taking the words of Jesus seriously

Editor’s Note: Last week, we joined a number of prophetic speakers and musicians, as well as thousands of viewers, for our virtual Red Letter Revival for Revolutionaries. If you missed our four-nights focusing on MLK’s triplets of evil and a vision-casting session by seven womanist preachers, you can find each evening archived on the RLC Facebook page. At the end of the first night, Rev. Dr. Benjamin Boswell concluded our time together with the following prayer. 

God of love and liberation, it is midnight in America, and I humbly come before you to offer this prayer as a white man of unclean lips living among a people of unclean lips. Woe is me, God! We face a reckoning of existential proportions—of the gravest of consequences—not only for the future of American but for our very souls. We have been worshiping the false idol of whiteness for far too long and our chickens have come home to roost. Now we face a reckoning with the deadly history of slavery, lynching, Jim and Jane Crow, the War on Drugs, Red Lining, Police Violence, Mass Incarceration, and all forms of systemic racism—a reckoning with the devastating legacy of white supremacy.

Oh God, we are in need of prayer. But as Dr. Callahan taught us tonight, it’s not where we pray but what we pray. We know, God, you’ve said that our worship is not holy or pleasing in your sight if it is not accompanied by acts of love, justice and peace. We know that you despise our festivals, take no delight in our solemn assemblies, that you hate our conventions, and you cannot endure our hallow convocations. Instead you teach us to pray with our mouths and with our lives for the kingdom. You tell us in Isaiah to wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; remove our evil doings from before your eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek righteousness, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. And as Amos said, let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

And so, we must repent. We repent…
for every time we were silent about racism,
for every time we were content to live in denial,
for every time our fear got the better of us,
for every time we said we were colorblind,
for every time we said, “Things have gotten better,”
for every time we thought we were in a “Post-racial” society,
for every time we said we are not racist,
for every time we consumed and shared a racist idea,
for every time a politician dog whistled, and our ears perked up,
for every time we made a false equivocation,
for every time we held onto the myth of a lost cause,

for every time we believed there were good people on both sides,
for every time we said, “blood and soil” or “you will not replace us” or “go home” or “America First” or “make America great Again,”
for every time we said “All Lives Matter,”
for every time we pushed for Law and Order,
for every time we talked about violence in Chicago,
for every time we used the trope of black on black crime,
for every time we talked “safety” for white suburban mothers,
for every time we defended the police or said “blue lives matter,”
for every time we focused on imaginary riots and looters,

for every time we used personal responsibility as an evasion,
for every time we played respectability politics,
for every time we spiritualized the gospel,
for every time we preached about unity or love without justice,
for every time we preached about the cross and did not talk about the crucifixion of black and brown and indigenous peoples,
for every time we preached about the blood of Jesus and did not talk about the blood of Breonna Taylor…George Floyd…Ahamad Arbury…Jacob Blake…and so many more…[Say all their names!].

READ: Repentance and Redemption Inside the White Church

We repent and we turn toward justice. This is our reckoning! But while our reckoning requires repentance, our repentance is not complete without restoration and reparations for what has been taken, stolen and lost. It may be midnight, but hope is not lost because we believe morning has already come. Jesus promises that we can always be born again. There is always a new creation. So, revive us again God! This is the time for us to come back to life! Revive us again God! This is the time to make a new commitment! People always ask, “What can I do?” Well, we can make a sacred vow and a solemn pledge.

We make a sacred vow and a solemn pledge that we will never stop working to abolish white supremacy in every form and in every place that it appears…including our zoning policies, laws, schools, communities and churches—and to live in solidarity with the oppressed.

We make a sacred vow and a solemn pledge that we will never stop fighting for social justice and equity in every aspect of our society.

We make a sacred vow and a solemn pledge that we will support the movement for Black lives.

We make a sacred vow and a solemn pledge that we will never stop talking about systemic racism or white supremacy.

We make a sacred vow and a solemn pledge to double our efforts at promoting the cause of reparations.

We make a sacred vow and a solemn pledge that we will not stop until the demon of white supremacy is abolished or has at least released its claws and relinquished its hold on our democracy.

We make a sacred vow and a solemn pledge that we will not stop working to build the beloved community.

We make a sacred vow and a solemn pledge to keep on catching heaven while we are raising hell.

We make a sacred vow and a solemn pledge that we will never stop, as the great John Lewis taught us, getting into trouble…good trouble, necessary trouble.

In the name of the God of Justice and Jesus we pray,


About The Author


Ben was born in Lynchburg, VA, grew up in Bethlehem, PA, and graduated from high school in Kannapolis, NC. He was educated at Marion Military Institute (commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant), Campbell University (BA in Religion and Philosophy), Duke Divinity School (Master of Divinity), and Catholic University of America (completed coursework for PhD). Before joining the staff at Meyers Park Baptist Church, Ben served as a First Lieutenant in the North Carolina Army National Guard, Minister of Youth at Samaria Baptist Church in Raleigh, NC, Associate Pastor and then Senior Pastor at Commonwealth Baptist Church in Alexandria, VA, Adjunct Professor of Political Theology and Ethics at the John Leland Center for Theological Studies, and Senior Pastor at Greenwood Forest Baptist Church in Cary, NC.

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