Sunday marked the beginning of a weeklong faith-based campaign to spread a message of resistance against bigotry and acts of systemic violence. Hundreds of churches, mosques and temples across the country are participating in the campaign, called the “Week of Righteous Resistance” (WORR).
The campaign was sparked by the burnings of several Black churches that have been terrorizing communities in the South since the killing of the Charleston nine.
Rev. Michael McBride of The Way Christian Center in West Berkeley helped plan the national actions of faith congregations around the country, which will raise money to help rebuild the churches that were set ablaze.
Planned actions include marches, special services, educational teach-ins and film screenings.
Rev. McBride’s service on Sunday focused on this theme of resistance and tied his teachings to recent events in the South, hence the title of his sermon, “Fight Fire with Fire.”
“The churches burning, while tragic as it is, is indicative of the kind of fires that are burning in many of our lives every single day,” he said. “Fires of oppression, fires of poverty, fire of exploitation, fires of police terror and killings. We wanted to create a space where the church can respond and resist through the Week of Righteous Resistance.”
Also on Sunday at The Way Christian Center, Rev. McBride kicked off the Week of Righteous Resistance with a panel of community organizers who spoke to churchgoers about the work they are doing to address issues of systemic violence.
Panel members, some of whom Rev. McBride had protested alongside in Ferguson, Missouri, included Devonte Jackson, Bay Area organizer for Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), Mollie Costello, co-director of the Alan Blueford Center for Justice, Andrea Marta of the Pacific Institute for Community Organizations (PICO) and Rev. Ben McBride, founder of the Empower Initiative.
Panelists spoke about the community organizing work they participate in and offered advice on how faith can be used to fuel resistance.
“I’ve noticed that African American communities are often pitted against immigrant communities, that immigrant rights are pinned as a Latino issue. But there’s a lot of Black immigrants out there who are just as under-resourced,” said Jackson of BAJI
“I think a lot of the church congregations can bring multiple generations and communities together to really take action against these issues,” he said.
According to a number of the panelists, resistance comes in many forms, from protests and marches to simply holding a space where people can come together to heal or express themselves.
“Everybody wants to be Jesus, but nobody wants to be John,” said Rev. Ben McBride. “We have not been called to be a messianic figure in the empire. We’ve been called to be the prophet who speaks truth to power.”
The faith-based Week of Righteous Resistance will continue into the weekend with Peace Walks on Friday responding to intercommunal violence in neighborhoods and a massive counter-rally at state capitols on Saturday in response to a planned South Carolina Ku Klux Klan rally.
As a reminder of the revolutionary nature of the history that is presented in the Bible, Rev. Ben McBride wrapped up his words with an anecdote from when he and several church leaders, including Rev. Michael McBride, were arrested together in Ferguson.
“We all got arrested and we were in jail, and the police asked us, ‘Who started the protest,’” said McBride. “And one of us yelled—‘Jesus!’”