black brothers and sisters, we poison their very waters and we refuse to do a damn thing about it. White supremacy begins within the church. Must I continue? Our sins outnumber the sand. 

May God have mercy on us, Sinners.

Sexism.

Like racism, sexism has been a cornerstone of the American Church. Stripping our daughters and our sons of agency and their ability to achieve their full humanity, sexism seeks to create a malleable homogeneous culture. Our men are taught they must deaden their emotions to be valuable, our women are taught that only by serving men are they valuable, and our non-binary, trans, or queer folk are simply taught to stop existing. Sexism seeks to bind the human spirit to a version of humanity that never existed. It is the very heart of homophobia and transphobia which posits that lives outside of a sexist ideal are without merit. Sexism sacrifices women’s bodies and autonomy on an altar of lies. It’s insistence on an unnatural and unachievable perfection has cost the lives of millions of men, women, and children. Our creator has given us a wide array of bodies and minds for the edification and care of our world. Robbing humanity of the very image of God to serve a patriarchal edifice is idolatry. It is sin.

May God have mercy on us, Sinners.

Tribalism. 

Tribalism in America is characterized by two words. “Us” and “Them.”Tribalism seeks purity of form at all costs. It is the way we define ourselves but most importantly it is a way we define others. Tribalism is a way to stop caring about the needs of those around us and to wall ourselves off from suffering. It gives us a quick and easy escape route from empathy. In tribalism, people cease to be bearers of the image of God as they move away from our circle of humanity. Suffering in other parts of the world is easy to ignore, but to ignore suffering next door we need tribalism. The homeless are thus defined as X. The poor defined as Y. The LGBT+ community is Z. So on, and so on, in an endless list of people that you can stop treating as people. Tribalism is how capitalism keeps us from ignoring the plight of the poor. Tribalism is how sexism keeps rape culture alive. Tribalism is the fertile soil of Racism. Tribalism is a denial of God in us.

May God have mercy on us, Sinners.

Centrism.

Centrism is a sister sin to tribalism. It is another way of escaping from empathy. Rather than looking for ways to separate “Us” and “Them,” centrism creates a third category “I.” This category of “I,” singles out the individual as of primary importance and refuses to take responsibility for participating in systems of marginalization. This is the voice within us that looks at inequality and worries that fixing it may be too much work or that maybe both sides always have a point. This is the voice that is always looking for a way to choose to do nothing. Centrism is a deep unwillingness to condemn principalities of oppression and with that unwillingness, it reinforces their power. Centrism says “I” hope equality wins but “I” won’t help you get there. This sin is a shrug of the shoulder in the face of evil, a sin of inaction and sloth. 

May God have mercy on us, Sinners.

As I look at our country and at our city, these are the sins I see. 

As I look at myself these are the sins I see. 

May God have mercy on me a sinner.

May God give us the grace to do better.

Amen.

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