December 23 – Defund/Invest

By: Minister Blyth Barnow, Founder of HEAL Ohio and Lead of the Heartland Conference's Harm Reduction and Overdose Prevention Network

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns” (from Isaiah 52:7-10).


“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:


“Rather than thinking of abolition as simply getting rid of police overnight, so many of us who were becoming abolitionists started to think about it as an invitation to create and support a range of answers to the problem of harm in society – and to take steps toward that by investing in those creative ideas and divesting from policing – and, most exciting perhaps, as an opportunity to reduce and eliminate harm in the first place.” Dereka Purnell, Becoming Abolitionists

Take Action

Abolition is #Defund

  • Dwell: Take some time with the zine by Benji Hart and Emma Li “Practicing Abolition, Creating Community,” about imaging ways of practicing abolition in your neighborhood. From this place of imagination, dig deeper into the call to defund the police. Ask yourself these questions:
    • In moments of pain and harm in your own life, what support did you get?
    • Was it enough? What would have actually worked?
    • What would have kept you safe?
    • What would have felt like wholeness? Like God’s love?
  • Study: Explore Christians for the Abolition of Prisons’ 101 explainer on defunding the police. Also consider this call for #defund from the Movement for Black Lives.
M4BL Call to Defund

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