The Prophetic Function of Social Autopsy

Can the Church Help End Violence & Injustice?

Of course it can. And it should!

I got to spend a day with some of the other Chicago thought leaders at the intersection of the church and the violence and injustice run amok in our city. It was a great learning and networking opportunity, and a recap of the discussions is a helpful primer. I found points 4 and 6 to be particularly affirming of my experiences, which have blessed me tremendously as I’ve found new partners and family in the fight against the structures and principalities that oppress and condemn.

But I got to hear a particular term that has me wrestling even days later. When the dead die we use an autopsy to confirm the cause of death. When neighborhoods are filled with death, why shouldn’t we the church perform an autopsy to find the root causes? One of the roles of the church is calling out the difference between what is and what should be. The Medical Examiner performs the same role: “the man is dead when he should be alive, and I will reveal to the world exactly why.” The church is a clarion call to proclaim the same thing: “There is violence in the streets, oppression of the poor, and injustice toward those whose lives matter, but there should be peace among the people, respect of each other, and a justice that reigns and affirms that all lives – particularly those whom society deems less than – matter.”

But why are we afraid to name and proclaim these systems of violence, death, oppression and injustice? Are we afraid of guilt by association, of the revelation that the way we live our lives has taken the ability to fully flourish away from others who share our society? In a Christian world that proclaims we are all sinners and unworthy of grace, why are we so afraid to admit that we are all sinners?

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