As Volume 6 Issue 1 went to press, cities in the US were facing two crises: the COVID-19 pandemic, and the widespread demonstrations following the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. This issue’s theme, Criminal Justice in the US, has always been an urgent one, but it is more urgent now than ever–just how urgent, we couldn’t have foreseen when we started planning for this issue months ago.

We offer this issue grieving for our cities that are stricken by the pandemic and by the unrest; for the lives lost under an oppressive system; for the long history of suppression and injustice. But we also offer it with a hope that we have seen in the streets of our cities as the church joined others in seeking a more just and peaceable way of life together. We offer it praying that the parts of the church that have been unaware (intentionally or unintentionally) of the sorrowful history of racial injustice may finally come together with the parts that have historically been marginalized to work together for shalom and Jesus’ kingdom.

The Letter from the Editors will introduce you to each of the pieces in the issue; we hope you will join us as we take an honest look at our justice system, and imagine new ways that it could operate to more closely resemble the kingdom of God, and help to heal our communities, our cities, our land.

How to make sense of current events

Chances are that you are in touch with friends and family who are wondering how to make sense of what they are seeing transpire in our cities the last few days. It may be hard to understand for outsiders who are non-white and non-urban. But there is a much larger story that is not told very often.

A lot happened after slavery officially ended. It kept going in other guises. This is where the history of racial segregation and the creation of the “ghetto” comes in. The disappearance of jobs and opportunities from these places; the practice of redlining (intentional disinvestment from black and brown neighborhoods that for decades was federal policy); the predatory economics that has produced rampant inequality, especially along racial lines; the tried-and-true racial politics. Our family and friends need to learn about mass incarceration, and how it has radically altered lives, families, and communities. About black codes, convict leasing, lynchings, school-to-prison pipeline. About how support for law and order and for War on Drugs has meant oppression for African American communities and not because they are inclined to be lawless. When they understand these, and so much more, and they begin to understand the anger, the grief, the despair, even the nihilism they see and perhaps don’t yet understand.

Our hope is that this issue might start the journey towards understanding that ends up, prayerfully, at a more united witness to the kingdom of God.

In this Issue:

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