How Religion is Helping Ease Riots in Baltimore

Posted on May 1, 2015 by

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By: Trevor Parks

On April 19th, 2015 a man by the name of Freddie Gray died from spinal cord injuries sustained from police brutality. This incident sparked riots in the city of Baltimore, sending the city into a state of emergency. The proverbial straw that broke the camels back has resulted in rioting, looting, brutality, and protest. In the midst of all this madness there are those who are attempting to bring peace back to the distraught city, many of these folks are from nearby churches. Christians and Muslims alike are doing all they can to help and protect their fellow citizens as the nation watches carefully.

Christian Today does a great job focusing on what they’re good at it; reporting religious news. It is a very heartfelt article that gets the reader to support those who are trying to maintain peace, who are in the instance religious leaders in the community. By following the Christian leaders in the community and through use of quotations author Carey Lodge stitches a patch of coverage on this controversy. Without getting the whole story the reader is left with nothing but interviews from religious professionals to form their opinions with, so the perspective is definitely from a Christians point of view.

The New York Times takes a much more thorough approach on the matter. Author Sheryl Gay Stolberg gives insight about the religious matters in the city that weren’t present in the Christian Today article. Of course both articles tell a tale about how serious this matter really is, Stolberg paints a bigger picture whereas Lodge only gives you a piece of it. In an interesting turn of events over 1,000 people of different religions congregated in order to discuss options on “better policing, policies to create jobs, and better schools.” Other than that she put a lot of emphasis on how chaotic the scene is there. The religious perspective in this article is very non-bias focusing more on what was going on in the streets.

The Washington Post  has an article that is somewhat Christian biased. For the 10 pictures of religious gatherings, 9 of them are Christian and the other being a picture of members of the Nation of Islam. Although the picture is provocative it doesn’t feature the faces of the Muslim group either, whether that was intentional or not it’s hard to say. They have other articles covering the unfolding stories that don’t prove to be religious biased however.

The Baltimore Sun features an article that talks about how gang members are aiding in restoring peace in the city of Baltimore. The authors give many different perspectives on the matter including quotes from reverends. The religious leaders were overall accepting of the young gang members’ gesture and said they could help in finding solutions. The authors say the religious leaders were in attendance but did not elaborate much further.

The Christian Times show religious leaders as being peaceful and patient in this time of crisis. In this article author Sarah Adams decides to address the riots in a negative light. She uses a quotation from a Southern Baptist President named Russell Moore, in which he said that “violence and hatred are satanic” among other things. The author makes it sound like the religious groups are being proactive in trying to establish peace, but doesn’t address the riots in detail. The author uses well-known Reverend Jamal Bryant’s words to further empower the reader against the riots by using logic and reason.

Huffington Post in this article, author Marybeth Gasman makes a very clear statement to those who don’t see why the riots are happening. Gasman very aggressively tackles this issue telling those who don’t understand or care what is going on that they are wrong in doing so. She utilizes religion as a bonding agent, telling those who believe to take a second look at scriptures about poverty and injustice. It serves a pathos in her argument and is effective in persuading her audience. She is obviously very sympathetic to this cause and is lashing out against those who don’t feel the same way because in all honesty they should. If this sort of thing were happening in a local neighborhood it would be of utmost importance to practically anyone.

Religion News Service takes you and puts you into the shoes of Kelly Douglas, who is a religion professor at a Baltimore college as well as a priest. In the interview, some of the questions are meant to address critics while others are meant to find solutions, as well as invoke emotion. The main focus is definitely religion, but also how it ties into society, and what churches should be doing at this time. Although some questions were negatively charged, the article is friendly toward the church through use of language and rhetoric. In the end, Douglas builds a personal connection to all the mothers reading the article by addressing a conversation she had with her son. The article portrays religion to be a prime factor in improving life for the impoverished and a driving force for social change in our society.

Firstpost gives us a completely different perspective on the matter. Instead of portraying religion as part of the solution, author R Jagannathan sees it as the problem. He blames Christian fundamentalism as a primary cause for racism and bigotry in the U.S. The author leaves no one out of the spotlight, saying Europeans as well as Americans are susceptible to bigotry such as “Islamophobia” or racism like the growing number of African American police brutality casualties. It’s important to note that this article is written by an Indian writer who is obviously hostile towards these so-called bigots. The writer makes a lot of claims but fails to back up a lot of them, making it more of an opinion piece and therefore being less credible. The portrayal of Americans and Christians is very bad, and this could be what people from other countries use as a basis for opinions. The coverage for this article is small scale, however. The other also leaves out the complete other side of the story; how religious leaders are banding together and trying to establish peace.

PBS this video does a really good job of being non-biased and explaining the situation from a rational point of view. Bishop Eugene Sutton gives his two cents on the issue as to what’s happening, why it’s happening, and what needs to be done moving forward. Sutton does a great job at positively representing himself and the church and truly gets at the heart of the issue; high poverty, not enough jobs, and a short life expectancy. He wants the church to get involved private sectors and the government to create jobs and eradicate this poverty. He talks about an experience he had in Baltimore, him and members of the church (predominantly white) were walking down the street singing and getting a huge response from onlookers. It doesn’t address the riots themselves much but rather tries to focus on peaceful gatherings and solutions.

Newsone covers a part of the story that has only been mentioned in one other source; the Nation of Islam. Members of the NoI were on the streets deterring people from looting and were photographed in a communion with rival gang members from the Crips and Bloods. In the article, the NoI is said to have been supportive of the betterment of African American’s while boasting a leader who is both black and a woman. Dr. Ava Muhammad, the leader of NoI, had some harsh words to say about the media and “White America”. She says that White America pretends that the NoI isn’t there. Not only that, but she also says that they are avoiding the elephant in the room by not addressing the true injustice at hand; the fact that these police officers are not treated as the criminals they are. Muhammad further criticizes the media for focusing on the black lady hitting her son and calling it abuse saying “You just broke a man’s body into pieces and you’re talking about abuse. The hypocrisy is stunning.” So here you have religious leaders against the media for it’s improper usage. Through the use of sound logic and reason Muhammad articulates her argument about how these riots are directly caused by racism and that the problem is not being addressed at all.

In the end, these acts of violence and crime are not without warrant. What is true is that over the past 2 years this same injustice has happened with frequency, it happened in Ferguson and will likely happen again. Until we get to the root problem and end the perpetual poverty in the black community these things will happen. These articles should inspire those to look inward and ask themselves the important questions. Am I part of the problem? What can I do to change that? How can I help? Christianity and Islam both bring together their religious communities in an effort to help others, and that’s what’s most important. These riots are the voice of the unheard, and it is pertinent that we as a country listen. Justice for all shouldn’t be limited to a certain race or religious group, it should upheld by all. Although riots are not directly beneficial to a community, it does send a message. Behind all of the fire and wreckage lies an SOS message from a broken community. Through the church, state, and industry true change is conceivable, it’s just a matter of will.

Works Cited:

Jax, Mike. “Radio Station Suspends DJ Over Instagram Post About Baltimore Protests.” Billboard.com. Associated Press, 29 Apr. 2015. Web. 1 May 2015. <http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/the-juice/6546410/baltimore-riots-instagram-post-mike-jax-pittsburgh-dj&gt;.

Lodge, Carey. “Baltimore Riots: The Church Must Be a ‘Moral Voice’ Says Pastor as Leaders Urge Peace.” Christiantoday.com. Christian Today, 29 Apr. 2015. Web. 1 May 2015. <http://www.christiantoday.com/article/baltimore.riots.the.church.must.be.a.moral.voice.says.pastor.as.leaders.urge.peace/53025.htm&gt;.

Stolberg, Sheryl. “Crowd Scatters as Baltimore Curfew Takes Hold.” Nytimes.com. New York Times, 28 Apr. 2015. Web. 1 May 2015. <http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/29/us/baltimore-riots.html?_r=0&gt;.

Bailey, Sarah. “These 10 Photos Show How Faith Leaders Are Responding to Baltimore Riots.” Washingtonpost.com. Washington Post, 28 Apr. 2015. Web. 1 May 2015. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2015/04/28/these-10-photos-show-how-faith-leaders-are-responding-to-baltimore-riots/&gt;.

Donovan, Doug, Mark Puente, and Luke Broadwater. “Experts Question Gang Involvement in Riots.” Baltimoresun.com. Baltimore Sun, 28 Apr. 2015. Web. 1 May 2015. <http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/baltimore-city/bs-md-ci-baltimore-riots-gangs-analysis-0429-20150428-story.html#page=1&gt;.

Adams, Sarah. “Religious Leaders Call for Peace After Baltimore Riots.” Christiantimes.com. Christian Times, 28 Apr. 2015. Web. 1 May 2015. <http://www.christiantimes.com/article/religious.leaders.call.for.peace.after.baltimore.riots/52353.htm&gt;.

Gasman, Marybeth. “You Are Wrong.” Huffingtonpost.com. Huffington Post, 30 Apr. 2015. Web. 1 May 2015. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marybeth-gasman/you-are-wrong_b_7176862.html&gt;.

Banks, Adelle. “Q&A: From Ferguson to Baltimore, Black America’s Faith Is Tested.” Religionnews.com. Religion News Service, 1 May 2015. Web. 1 May 2015. <http://www.religionnews.com/2015/05/01/qa-ferguson-baltimore-black-americas-faith-tested/&gt;.

Jagannathan, R. “Baltimore and More: Beneath the Facade, Uncle Sam Is Also Racist and Bigoted.” Firstpost.com. First Post, 29 Apr. 2015. Web. 1 May 2015. <http://www.firstpost.com/world/baltimore-and-more-beneath-the-facade-uncle-sam-is-also-racist-and-bigoted-2218400.html&gt;.

“Making Peace in Baltimore.” Pbs.org. PBS, 1 May 2015. Web. 1 May 2015. <http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/2015/05/01/may-1-2015-making-peace-in-baltimore/25929/&gt;.

Thompson, Desire. “The Nation Of Islam Speaks On Involvement In Baltimore – “America Will Never Be The Melting Pot We Want It To Be”.” Newsone.com. News One, 1 May 2015. Web. 1 May 2015. <http://newsone.com/3111609/nation-of-islam-on-involvement-in-baltimore-freddie-gray-death/?omcamp=EMC-CVNL&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=Black Planet Daily USE ME&utm_campaign=BP 050115 PM>.

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