With George Floyd in mind, Bible co-editors created
the Breathe Life Bible
After the death of George Floyd, a Black man killed by a white police officer,
the co-editors of the new Bible say they felt compelled to do something
Protesters rally outside Minneapolis' 3rd Precinct on April 19, 2021, as the murder trial against former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin in the killing of George Floyd advanced to jury deliberations. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
February 13, 2024
(RNS) — Michele Clark Jenkins and Stephanie Perry Moore have known each other for almost three decades and have worked together on two specialty editions of the Bible. But more than friends and colleagues, they say, they hold each other spiritually accountable.
After the death of George Floyd, a Black man killed in 2020 by a white Minneapolis police officer, the duo say they felt compelled to do something new that combined their faith and their desire to advance racial and social justice.
The result is The Breathe Life Bible, the title echoing Floyd’s repeated insistence “I can’t breathe” as he was restrained with the officer’s knee on his neck.
Cover of The Breathe Life Bible.
The tome, set for release Tuesday (Feb. 13), introduces each biblical book with a “Breathe It In” segment and features “#Oxygen” tidbits that point to what they consider promises in the scriptural verses. The Bible includes devotions written by Christian leaders, including the Rev. Bernice A. King, daughter of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and CEO of the Atlanta peacemaking center named for him; NAACP CEO Derrick Johnson; and Thelma T. Daley, president of the National Council of Negro Women.
Each of these contributors expands on different imperatives summed up in the acronym BREATHE: believe, reconcile, exalt, act, trust, hope, elevate.
“You can be a part of groups that are doing things for change,” said Moore, 54, in a joint interview with Clark Jenkins. “You can also have an inward and a personal relationship with God for him to guide you on your own heart and mind on what you should do.”
Clark Jenkins, 69, wrote 49 “We Speak” segments that give brief first-person introductions to Bible characters and short interpretations of their role.
“It has been taught that the curse of Ham is on Black people and that’s why we were enslaved,” she said in the interview. “And that’s why we are on the lower rung of society and why we’ve been oppressed all these years. And that’s just incorrect. And so we wanted to make sure that when I’m talking about who people are, that we dispel rumors.”
They talked to Religion News Service about their reaction to Floyd’s killing and their hopes for their new Bible.
The interview was edited for length and clarity.
Why did you decide to co-edit The Breathe Life Bible and why now?
Michele Clark Jenkins, left, and Stephanie Perry Moore.
Clark Jenkins: The summer that George Floyd was assassinated was a very contemplative time, and so Stephanie and I started talking, and really the question before us was: There’s so much happening, there’s injustice, we’re feeling oppressed. What are we supposed to do as Christians? Are we supposed to go into our prayer closets and not come out? Throw Molotov cocktails through Macy’s window? That’s what caused us to want to do this project, to talk about how we as faithful people are supposed to respond, no matter what’s thrown at us.
Stephanie, you wrote in the acknowledgments that this Bible is “a road map of how we can allow the Father to lift the weight of this world off the oppressed.” How do you think a Bible might do that?
Moore: When you think about faith in action, there’s no other way to walk with the Lord than to have the Bible, every piece of it — your favorite scripture, what your pastor might say from the pulpit in taking a passage from the Word. It’s a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path.
Michele, there are sidebars labeled “Inhale” and “Exhale” and verses that you label “Oxygen.” Are you hoping that this Bible will be a tool for physical as well as spiritual exercises?
MCJ: The stresses of life affect us spiritually, mentally and physically. And so, to that extent, yeah, we want the burdens of your life to be lifted, we want people to have joy. We want people to be able to breathe. We wanted people to have guidance and to feel comfortable with how they were taking action in their life because it was biblically based.
An individual reads The Breathe Life Bible.
Is that why you choose to use the New King James Version for this Bible?
SPM: You’re right on. We’ve got about 30 different contributors. We have some women, some men, pastors, presidents of (seminaries), gospel singers, rocket scientist. But when we polled a lot of them, the New King James Version of the Bible was one that was always pretty much on the top.
You contrast this Bible with the Slave Bible, the 19th-century American edition that omitted passages about freedom and God’s delivery of the oppressed. Does your Bible pay special attention to those very passages?
MCJ: Not purposely. Places that we really highlighted were those that really talk about how we demonstrate our faith through our actions. So it focuses on when the Bible talks about fighting injustice and oppression and our responsibility to do that.
George Floyd comes up a number of times in the commentary. Are you seeking to reach those who have been involved in the Black Lives Matter movement or the protests that followed his death?
SPM: Personally, it affected me. And that was one of the reasons why I was called, with Michele, to figure out what we could do. If not us, then who? To be able to work together with folks who were hurting, to be able to change that with other people that are stakeholders and faith leaders. To be able to put together a comprehensive piece that hopefully could be hope in the midst of a lot of pain.
MCJ: This Bible is geared towards anybody, by the way. Although we write it from an African American perspective, it’s not just for African Americans. It’s for anybody who wants to put their faith in action. We know that faith without works is dead. Now that you have faith, the question is, what do you do with your life? How do you live your life? How do you go through your life, the good, the bad, and the ugly? And so this is for anybody who struggles with those questions.
African Methodist Episcopal Church calls for end
to all US aid to Israel
Leaders of the historic denomination called Israel’s military campaign in Gaza ‘mass genocide’
President Joe Biden during a campaign event at Mother Emanuel AME Church on Jan. 8, 2024 in Charleston, South Carolina. Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images
By Camillo Barone
February 16, 2024
Describing Israel’s military campaign in Gaza as a “mass genocide,” leaders of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the nation’s oldest predominantly Black denomination, have called for the U.S. to halt “all funding and other support” for the Jewish state.
The statement came from the church’s Council of Bishops Thursday as the Israeli army continued to move into Rafah, a city in southern Gaza where 1.6 million Palestinians are sheltering.
Israel has “denied them access to food, water, shelter, and health care. After this torture, they plan to murder them,” the statement reads.
Several major American Christian churches and the National Council of Churches have come out in support a ceasefire in Gaza. Some have called for the U.S. to end military aid to Israel, as opposed to the AME’s call for the U.S. to end all its support for the Jewish state.
Israel has said its purpose in Gaza is to wipe out Hamas before it can make good on its stated intention to repeat attacking Israel until it is destroyed, and to free the hostages the militant group took on Oct. 7. It blames Hamas, which rules Gaza, for the high Palestinian death toll, pointing to its strategy of hiding militants and weapons among civilians.
According to Gaza’s health ministry, Israel has killed more than 28,000 Palestinians, mostly civilians, in its four-month military campaign. The terror group killed about 1,200 people and took 240 hostage in its Oct. 7 attack. The bishops refer to Hamas’ killings in Israel as “brutal murder.”
“The cycle of violence between historically wounded peoples will not be dissolved by the creation of more wounds or through weapons of war,” the statement continued. “We remain in solidarity with Jesus Christ of Nazareth, a Palestinian Jew, and the Prince of Peace.”
The bishops noted that they issued their statement on the birthday of Richard Allen, an enslaved person who bought his freedom and founded the AME Church in the late 18th century.
Urban Missiology: Urban Cafe-Elonda Clay
LIBERATION AFTER AI?
THE RISE OF AI AND THE FUTURE OF SOCIAL JUSTICE
Topic: Urban Missiology: Urban Cafe-Elonda Clay
Time: Feb 10, 2024 10:00 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Meeting ID: 561 595 6303
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Note to Readers: Imam Michael Saahir is an Urban Missiology board member who is actively involved in the city of Indianapolis.
Israel and Palestine – Do Imams and Rabbis cry?
Friday, January 26, 2024
Reprint from the Indianapolis Recorder,
Friday, January 26, 2024
“It is He Who has let free the two bodies of flowing water: One palatable and sweet, and the other salt and bitter; yet has He made a barrier between them, a partition that is forbidden to be passed.” (Qur’an, chapter 25: verse 53)
The Qur’an mentions two bodies of water that meet but never integrate; one water-body is sweet and palatable and the other body of water is bitter salt-water. Tears of joy and laughter are not bitter to our taste buds, but tears of sadness and pain tend to be salty, you ever wonder why salty tears accompany difficulties?
The Israeli-Gazan difficulties – more accurately “the Zionist-Hamas” difficulties – have resulted in much of the whole world shedding bitter and salty tears. I wonder if the tears of imams, rabbis and other world religious leaders, if they too are shedding tears? Not just tears for the suffering adherents of their respective faiths, but for the sufferings of people who practice or believe a different faith.
Do imams cry salty bitter tears when they hear of a Jewish baby being murdered or kidnapped by terrorist? Do rabbis cry acrid tears when bombs kill innocent Palestinian babies by the hour? Or do we only cry and protest for the innocent baby whose parents worship and pray as we do? Are faith leaders allowed to be that selfish? Of course not!
Where in the Qur’an or in the Hadith1 is there an inkling of support for imams to remain quiet while innocent Jews are being slaughtered? Likewise, where is there even a whisper of support in the Talmud or the Torah for rabbis to remain quiet while innocent Palestinians are being slaughtered? How can we claim to be leaders and lovers of peace, i.e. Salaam and Shalom, but our inaction to speak out against violence to others betrays the very idea of universal peace; that transcending peace without borders?
If an imam can’t shed tears for the human being, G_d’s creation, whose parents just so happens to be Jewish, can that imam be called to account for his insensitivity towards that human being? If a rabbi can’t shed a tear for the human being, again, G_d’s creation, whose parents just so happens to be Palestinian, can that rabbi be called to account for their insensitivity towards the life of that human being? As imams and rabbis, often we are emulated by our members of our faith traditions. We are models that set the tone for our communities’ conduct. If we publicly shed a tear for others of a different faith, hopefully, our membership will do likewise.
Tears are not prejudice; however, sometimes our motive behind our tears may not be as innocent as we would like to believe. If our tears are reserved for only “my people” or for “my nation,” then the motive behind such tears are often weaponized or politicized to garner self-pity. Such tears are not for humanity. Are the tears of imams reserved only for Muslims and not for humanity? Are rabbi’s tears reserved only for Israel? Would the Prophets Muhammed and Moses, peace be upon them, cry tears only for abused and murdered babies of their particular faiths? No!
Our Creator is not the exclusive Lord of Israel and not also the Lord of all people. Allah is not just the G_d for Muslims. Allah is the Lord of all the worlds. The salt content of Muslim tears are no different than the salt content of Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, Sikh – or any person of faith – tears of pain.
Where are the tears of joy that we exchange during our “cookies and punch” interfaith gatherings; the laughter and hugs that accompany firm handshakes of brotherhood and peace? What good are these meetings of multi-faith unity if such gatherings can’t produce a sincere tear for the innocent loss of lives of those who are not of your particular, individual faith? Interfaith/multi-faith vitality becomes impotent if not maximized during difficult times.
Physical tears of joy, often, are not bitter. The same is true for mental tears of joy that accompany clear understandings, and our spiritual tears that flow when our souls find solace in the sacred words of G_d. The Qur’an promises that these two bodies of water, albeit adjacent, are bodies of water that never mix or integrate together. We can’t cry one bitter tear simultaneously with a palatable tear of joy. In other words, an imam can’t cry salty tears only when the victims are Palestinian, but cry tears of joy when the victim is Jewish. Likewise a rabbi can’t cry tears of joy when the victims are Palestinians and then expect the world to cry with them when the innocent victim is Jewish.
We need our religious leadership – from all faith traditions – to return to their respective holy text and relearn to cry tears that benefit humanity – the whole of humanity, not just for a select few who look and pray like you! Salty tears are bitter because they flow when the bitterness of life dominates our minds and souls. Bitter tears we can overcome when we take moral stands that produce sweet palatable tears of universal joy that we shed together as one!
Islamic reports on the life of Prophet Muhammed, prayers and peace be upon him.
Note: We are appreciative to UM board member Rev. Dr. Wanda Lundy for sharing this poem with us from Sojourners.
PRAYER FOR PEACE IN ISRAEL AND PALESTINE
OCT 9, 2023
“They will not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain...” —Isaiah 11:9
God of Comfort,
send your Spirit to encompass all those whose lives
are torn apart by violence and death in Israel and Palestine.
You are the Advocate of the oppressed
and the One whose eye is on the sparrow.
Let arms reach out in healing, rather than aggression.
Let hearts mourn rather than militarize.
God of Justice,
give strength to those whose long work for a just peace
might seem fruitless now. Strengthen their resolve.
Do not let them feel alone. Show us how to support their work
and bolster their courage. Guide religious leaders to model
unity and reconciliation across lines of division.
Guide political leaders to listen with their hearts as they seek peace and pursue it.
Help all people choose the rigorous path of just peace and disavow violence.
God of Love,
we lift up Palestine and Israel — its people, its land, its creatures.
War is a monster that consumes everything in its path.
Peace is a gift shared at meals of memory with Christians, Muslims, and Jews.
Let us burn incense, not children. Let us break bread, not bodies.
Let us plant olive groves, not cemeteries.
We beg for love and compassion to prevail
on all your holy mountains.
God of Hope,
we lift up the cities of the region: Gaza City and Tel Aviv,
Ramallah and Ashkelon, Deir El Balah and Sderot,
so long divided, yet so filled with life and creativity.
Come again to breathe peace on your peoples
that all may recognize you.
God of Mercy,
even now work on the hearts of combatants
to choose life over death, reconciliation over retaliation,
restoration over destruction. Help us resist antisemitism in all its forms,
especially in our own churches. All people, Israelis and Palestinians,
deserve to live in peace and unafraid, with a right to determine
their future together.
God of the Nations,
let not one more child or elder be sacrificed on altars of political expediency.
Keep safe all people from unjust leaders who would exploit
vulnerability for their own distorted ends.
Give wise discernment to those making decisions to pursue peace.
Provide them insight into fostering well-being, freedom, and thriving for all.
Teach all of us to resolve injustices with righteousness, not rockets.
Guard our hearts against retaliation, and give us hearts for love alone.
Strengthen our faith in you, O God of All Flesh,
even when we don’t have clear answers,
so that we may still offer ourselves nonviolently
for the cause of peace.