Baltimore Is Burning: 8 Faith Voices You Should Hear

By Faith Source

Originally published on

“What is the call for people of faith when they are faced with the aftermath of a riot they may have helped create due to neglect or ignorance wrapped in arrogance? What do all riots all have in common?

“They are the phonetic and kinetic sounds and rhythms of the unheard.”

– Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, Trinity Church, Chicago

“I arrived outside the Supreme Court around 8:30. Crystal clear day. It was to be a landmark day. SCOTUS would hear arguments that could make gay marriage legal across all 50 states. Before the Gay Men’s Chorus sang the national anthem, before ‘LGBT’ or ‘gay’ came from anyone’s lips, in the VERY FIRST SENTENCE uttered from the microphone, ‘Baltimore’ and ‘Ferguson’ and ‘BlackLivesMatter’ were spoken. From the very first word, intersections were being named and dots connected.

“There is an old hippie lyric most of you are too young to remember, but I was thinking about it today. ‘Hey there, what’s that sound, everybody look what’s goin’ round.’

“Yup, there’s something goin’ round.”

– Bishop Gene Robinson, first openly gay man elected bishop in the Christian church, New Hampshire; Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress, Washington D.C.

“Baltimore clergy have put their lives on the line marching in West Baltimore to declare, ‘We have long been in a state of emergency. An emergency of poverty, an emergency of lack of jobs, an emergency of political disenfranchisement.’

“We will never have true economic or environmental justice, we will never have equality for LGBTQ people or for women, until we decide, once and for all, that black lives matter and act accordingly. Reconciliation is a beautiful word, but reconciliation will never be possible without unflinching honesty about the world we have created. Until that day, all our movements for justice will be partial and compromised. We are all in this together.”

– Dr. Sharon Groves, LGBT and faith organizer, Washington, D.C.

“It’s easy to condemn desperate people who do wrong and destructive things — as a small number of people have been doing in Baltimore in recent days. It’s a lot harder to take the big planks out of the eyes of the rest of us . . . larger numbers who also do wrong and destructive things, not by burning cars and buildings or throwing bricks, but by standing idly by while our neighbors suffer from the long-term effects of unemployment, white supremacy, white privilege, systemic racism, and structural injustice.

“Pay attention to the rage and hopelessness of the rioters, and pay attention also to the decency and dignity of the many who are responding in mature, generous, and healing ways. And then decide to add your voice and energy to the latter.”

– Brian McLaren, Christian author and speaker, Florida

“When hope dies, violence reigns.
When the rich get richer and work does not pay, violence reigns.
When the community is policed by frightened cops, violence reigns.
When individualism is the rule, violence reigns.
When the majority sleep, violence reigns.
When hope dies, violence reigns.”

– Sr. Simone Campbell, NETWORK and “Nuns on the Bus”, Washington, D.C.

“The Sikh faith teaches me that the call to service is not safe. It is inspired by love and requires a different way of seeing. Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, says, ‘I see no stranger; I see no enemy.’ This kind of service is the call of our times.

Can we respond to the violence in Baltimore without seeing enemies — with compassion and even love for the police officers who face the fires, the young black kids who smash their car windows because they are that desperate, and the mothers weeping for them to come home safe?

Can we take up our modern-day sword and shields — the pen, the lawsuit, the film camera, the mic — and fight for a better world for each of them? Not to vanquish ‘bad guys’ but to change entire institutions and cultures of power? Can we march in the streets, pray on the steps of the Supreme Court, and risk our own safety for this kind of love?

My faith teaches me, ‘Tati vao na lagi’ — the hot winds cannot touch you, not when you walk the path of seva, true service. Even if you are beaten down. Because you are with the holy and of the holy. You are with God and of God. That’s the only kind of love that saves us.

Now I most make it home for my son’s bath time. I need to say these things for him . . . ”

– Valarie Kaur, filmmaker, Sikh leader and civil rights activist, Los Angeles

“As I watched Baltimore burn in the fires — where racism, sorrow, and desperation converge — my heart broke and tears streamed. What brought me comfort and hope was the memory of our gospel choir singing ‘Glory,’ from the movie Selma. A tall black man from our congregation sang, while his petite, white husband played the Hammond organ. I married them.

That choir — Mexican American, Puerto Rican, Black, White, Chinese, and Japanese folk — sang that music like a prophetic utterance. At our church we know that Black Lives Matter, Gay love is sacred, and every life is precious. We each hold the divine spark. The movement for justice, of which we are a part, is the fount of my hope. The way my people love each other makes me want to shout, ‘One day, when the glory comes, it will be ours.’”

– Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis, Senior Pastor Middle Collegiate Church, New York City

We hear the cry of our people 
from far and wide in the land . . .
Those who are against the wall
. Those who are heart-sick and disillusioned
. Disinherited and dispossessed. 
Discouraged and distressed:
Is there a balm in our Baltimores to make the wounded whole? 
Is there a balm to heal our collective soul?
Can we practice emancipation and resistance
? Listening and seeing? Hope and healing?
Can we weep and pray together
? March and sing together? 
Organize and mobilize together?
Until we forge and formulate together . . .
The balm of peace and right relationship. 
The salve of opportunity and self-determination. 
The ointment of community and love.
Make it so, we pray
. Let’s make it so . . .

– “Disinherited: A Prayer of Lament, Longing and Love” by Rev. Michael-Ray Mathews, national clergy organizer, PICO, Bay area

Quotes compiled by FaithSource, a project of Auburn Seminary.