SANTA MONICA, CA — An interfaith group met Wednesday in Santa Monica to publicly rebuke President Donald Trump for standing in front of Christian landmarks in the nation’s capital earlier this week to have his picture taken.
“The main premise is to make a statement to the president in his use of sacred scriptures,” the Rev. Eric. Shafer, senior pastor at Mt. Olive Lutheran Church, told Patch.
“He didn’t even know how to hold a Bible,” Shafer told Patch. “The president, he doesn’t go to church and tries to explain himself.”
Clergy members have to speak out against racism and injustice right now, he added.
“The issue of racism in America is something we should have been dealing with all our lives,” Shafer told Patch.
Art Cribbs, the pastor of Los Angeles Filipino-American United Church of Christ, grew up in Watts and remembers when the National Guard troops arrived there in 1965. He also watched the 1992 riots in Los Angeles in disbelief, he said.
“The same realities continue, injustice, brutality, racism, are the seeds that give forth to violence,” Cribbs said. “And then this week, a book that we use was defouled by the person in the White House without saying a word, using tear gas and other instruments, against innocent people.”
Cribbs explained that he was grateful for cellphone video footage that captured what police did to George Floyd. He held his phone and described why.
“This instrument, I am thankful for this instrument, that captured the events that took the life of George Floyd,” Cribbs said. “This became an instrument to inform. This became an instrument to remind us again that life is not sacred for those who would snuff it, even from a person who had not been convicted, had not been charged but happened to be black, American, and forced the ground.”
The work isn’t done yet, he said.
“Today I remind us the unfinished work of America is to heal this nation from its sickness of violence, its sickness of racism, its sickness of tolerance of innocent people who are taken to the ground by law enforcement and having their lives snuffed out,” Cribbs said. “George Floyd has been elevated from an unknown to an international martyr, but he is not alone.”
“The President’s attempt to hijack the spiritual richness of America cannot go unanswered,” said Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels of Beth Shir Shalom in Santa Monica, who organized the event. “We, clergy and lay leaders of many faiths in the Los Angeles region gather together to demonstrate what a true spiritual/religious response to racial injustice looks like, provide some spiritual solace and highlight the values that call us to do all we can to fight racism.”
On Monday, Trump walked from the White House to pose in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church while holding a bible after security officers cleared away protesters with tear gas.
Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde, the spiritual leader for the Washington area’s 88 Episcopal congregations, was outraged and made no effort to conceal it, accusing the president of using St. John’s as a “prop,” visiting “without permission” or warning and “acting like an authoritarian dictator.”
She said she wanted to speak out to “make sure that the image of the president standing in front of St. John’s holding a bible in his hand was not the definitive word that night, that that was not going to go unchallenged.”
On Tuesday, as Trump prepared to visit the Saint John Paul II National Shrine a few miles from St. John’s, Archbishop Wilton Gregory, the Catholic archbishop of Washington, denounced the event in similar terms, calling it “baffling and reprehensible.”
Both prelates criticized the president for what they said was an opportunistic attempt to embrace faith in a moment of crisis.
Attending Wednesday’s Santa Monica event besides the rabbi of Beth Shir Shalom, a Reform synagogue, will be representatives of the Santa Monica Area Interfaith Council, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice – Los Angeles, and The interfaith Guibord Center – Turning Religion Inside Out.
Locals marched peacefully Tuesday along Rose Avenue and throughout Venice in response to police brutality and the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
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