By: Minister Blyth Barnow, Founder of HEAL Ohio and Lead of the Heartland Conference's Harm Reduction and Overdose Prevention Network
“We cannot say we have abolished slavery in this country
when we have allowed the vestiges of slavery not only to remain,
but to take up the lion’s share of local and federal budgets.
Emancipation, the true end of enslavement,
means the permanent and complete abolition of the police and prisons systems.
The defunding of those systems is a small but crucial step toward abolition.” – Benji Hart
Budgets are moral documents. They are messengers who announce what our values are and where our priorities are. When our cities spend the majority of their budgets on policing we are saying that God values systems of punishment and surveillance over systems of care and connection. The call to defund the police asks us to abide in our love, deepen our moral imagination, and ask what God really wants for us. What would it mean for our budgets to announce peace, to bring good news?
Does God want police? Or does God want neighborhoods made safe through enough food to eat, enough homes in which to sleep, enough money for rent and leisure, enough helping hands?
Does God want body cameras? Or does God want us to live in a world where we show up BEFORE violence ever happens?
In the UCC, we commit to being in covenant with one another. Which means we commit to caring for one another and remaining in right relationship. Policing ruptures that covenant, both through direct harm and by leaving us with the false impression that the hurt in our communities isn’t our responsibility but instead can just be “handled” by calling the police.
The call to defund the police and invest in Black communities is an invitation into God’s peace and true salvation. It is an opportunity to ensure our budgets match our morals. It is the hope of a new world. How beautiful would these budgets be: messengers of peace, bringers of good news, embodiments of salvation!
Holy God, I recommit to my covenant
and embrace the new world you are offering.
I trust my yes to you will always lead me to goodness.
Stay with me through my fear and distrust.
This beautiful new world is dawning and I want to be part of it. Amen
Artwork: “Defund the Police” by Yohana Junker (discover more at: https://www.yohanajunker.com/)
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