Saturday, December 11th and Sunday, December 12th
Is the Boy Safe: Re-imagining the Advent Season
Hello, Christian Church in Ohio and New Regional Minister and President, Rev. Allen Harris.
Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.”
As a Pastor, Advent invites reflection on the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ into the Roman Empire, where Joseph and Mary lived under Roman colonial rule.
From early childhood memories of Sunday School, Sermons, and Bible Studies about the arrival of a child named Jesus, in a manger in Bethlehem, is the tension between Herod's mighty power to seek and destroy the baby Jesus and the birth of God's love revealed through the Christ child, Jesus, Immanuel, God with Us!
The question that emerged was, Is the Boy Safe?
Similar to Counter Intelligence Measures to never see a Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr grow up to counter the racism of the U.S. Empire, the U.S. Government searched for Black children to destroy.
The Safe Streets Act of June 1968, just two months after the assassination of our beloved leader Dr. King, President Lyndon Bain Johnson, signed legislation into law to criminalize Black Neighborhoods.
Since 1968, the Safe Streets Act has provided
approximately $4 billion to state and local Law Enforcement agencies.
The Fiscal Year 1976 funding level is nearly $810.7
million. Yet, these monies account for about 5 percent
of total direct state and local expenditures for criminal justice purposes.
These dollars created Law Enforcement programs operating under the innocuous title “safer streets” in every major city in the country. Including Atlanta, GA, where Dr. King came into the world as a little boy.
Remember the little boy, Tamir Rice, 12 years old, killed by Cleveland police in less than 5 seconds of engaging him in 2014. Perhaps the language Safer Streets is foreign, but Donald Trump's Operation Legend resulted in over 120 felony arrests in Cleveland, OH, during the George Floyd uprising in the summer of 2020.
The question agitates us this Advent season, is the boy safe? When Black children are born, are they safe? Is there a resounding Yes? If not, beloved, something is wrong. We need an Advent where the experience of God's Love is for everyone, and we can celebrate not only in the Church but in the community.
The wider non-black population that calls out violent crime in the Black community as a counter-message to folks saying Black Lives Matter emerges from 1968 because it reinforces the racist intentions of the Safer Streets Act. At the same time, it ignores the racism and harms coming from white neighborhoods, as in Law enforcement institutions. The emergence of racist law enforcement policies long ago or as early as 1994, Bill Clinton's Crime Bill, are carried out by present-day folks with no understanding of what they are enforcing.
Jesus was not supposed to be here. Jesus was not supposed to make it. Jesus was never safe, hence Calvary. However, can we imagine an advent of safety? Ideally, there should be no opposition to the birth of God’s love, especially law enforcement policies, period. Or labels such as thug and violent neighborhoods. Those narratives are the foundation of the penal system that locks up little Black children. Can we imagine the coming of Christ where God’s Love does not filter through state violence? Or dangerous treks of immigration to Egypt (you know, the place of Hebrew enslavement)? Or counterintelligence measures where law enforcement programs mislead through innocuous titles? Or, cover up the true nature of state-sanctioned violence like the war on drugs that produced mass incarceration of Black and Brown folks into prisons and solitary confinement in the United States?
Beloved people of God, is the boy safe? Can we re-imagine safety? Yes, people of God, Yes, We Can!
When we re-imagine safety for children to be born without the threat of state violence, we can look at Issue 24 in Cleveland, OH, where families of those who lost their loved ones to Police involved-Murder can hold law enforcement accountable through a permanent civilian review board with subpoena power and community centered leadership.
When we re-imagine safety, we do not wait for the birth of God's Love; we experience it by building out the system God wants for all of us! Love! Care! Treatment! Needs-based!
God’s Word for the People of God!
Rev. E. Regis Bunch, Transitional Pastor
Fifth Christian Church Disciples of Christ, Cleveland, OH
 John L. Carney, “The National Criminal Justice Reference Service,” Journal of Criminal Justice 1, no. 4 (December 1976): 353–57, https://doi.org/10.1016/0047-2352(73)90038-x.
 Congress.gov. "Text - H.R.3355 - 103rd Congress (1993-1994): Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994." September 13, 1994. https://www.congress.gov/bill/103rd-congress/house-bill/3355/text.