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And the Monuments Came Tumbling Down

A Reflection On the Story of Jericho and the White Church
By Aaron and Rev. Lauryn Everic

I marched today in Richmond, Virginia, the city that was the capital of the confederate
south. Monument Avenue runs through downtown and is known for the six monuments
that are dispersed along the road, sitting atop stone plinths. Five of these statues
memorialize men who were a part of the confederate leadership during the Civil War.
Today Governor Ralph Northam announced plans to remove the statue of Robert E.
Lee. This announcement serves as an execution notice to the legacy of racism Lee’s
statue embodies, and to the institutionalized racism that sealed the fates of Ahmaud
Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd.

As I looked up at General Lee, I found myself envisioning other statues, in this city and
around the world, being pulled down. The idea of things crumbling brought a story to
mind, a Bible story no less. You know the one – walls, marching, trumpets, a clever
woman that many underestimated.

Jericho.
The whole story can be found in Joshua 2 and 5:13-6:27.
White supremacy, symbolized by Lee’s statue, has become Richmond’s Jericho. And
like Jericho, the walls of systemic racism that Lee’s statue protects must come down. As
we read this story in light of what is happening today, we as white christians must
wrestle with our identity. Who are we in this story of power and oppression?
Yes. This story of power and oppression. Not conquering and defeat.

The walls of Jericho stood as a sign of the city’s power, but they were also a sign of
oppression. Leaders of the city would have leveraged the people’s fears of attack and
the mysterious powers of the cosmos to force those in the lower class to construct these
walls. Six feet deep and twelve feet tall – a box around their small world to create the
illusion of safety.

Today, all across the world, people are marching. Using their voices to cry out:

“Say his name!”
“No justice, no peace!”
“Black Lives Matter!”

As they march, their cries for justice must be heard. Hearing is about more than just
audibly listening. When the Church hears cries of justice and righteousness we have an
obligation to enact the reparations required to correct the damage that has been done.

“Say her name!”
“No justice, no peace!”
“Black Lives Matter!”

The cries for justice must be heard.
The demands for policy change must be met.

These monuments are just one piece of the walls of self-appointed superiority that have
propped us up, one piece of the box around our world that makes us feel safe. The
monuments must come crumbling down, and they will, and as they begin to crumble we
have to decide who we want to be in this story.

I, as a white, American cannot say that I am marching with the Israelites. I certainly
can’t identify myself as an Israelite – emerging from the wilderness, carrying the wounds
of my enslaved ancestors from Egypt and marching towards the promises of God. No, I
am perched upon the structures of power, looking down at the struggle, wondering how
the methods being employed could ever challenge the protection my society has
afforded me. I am inside the walls of Jericho.

The white church of 2020 did not build these walls, but we benefit from them. We face
the temptation to remain distant from this pursuit of justice – out of touch and uncertain
about getting involved. It is time that we become traitors to these hierarchical institutions
and become active agents. We must align ourselves with the pursuit to bring about the
equitable kingdom of God that Christ proclaimed.

There is another character in this story, Rahab was a prostitute whose house was in
Jericho’s wall. As a prostitute she was at the bottom of the social caste, oppressed
within the system of her home, but she still lived in the walls. She still lived inside the
structure that gave her security to live day to day. In chapter two, after deceiving the
king’s men who came to apprehend the spies, Rahab declares that the God of Israel is indeed the God of heaven and earth. Rahab alone is able to provide a path to salvation
for her family as she aligns herself with the cause of God’s promises.

We can be self-aware enough to see where the God of heaven and earth is at work, or
we can stay in the kingdom that provides false security and false power. The kingdom of
humanity will continue to crumble as the justice of the Kingdom of God continues to be
realized.

If we choose to walk in the steps of Rahab, as humbling and painful as it may be, we
can identify the symbols of power and racism that exist among us and actively work to
remove them. We must educate ourselves on the issues and engage in lasting
relationships that challenge us to see life through the eyes of others.

As the Church, we are called to stand for justice, to hear and to act. We must work to
recognize the inherent value in everyone, and feel outraged when that is undermined.
We must allow ourselves to feel the pain, the anger, and the grief of those who are
oppressed and allow ourselves to be moved – because when we’re moved, and when
we march, we cause the walls of oppression to come tumbling down.