COVID-19 Covenant of Resistance

COVID-19 Covenant of ResistanceIMG_7602.JPG

Beloved,

Times of great challenge are upon us, and as we have in times past, the community of faith is demonstrating an ethic of love rooted in our belief that we are called to love God and our neighbors. Christians, churches, and faith-based nonprofits are springing into action through prayer and relief efforts to support the most vulnerable in our cities and communities. The Drum Majors Alliance and Sanctuary Consulting, LLC applaud and affirm these efforts. We thank God for every individual and institution that is at work in these ways. Still, we must say that while these efforts are necessary and important, they are incomplete. The fullness of our calling in this time is rooted in the spiritual principle of resistance. As we continue our journey through this Lenten season, we must recall Jesus’ love-rooted resistance of Satan while fasting in the wilderness. We must recall the holy resistance of the prophets against the evil of their own people and the powers of their time. We must recall Jesus’ own prophetic resistance to the empire in proclaiming the in-breaking reign of God, not Caesar. We must recall his resistance to the religious legitimation of economic exploitation as seen in his cleansing of the temple. We then, in the tradition of our faith, must resist the forces that make charity toxic, that leave stories unheard, and that erases our prophetic calling to do justice, as we engage in acts of mercy/relief, and walk humbly with our God. 

The COVID-19 pandemic is apocalyptic in the truest sense of the word.  The word apocalypse means to “unmask or unveil.” This pandemic unmasks and lays bare the pre-existing conditions that have diseased the body politic of the U.S. for decades, even centuries. Now is not the time for “political quietism”, neutrality,  or for the mouthing of “pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities.” This is a moment that calls us to live into the holistic nature of our call to love God and neighbor. The biblical notion that “love conquers all” is not about the power of abstract feelings to save the world. It does not stop at the noble act of food distribution when ignoble forces ensure communities remain in situations of deprivation.  Rather, authentic love concretely faces, and seeks to overcome every barrier to liberation, community, and human flourishing. The pre-existing barriers to flourishing created by systemic injustices like racism, health care inequity, and poverty have only been further exasperated in this moment. 

We will not be able to “charity” our way out of this crisis. Our church budgets cannot fill in the gap left by an ever-sagging social safety net. The demands of resistance move us beyond charity, and towards ministries of solidarity! We are in a moment that will almost certainly set the direction of this nation for years, and perhaps even decades to come. The city of Winston-Salem was already in deep crisis. As we boasted of being one of the best places for the economic mobile to relocate, we were simultaneously amongst the 3rd worst nationally in economic mobility for children born in poverty and 20th worst in eviction rates. Bolstered by over a billion dollars in investment, our very attractional downtown has experienced a renewal that has skipped over those that Jesus called “the least” and “the last.” From the top to the bottom, our city is in need of a revolution of values. The Church should be a harbinger of this revolutionary transformation. Yet, too often churches, the preacher class, and others in the faith community have not stood firm in their position as the conscious of the city, and have instead colluded with forces that trample the poor, the disabled, the sick, the outcast, the imprisoned, and the immigrant.  

Now, more than ever, it seems we must make a radical turn. At our best, the Church brings unique gifts to this work. Think about it: we are a community of people who have been called into a life-long practice of repentance and transformation that demands that we face our frailties and faults while holding on to a sense of our belovedness. What would it look like for the church to be a leavening presence, aiding this work of transformation to take place on the personal, communal, AND political levels of our city.

We, The Drum Majors Alliance and Sanctuary Consulting, LLC, along with other organizations and individuals, ask that you prayerfully consider joining with us in what we are calling the COVID-19 Covenant of Resistance. The aim of this covenant is to spur the Body of Christ on to a holistic response in this moment of turmoil and uncertainty, and to provide resources and a concrete blueprint of what that might look like. Below you’ll find six (6) points of resistance along with six (6) actionable alternatives. The accompanying COVID-19 Covenant of Resistance Resource Toolkit (available via Google Docs) will be updated constantly with tools needed to flesh out these actions. May God empower us all by the Spirit to bear witness to the Good News of Jesus’ Kin’dom in this critical moment!

Covenant of Resistance-3

Read the detailed description of the covenant below & let us know that you or your organization is committing to the covenant by clicking [HERE]

Signed,

LOCAL:

Drum Majors Alliance 

Sanctuary Consulting, LLC                                                                                                              

Freedom Tree (IDR)

Housing Justice Now

Terrance Hawkins (Drum Majors Alliance, co-founder)

Allonda Hawkins (Drum Majors Alliance, co-founder)

Reverend Kenneth Pettigrew, M.Div (Sanctuary Consulting, LLC, principle)

Minister Vennekia Williams, M.Div (Sanctuary Consulting, LLC,  principle/project director | Drum Majors Alliance)              

Thomas Lees (Drum Majors Alliance)

Ricky Johnson (Political Action Chair of Education Chair for YAC, WS-NAACP | Drum Majors Alliance)

Reverend Dr. Melva Sampson (Curator, Pink Robe Chronicles)

Darrick Young (Global Citizen, Comrade) 

Reverend John Mendez (retired pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church W-S)

Dalia Antunez (Siembra) 

Phillip Carter (Housing Justice Now) 

Miranda Jones (Hate Out Of Winston) 

Reverend Willard Bass (Freedom Tree, IDR) 

Jennifer Bibb

Reverend Byron Williams (Author) 

Sarah Avery 

Reverend Chaz Snider

Walter Author (The Twenty-Faith Committee)

Dr. Clay Cooke (School of Love, Co-Executive Director) 

Pastor Chris Jones

Chuck Byrd (The Twenty Faith Committee, Ebonites Treasure) 

Dr. Sharee Fowler 

Kenny Williams 

Bishop Tejado Hanchell (Mt Calvary Holy Church)

Ejay Chandler (Lit City, Youth Engagement Director)

BROADER TRIAD, NC SIGNEES:

Good Neighbor Movement (Greensboro, NC)

Reverend Brandon Wrencher (Good Neighbor Movement)

Reverend Dee Stokes (Dee Stokes Ministries)

Reverend CJ Brinson (Genesis Baptist Church, The Movement Consulting)

NATIONAL:

Reverend Starsky Wilson (President/CEO of Deaconess Foundation – St Louis, MO)

Reverend Bethany Rivera Molinar (Co-Pastor, Church in the Park Cuidad Nueva Community Outreach | Board Chair Pres of the Texas CCCDA)

Reverend Delonte J Gholston (Peace Fellowship Church, Peace Walks DC/Live Free DC)

Reverend Derrick Rice, M. Div (Senior Pastor Sankofa UCC, Atlanta, GA)

Pastor Stephanie Answer (Co-pastor of New Community Church, Kansas City, MO)

Pastor Daryl Answer  (Co-pastor of New Community Church, Kansas City, MO)

Pastor Shannon E. Jones (Founding Pastor, The Gathering Church, Atlanta, GA & Liberia)

Reverend Dr. Reginald Williams, Jr. (First Baptist Church of University Park, IL – a suburb of Chicago) 

Reverend Ronnie Galvin (VP for Racial Equity & the Democratic Economy, The Democracy Collaborative) 

Read the detailed description of the covenant below & let us know that you or your organization is committing to the covenant by clicking [HERE]


 

COVID-19 Covenant of Resistance (access resource tool kit to take specific actions HERE.)

1.) Resist: Prayerlessness, fear, & paralyzation 

     Action: Embrace daily rhythms of prayer, silence, & meditation

Embrace and create rhythms of prayer, worship, lament, silence, scripture meditation, and other practices of love-rooting, courage-building, joy-making, and self-care. It is okay to sit with your grief. It is okay to feel disoriented. Our worlds have changed abruptly. We are all trying to catch our bearings. Those of us with pre-existing mental health struggles are finding ourselves all the more challenged. It is okay to not be okay. It’s okay to cry. It is okay to lament. It is okay to be afraid. To experience fear is to be human. 

Yet, the Spirit calls us to taste, see, know, and experience a deep abiding love that has the power to cast out fear. Our birthright as followers of Jesus is not paralyzing terror. Rather, it is courageous compassion in the face of fear. As many have said, “courage is not the absence of fear.” It is the willingness to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly before God even as we battle fear. 

The Drum Majors Alliance will be curating prayer resources in our COVID-19 Covenant of Resistance Resource Document over the next few weeks. We invite you to make use of these resources and we encourage you to find ways to experience joy and peace in the days ahead. Experience the wonder of creation around you by taking a walk. Practice being still and silent. Get up and dance to your favorite tunes. Sing, write, draw, create something lovely. 

“Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart.” Luke 18:1 

 

2.) Resist: Gathering

    Action: Engage in social solidarity, not just physical distancing.

We implore all church leaders to halt all in-person gatherings like bible studies and Sunday services while exploring and implementing creative alternatives. It has been well-documented around the globe that churches who do not follow these guidelines put vulnerable congregational members at risk, as well as the broader community. We understand the financial strain and stress that this time will put on many churches. We also trust that God will provide and honor your church’s commitment to care for souls and bodies, because truly, “lives matter more than tithes matter.” Shutting down services is the most compassionate, wise, and therefore Jesus-like thing to do. This is not an “Acts 4:19” civil disobedience moment. It’s a moment that calls for faith-rooted sensibility, hope-soaked realism, creativity in caring for your congregants, and for the least of these.  

Against the urgent counsel of almost every medical professional in our nation, President Donald Trump has recently suggested that Resurrection Sunday should be the day that things “reopen” around the country. If the president continues to push this ill-advised idea forward, we strongly urge you to resist. We must not allow our holy desires to gather on this sacred day to be exploited by the Powers. It would be tragic to set in motion more death and sickness on a day that we celebrate resurrection life and healing. To do so is not an act of faith rooted in the belief of the miraculous. As people of the resurrection, it is, in our estimation, an act of bad faith, rooted in a lack of compassionate wisdom. 

Having said all of that, the call of the Church cannot be reduced to “social distancing.” In fact, the term social distancing may present us with an unhelpful understanding of the nature of what this moment demands from us. As this article effectively demonstrates, a solely individualistic focus on keeping oneself safe will be catastrophic for the most vulnerable–like the elderly, the disabled, women in situations of domestic abuse, and LGBTQ youth estranged from their families. Instead, we must fiercely advocate for *physical distancing and a moratorium on religious gatherings as one act of care among many. To holistically work for the well-being of our communities, churches, individuals, and nonprofits must think of creative, dignity-affirming, acts of care and mutual aid. “Mutual aid” gives us a different frame for community engagement. It calls us to solidarity, not charity. It calls us to work in a spirit of mutuality, not superiority. It moves us away from our tendency to show up as “saviors,” and roots us in our true calling to be good neighbors. As you engage in whatever relief work you may do, think of ways to do it with your community as a partner and an equal. As you strategically meet immediate needs, dialogue and dream together about how we can cultivate a world of shared flourishing. (For more resources on mutual aid please engage the Resource Document.)

“…there is a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing.” Ecclesiastes 3:5 

3.) Resist: Racialized, ageist, ableist narratives-                                                       

     Action: Call out racist, ageist, or ableist language & behaviors. 

The triplet evils of idolatry, injustice, and isolation are upheld by social narratives that over-affirm the belovedness of some, while under-affirming the belovedness of others. Generally speaking, there is a direct correlation between dehumanizing rhetoric against minoritized groups and the interpersonal or systemic brutalization of said groups. Currently, Asian-Americans are being attacked in our city streets and online. This uptick in hate can be traced directly to the white house & 45’s xenophobic choice to call COVID-19 the “Chinese virus.”  In 2015, the World Health Organization issued new guidelines that infectious diseases should not be named after nations, ethnic groups, or even animals, in an effort to “minimize unnecessary negative effects on nations, economies, and people.” We must disrupt these narratives online and beyond when we see them. Don’t look away. Silence is ungodly. Speak up with humility and urgency. Over and over in the Gospels, we see Jesus subverting narratives and practices that demean and demonize the vulnerable. In the Spirit and name of Jesus may we do the same. Lastly, there has been a tendency to downplay the impact of the COVID-19 because the groups that it most fatally impacts are people over 65 and people who are immunocompromised. Ageism and ableism are not congruent with the Gospel. A redemptive imagination that is willing to sacrifice the 2.5% as “economic liabilities” is in no way congruent with the kin-dom ethics of a Jesus who would leave the 99 to save the 1 who was in jeopardy of being lost. Our elders are not disposable and should not be placed on the altar as sacrifices to secure the economy. The truth is that the nation can both protect and preserve the lives of the most vulnerable while also building a just economy. The two aims go hand-in-hand.

“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.” 2 Corinthians 5:16

4.) Resist: houselessness, inhumane conditions in jails/prisons, & deportations.

Action: Contact local officials and courts on behalf of those who are vulnerable. 

During this time of crisis–and beyond– it is important that we come to see housing as a human right! We must refuse to allow neighbors to be put out into the streets and for those already without housing to be left uncared for. Thankfully, as a result of the work of various groups of activists our state and local officials have mandated a freeze on rent, a hold on evictions, and a moratorium on foreclosures. We must still remain vigilant in making sure that landlords, leasing companies, banks, etc are abiding by this. We must make sure that residents are aware of these mandates so they are not needlessly burdened with fear and anxiety about the possibilities of being put out of their homes as so many are falling into unemployment. City With Dwellings–an initiative that works to end the crisis of homelessness in our city–is working hard to ensure the best possible actions are made to protect and care for those who are chronically homeless. Please join them and others in calling for the city to fund and embrace the most humane measures possible for their well-being.  We must also continue to show up in solidarity with our undocumented neighbors who have in other states been preyed upon & arrested by ICE even in the midst of this tragedy. Due to the ongoing climate of fear, language barriers, and lack of resources, far too many of our Latino/a/x neighbors are foregoing medical care and testing. Additionally, as an absolutely indispensable portion of the U.S. labor force, the Latinx community will be hit hard by the massive layoffs that are occurring.  However, unlike others, they will not be recipients of stimulus checks due to their citizenship status. We invite you to keep track with and support the ongoing efforts of Siembra, a Latinx organization on the front lines of this struggle on the local and state level as they work to secure needed resources for their community. Lastly, prisons and jails are high-risk spaces for the spread of the virus. We are admonished by the writer of Hebrews to “remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them.” A coalition of local activists are calling for the immediate release of everyone being held pre-trial….unless the person poses the immediate threat of specific physical injury to a specific person.” Read more on this here & sign the petition calling city leadership to respond. 


“…for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’” Matthew 25:35-36

5.) Resist: disaster capitalism 

     Action: Call for economic decisions that put people over profits. 

From its beginnings, US capitalism has been incubated in the womb of great disasters, intentional and unintentional. The disastrous original sins of the transatlantic trade slave trade and the genocidal dispossession of indigenous people’s land are undeniably the roots of our nation’s wealth and economy. Millions, upon millions, upon millions of image-of-God bearing people have been sacrificed at the vile altar of mammon in this nation’s history. As the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr put it:

“We have deluded ourselves into believing the myth that capitalism grew and prospered out of the Protestant ethic of hard work and sacrifice. The fact is that capitalism was built on the exploitation and suffering of black slaves and continues to thrive on the exploitation of the poor — both black and white, here and abroad.

This nation has never repented of these unholy beginnings and as a result has continued to foster a racialized and gendered cycle of economic exploitation, disinvestment, and inequity. And as King pointed out in the above quote, poor white folks and even those who sit in an ever-increasingly fragile middle class, suffer under neoliberal capitalism. (Neoliberal capitalism is an economic philosophy that seeks the “triumph of the market over all other social values.” Portions of the city of Winston-Salem’s business sector AND swaths of our bloated non-profit sector are complicit in this triumphalism.)

“Disaster capitalism,” as defined by author  Naomi Klein, is the way that private industries seek to profit off of large-scale crises, be it war, hurricanes, or in this case, a pandemic.  From Katrina, to Hurricane Maria, to the 9/11 tragedy, we see examples of how the ruling class seizes times of tragedy as an opportunity to increase its economic power and political dominance by pushing policies that would generally be opposed. At the time of the release of this document both republicans and democrats are debating a stimulus bill that falls very short of robustly helping the people in this unprecedented moment of job loss, economic downturn, and sickness. 

It seems that now, more than ever, this nation needs to make a radical turn from its practice of giving bailouts and hand-outs to corporations, while giving stiff-arms and beatdowns to the people—especially the most vulnerable. To be clear, this practice has *always been unsustainable. We just happen to be in a moment in which this will be **forcefully demonstrated. The Church must call the nation to turn its gaze away from the stock market and to look upon Jesus in the face of the oppressed. The market is not God and neither is it an indicator of the material conditions of the masses! Ask the unhoused if a stock market rise lifts them out of their situation. Ask the uninsured if historic climbs in the market have enabled them to climb the massive barriers to health care. Ask the underpaid working class if filled coffers on Wall Street have resulted in the filling of coffers on “MLK Drive” or “Main Street.” Ask communities who have undergone decade after decade of mass disinvestment if they see trillion-dollar “hook-ups” for corporations as a sign that things are looking up for them. Ask “the least” and “the last” if a stock market jump means they’ll be able to jump to the front of the line. Finally, we must ask the Spirit if we can serve mammon AND a God who calls us to a revolutionary love ethic that puts people over profits. We must remember that “Jesus didn’t say that you “shouldn’t” serve God and mammon. He said that you CAN’T serve God and mammon.” 

For this reason, along with national groups like the Poor People’s Campaign state groups like NC United for Survival & Beyond, and local groups like Housing Justice Now, we are calling for community oversight on the disbursement of our city’s relief fund,  guaranteed monthly income, mass investments in free access to health care and testing for ALL, adequate PPE for health care workers, paid sick leave for workers that are literally keeping the country afloat, rent freezes, small business grants (not loans), student debt cancellation, and so much more. Join us in amplifying the demands of the above organizations and calling others in the household of faith to do the same! But let’s not leave it there. Let us practice the communal values of GOd’s reign on the micro-level as we call for them to be embraced on the macro level. The evil of an unjust economy is not situated “outside” of us. It runs through our veins, our families, and our institutions. Let us resist conformity to the unholy patterns of this world by refusing to hoard, by reorganizing our budgets to help the most vulnerable as best we can, and by honoring the humanity of friends, enemies, and strangers! 

“Thus says the Lord: Go down to the house of the king of Judah, and speak there this word, 2 and say: Hear the word of the Lord, O King of Judah sitting on the throne of David—you, and your servants, and your people who enter these gates. 3 Thus says the Lord: Act with justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor anyone who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the immigrant, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place.” Jeremiah 22:1-3 

6.) Resist Propaganda & Misinformation:

     Action: Fact check like the Bereans! 

The US is arguably the most propagandized nation in human history. None of us are immune to the ways in which our intellects, passions, and desires are prodded, poked, and influenced by the onslaught of mass media. In this hour, it is especially important that we help one another resist propaganda and misinformation, no matter what side of the political aisle it emerges from. Whether false or misleading info comes from the White House, a loved one in your own house, or a “friend” on Facebook, we must remain compassionately critical in the spirit of the Bereans.  Fact check, compare news from various outlets, and look for the sources of claims being made. Lives literally depend on it!

“4 So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. 15 Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey.”  Isaiah 59:14-15

In closing, we beg everyone to obey the holy command: “wash your hands!”  😀 Not in the “spirit of Pilate” who absolved himself of responsibility, but in the Spirit and Name of the One who gave himself for the healing of the world.

For further resources–including emails, telephone numbers, & scripts to contact government officials–please take advantage of our COVID-19 Covenant Of Resistance Resource Tool Kit HERE 

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