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November 13, 2020
Unholier Than Thou
Giving Grace and Buying Guns

In This Episode

Now that the facism is ebbing, should the apologies be flowing? That’s what Phill is hoping to glean from Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg. She walks us through the process of repentance and if you’re required to forgive the MAGA hat wearers in your life. Next, Pastor Mike McBride joins to dissuade Phill from buying a gun to defend himself in the event of a rocky transition of power. Turns out firearms lead to violence, not safety! Who knew?

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Phillip Picardi: From Crooked Media, this isn’t Unholier Than Thou. I’m your host, Phillip Picardi. By the time last week’s episode aired, we still did not know the results of the 2020 presidential election, so let me just say it here and now: Thank God Joe Biden is the President-elect of the United States! To all of you who voted, organized, protested and stress-ate pints of ice cream on your couch for the entirety of last week, I salute you. While last weekend was marked by celebrations, this week was marked by, well, the unknown . . .  as Republicans continue to mount their efforts to steal this election by repeating claims of voter fraud without evidence. And now they are refusing to peacefully transition to the Biden administration, our good old friend, existential dread, is back with a vengeance. 2020, it just keeps on coming, doesn’t it? So today I’m exploring two ends of this existential dread. Later on, we’ll be joined by Pastor Mike McBride, the co-founder of the Black Church PAC and the National Black and Brown Gun Violence Prevention Consortium. He’ll be answering a question that maybe popped up on your group threads at some point this year: should we actually be scared, and should we be arming ourselves? But first, people of faith all over are tackling a question that may feel more immediate: what do we do with the Trump supporters in our lives? Almost immediately, Republican pundits and talking heads urged us to reach out to the Trumpies, to feel their pain and not gloat, that the next few months should be marked with forgiveness.


[news clip] Katy Perry under fire over her push to—get this—to reach out to her family members who supported President Trump. How dare she?!


Phillip Picardi: Well, friends, if you know me, and I hope you do by now, you know, that didn’t sit right with me at all. So I’m phoning a friend, the Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, to help me understand where we all go from here. Rabbi Danya, thanks for joining me.


Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg: Thank you for having me.


Phillip Picardi: I guess let’s start here: how are you feeling? We are in Joe Biden’s America, kinda.


Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg: [laughs] Sort of. Can I say in a C3 friendly nonpartisan way that I’m excited that there’s a new administration coming that will put forth hopefully better policies that will help more people.


Phillip Picardi: Yes.


Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg: Even if there needs to be a little pushing in some directions from progressive advocates. I think there will be fewer human rights abuses, and I’m excited about that.


Phillip Picardi: You know what? Same. And thank you for that measured response. Today I’m coming to you for your spiritual wisdom and your spiritual guidance. Now, I’m not sure if you’ve seen and heard the pleas that I’ve seen from talking heads on CNN and maybe some well-meaning folks on Twitter who are insisting that we must use this moment—and by we I mean folks who voted for Joe Biden—that we must use this moment to reach out to Trump’s followers to extend our forgiveness in order to begin to heal the divides of our country. So I am asking you, Rabbi Danya, as a woman of God, what is your response to some of these pleas that we are seeing?


Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg: OK, so in Judaism, there isn’t the same emphasis on forgiveness that we see in parts of Christian culture and theology. And I think there are parts of the Christian emphasis on forgiveness that are powerful and moving. Part of them are, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, theologian, called them, “cheap Grace.” You know, there are ways that that sort of rushing to forgiveness without a measured conversation can be lacking. And so that’s real. In Judaism, our concern is about repentance, and about doing the work of repair and of understanding harm caused and trying to address it in a meaningful way, and the forgiveness is very, very secondary. There’s, an apology as part of the repentance process sometimes, and, you know, depending on what the thing is like, you know, maybe the victim should not be petty and withhold forgiveness if the perpetrator is doing the real work. But with very significant issues and in a lot of cases, and definitely if the perpetrator hasn’t been doing the labor of repentance, there’s no requirement to forgive. So, you know, my question—


Phillip Picardi: That’s a key difference.


Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg: It is a key difference. So, you know, in Judaism, the first step of this process is what we call “Chesbon Henefesh,” the accounting of the soul. It’s about figuring out what did I do? Who have I been? What made me make those choices? What kind of impact did those choices have? Sometimes you need some help from people outside. You know, sometimes that work is kick-started when somebody calls you up and says, you did me wrong, right? But we really try to push people to do the inner work to try to really understand their own impact and for people who have made the choice to support someone who even before the 2016 election was inciting violence, was perpetrating, you know, racist speech in a myriad of different ways, who had a record of, long before a presidential run of, you know, the Central Park Five, right? I mean, you know, this is the racism runs deep and has a long history. Whose record on consent is not really fantastic, right? I mean, this person, this is what we knew even before the Muslim ban, even before children were put in cages, right? Even before, even before, even before, all of these things that have happened over the last four years. And so the invitation that I haven’t seen is for people who have made the choice to follow this man all the way into the voting booth a second time, to really ask themselves some hard questions about what’s going on and why and what animates those choices, and what impact might those choices have had?


Phillip Picardi: That this is a two-way street and these please feel a little bit hollow and sometimes even sanctimonious, right? Especially when we consider who is asking us to apologize, right? Oftentimes these are white folks who don’t really appear to have a lot at stake in these elections, right? And they’re in there urging us to immediately forgive so that we can all start over. But I think the premise there is that these people who have supported Trump are willing to start over and in many cases, Trumpism and Trump’s followers are not actually going away. They are not willing to do that work.


Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg: Right. You know, but to say, like you guys need to forgive this person, it’s a way of basically getting us, resetting things to the status quo and saying there’s going to be no paradigm shift, right. We’re not going to ask for any major changes. We’re just going to let things go back to being how they were, and you’re going to make nice and let that happen.


Phillip Picardi: So I guess my my next question is, you’ve talked about this concept of repentance. And I also understand that you have interpreted repentance through something called the teshuvah. Am I saying that correctly?


Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg: Yeah. Teshuvah is the Jewish word for repentance, though, in a slightly different meanings, but yeah.


Phillip Picardi: And so what are these six steps to teshuvah that I need to know or that we should keep in mind as we are dealing with Joe Biden’s America?


Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg: The next chapter, so Maimonides, who is a 12th century Torah scholar, philosopher, doctor, you know, didn’t get a lot of sleep, great thinker—took a lot of stuff in the classical literature and formulated these six steps . . . five probably, really. So the kind of pre-step and the sixth is this chesbon henefesh, this accounting of the soul. And then once you’ve done that and figured out what the thing is, then we get to really step one, which is public confession, or at least proportionate confession. So if I said something racist in a staff meeting, I need to at least put it on slack or make my confession in the staff meeting. If I tweeted something, then I need to put it out on Twitter, right. If I said something, if it’s something really about my intimate relationship, you know, in my personal life, like maybe you just say directly to the person who’s harmed. But there needs to be some kind of, like, really clear owning what you did. Step one. Step two, beginning the work of transformation, right. Why? You know, once you realize that you did a thing that was harmful, then what can you do to be different, and not be that guy anymore? And so is that education, is that reading books, is that therapy, is that rehab, is that having to sit really still and listen to people who were hurt by what you did and have to really take it in, right? And really get it in a new way. Like, what do you need in order to change and to figure out how you can be a person who is not the kind of person that does this harmful thing. So that’s step two. And then there’s amends, which is what is an appropriate reparation? Is it donating money somewhere, is it paying somebody’s medical bills, is it actually they don’t—you have to do it in relationship with the victim. So, like, if the victim says, yes, you stepped on my foot, but I have great health care, what I need is for you to pay for somebody to come clean my house because I can’t do that now because my foot’s broken, right? You know, but like, is it donating your time to an appropriate organization, is it becoming an advocate in a new way, right? Like, you have to put some something of yourself into the work, you know? You created a breach in the universe and now you have to do something to sew it up. Then it’s apology, right? We’re already all the way in this journey and now finally, you get to have the opportunity to say that you’re sorry to the person. Yeah. And hopefully by the time you’ve gotten that, it’s not, you’re not reading some statement your publicist wrote, right? This is like, it’s going to mean something because you’ve already been doing the work and you get on a different level what you did. And the person you hurt is not required to accept your apology, even if it’s sincere, even if you’re doing the work. And you have to go back at least three times. After the third time, you’re off the hook. But if they say no, get out of here, like you have to go figure out what went wrong and then you can come back later and try again. But, like they don’t necessarily owe you forgiveness. And they’re parallel tracks, right, the victims process of forgiveness is not connected to the penitent person’s repentance. Their teshuva work, right? It’s not like you put a dollar bill in the vending machine and you get out a cookie, you know what I mean? You know, put in your repentance work and get out forgiveness. Like you do your repentance work and maybe the person will forgive you and maybe they won’t, and maybe you’ll find out that they forgive you. They’ll tell you and maybe they won’t. Like maybe they’ll forgive you internally and that’s not something you ever get to find out about. You just have to do your work, keep your eyes on your own bluebook. So that’s apology. And then the last step is really key. When you have the opportunity to do the same harmful thing again, you make a different choice. So, you—


Phillip Picardi: So Trump runs in 2024 and you don’t go cast your ballot for him.


Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg: Right. You know, and and if it’s what really, if you did your internal work and what’s really was there is that you are having some white supremacy feelings and some possible, like I’m not going to have the same kind of power feelings and I want to retain power, then actually you should be donating money to and canvasing for, you know, candidates of color, say, and doing that work and speaking out vocally for them, right? And becoming an advocate and becoming the kind of person—the whole thing is that by the end, you have changed so much through this process that you couldn’t possibly imagine thinking that doing the harmful thing would be a good idea again.


Phillip Picardi: But, Rabbi, so many people are going to listen to this and they’re going to say, sure, this is if you’ve wronged someone in your community. But we’re talking about the American electoral system. We’re talking about politics. How could you possibly begrudge me my vote? It is my American right to vote. Why should I apologize to you for voting for Donald Trump?


Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg: It is the difference between how Judaism looks at stuff and how American culture looks at stuff. There are a lot of differences, here’s one of them.


Phillip Picardi: I’m loving them by the way.


Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg: You’re welcome to shabbos any time. American culture is really, really, really big on rights. My right to not wear a mask! My right to carry a gun! My right to—right? This is entitlement, right. Me, me, me, I get to, me! It’s this individualism, right? My, my right, mine! Judaism is about obligation. What am I obligated to do as a human being who’s put on this planet, just a teeny, tiny little person, among lots and lots of people, and knowing that my job is to take care of other people, right? Knowing that we are all in this together, that, you know, as I see it, we’re all created in the divine image. I believe I’m commanded to pursue justice and, you know, what is my right to do? Whatever. Like, what am I obligated to do? What are the choices I can make to create a world that has more light and safety for more people?


Phillip Picardi: Yes, that makes sense that your vote actually does have real-life implications for other people. Even if you’re not seeing them on your tax returns or in your backyard, it is impacting other people. There’s another difference, I think, in this American idea of spiritual wholeness, maybe that’s been perpetuated a little bit by this wellness kind of concept that’s very popular right now, which is that one should not hold on to bad feelings. We should not hold on to anger. We should not hold grudges. We should forgive because forgiveness heals our souls. And I offer you that because I wonder, like from a spiritual perspective, if I go around and I’m still, you know, harboring, am I harboring something? Or if I’m not willing to forgive the Trump supporters, am I robbing myself of spiritual enlightenment, in your opinion?


Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg: You know, some of it is like, what do you think forgiveness is, right? There is in Judaism, there are two levels. There is [Hebrew], which is basically like, listen, we’re good, you paid your debt to me. This, you know, like you stole my phone, but then you bought me a new phone and you fixed the data, you know, things so my new phone is—like, fine, we’re good. I don’t like you, I don’t trust you. But we’re good, we’re fine. And that’s one level. And then there’s [Hebrew], which is usually, you know, sort of the Christian idea of the sort of more empathetic, connective, I see that you are a vulnerable person and who was worthy of compassion. And I think you can have the one without the other, both kinds, right? I think you can say I can have compassion for the fact that you might have been feeling scared and also at the same time say, listen, you’re an adult and, you know, like at a certain point you need to take responsibility for the fact that your choices have consequences.


Phillip Picardi: Right.


Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg: You know, does forgiveness mean we’re good, we can be friends again. Like forgiveness and reconciliation aren’t the same thing. You know, does forgiveness mean everything’s hunky dory, kumbayah? Does forgiveness mean I’m not angry, but we have to start over? Does anger always a toxic thing? Both [unclear] in my tradition and Audre Lorde in everybody’s tradition, the great poet, thinker, essayist—but both talk about how anger, if you use it right, can be really helpful, right? It can be a rocket fuel for change. You there are certain kinds of anger that, you know, like if you’re not careful, it’ll burn you up, right? But if you aim it correctly, it’s like, you know, it can be used with laser precision to create change. So I just sort of reject this notion that anger is categorically bad or that forgiveness is necessarily healing. Maybe we stop telling oppressed people what they should feel and when they should feel it. Maybe we try to work towards systems and policies that are more just for more people and see what that does to people’s mood.


Phillip Picardi: Is there anything that you look to, and I don’t want us to keep talking about Trump supporters, I want us to talk to everyone else for a second. How do we actually stay sane and safe and spiritually powerful in a moment when even if we voted out the bad guy, there are, the odds are still somewhat stacked against us.


Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg: I mean, listen, the systems that made 2016 possible are unchanged, are potentially worse given the ravages on the judiciary branch that have happened, right, and so many other things that have happened this last chapter. You know, so many of our problems deal with the fact that America never really wanted to do its repentance work for slavery and the genocide of Native Americans, right? You know, the systems that we’re dealing with now, have a long, long, long tail. The work is ongoing. You know, anybody that’s not already totally burned out from the last few years is going to be totally burned out, right, or give up or say, fine, I’m just going to sit on my couch or go back to brunch, which is like the ultimate privilege move, right? To say I have the luxury of not worrying about justice anymore because I feel safer. So what we need to do is find a practice that nourishes us and keeps us as whole as possible, whether that’s prayer or meditation or long walks in nature or yoga or writing morning pages or making art or whatever the thing is. Like do the thing that keeps you whole, and do it again and again and again and again, and let it hold you and then get back to work, because we still have to fight for racial justice and economic justice and reproductive justice and so many other different kinds of justice. And that work isn’t going to be obsolete anytime soon, so . . .


Phillip Picardi: Well Rabbi Danya, thank you. That was, that was all for today. Thank you so much for joining me and thank you for your insights.


Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg: Thank you.


Phillip Picardi: I really, really appreciate having your perspective.


Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg: Thank you. Thank you for letting me come play. It’s delightful to talk to you as always.


Phillip Picardi: Yes, likewise.


Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg: It’s our second time! So now it’s a thing we do.


Phillip Picardi: Second time, yes. And there will be more. Trust me.


Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg: Yay!


Phillip Picardi: After the break. Pastor Mike joins me to talk about Jesus and the Second Amendment.


[ad break]


Phillip Picardi: Well, some of us have been preoccupied with forgiveness, especially as we head into the holiday season, the rest of us may have more pressing matters on our minds. President Trump began a purge immediately after the election. First, Secretary of Defense Mike Esper, then the top Pentagon policy official, then the top Defense Department intelligence official, and then the Chief of Staff to the Defense Secretary. At the same time, Mike Pompeo told reporters that he’s working diligently to ensure a smooth transition into the second term of the Trump administration. And that’s even though these assholes lost reelection, lost pretty big, too. Many of us fear that this is just the beginning. That maybe there’s a coup coming that will require us to be out in the streets, and maybe this is about to get really brutally, painfully ugly. So even I couldn’t help but imagine, what would I do to protect myself if everything in America goes to shit? That’s why I wanted to talk to Pastor Mike, a faith leader who’s been working in gun and violence prevention for years. Pastor Mike is here to explain the so-called religious motives behind the Second Amendment, and maybe why we should all reconsider how we define the word safety.


Phillip Picardi: Pastor Mike, thanks for being here.


Pastor Mike McBride: Man, it’s great to be here with your brother, and glad to be in the building one more time.


Phillip Picardi: One more time! Well, listen, I know that in 2013 you were invited on a panel with our now President Elect Joe Biden to discuss gun control. And I’m wondering, based on that conversation and the action taken by that administration, how are you feeling about the direction we are hopefully heading after electing Joe Biden to be our president?


Pastor Mike McBride: Well, I definitely think we have a better chance of getting the agenda we care about pushed through the federal government with this administration—not just this President, but remember, Joe Biden will have an administration, he’ll have department heads, he’ll have people that I believe will share some of our priorities and the kind of philosophical underpinnings of how we address issues related to public safety, policing, the economy, etc., particularly as relates to Black people and most marginalized groups. So I don’t have ultimate faith in Joe Biden per se, I do have more faith in this administration to get it right.


Phillip Picardi: I do wonder it is confusing sometimes to see very religious people holding a gun over their Bible and to see the massive amounts of support for the Second Amendment and gun rights among white conservative Christians. Is there a reason that religion is seems to be so entangled in this gun control conversation in America?


Pastor Mike McBride: Well, I think we have to always remember that white Christianity in this country is likely not the best example of Christian faith [laughs] in the world or history.


Phillip Picardi: You don’t say.


Pastor Mike McBride: I was on a call yesterday with white evangelicals who are trying to lean in to justice and I said, it seems like the longer white folks are Christians in this country, the less human they become. And so I think it’s really important—


Phillip Picardi: Phew. How did they respond to that?


Pastor Mike McBride: Oh, you know, I don’t know. I don’t be really caring that much.


Phillip Picardi: [laughs]


Pastor Mike McBride: I just try to give, give it to them how of spirit needs me to talk, and let God do the rest, right? But I do think that the use of religion in this country, particularly at its inception, was needed to make moral sense of slavery and genocide and imperialism. And so all of those things require the use of a gun. I mean, you’re not taking over people unless you have force and weapons that can subjugate them with fear and death. And so I think that practice has become the muscle memory of most Americans in this country. And because that violence is so palpable, then Black people and other groups have had to likely buy into that kind of violence as a preemptive or a, a feeling of defense against the kind of ubiquitous nature of violence aimed at our folks. And so the issue of the gun in this country is quite problematic. I think we can have common sense gun laws without having that go like into an all-out war on the Second Amendment. But if I could wave my magic wand, I’d get rid of every weapon in the world and go back to just the fisticuffs if we have to solve some disagreements beyond our words, you know?


Phillip Picardi: OK, that’s interesting because, you know, one of the things that I’ve noticed on the reporting that’s been happening in recent months, The 19th, for example, just ran a piece about how LGBTQ folks, women and people of color are actually buying guns at higher rates in the past six months because of this fear that people have—which, by the way, I do not think is an unfounded fear—that things are headed south so quickly and division is so intense in this country that we are going to need to arm ourselves. Because, look, it doesn’t look like the good guys have guns. It looks like all the bad guys do, though. So what do you offer as a person of faith to those people who are so afraid that they are willing to sort of betray their better judgment to go get a gun?


Pastor Mike McBride: Well, I would encourage us to not give ourselves over to fear absolutely. I think we should imagine what is the, what is the set of actions we can take that give us the ability to have self-defense, right, and as we have self-defense, we also are working to ensure that the kind of recklessness or the use of violence in our culture is directly addressed. I don’t own a gun because I want to continue to be a nonviolent person. The data tells us that if you own a gun, you or your family member are more likely to be harmed by that gun you own, than the person who you’re buying the gun to protect yourself from. And that bears itself out in suicide and domestic violence and accidental shootings, right? And so it is a false sense of security to buy a gun, to try and protect yourself from the kind of very real expressions of a very armed individuals who are quite, you know, maniacal in how they’re showing up in a public space. But I would just caution us to not allow them to bring death into our own home, because we’re trying to guard against the death that we have yet to concretely be visited by. It is quite a conundrum. That’s why I think we should lean into our faith traditions, our kind of commitments to love and care for one another across difference, across race, across gender and sexuality—and all of these different things that really seem to divide us rather than bring us together.


Phillip Picardi: Well, on the topic of faith, you mentioned that what Christianity has used violence or has been able to justify violence, obviously, through imperialism and colonialism. So they found their excuse. Can you tell me a little bit about what you preach and what scripture you’re drawing from to talk to your clergy members, you know, and your parish about the reason that we need to choose nonviolence? Like, what are you drawing from?


Pastor Mike McBride: Yeah, well, you know, Jesus obviously is our most important and concrete example, the life of Jesus, the ways of Jesus, the teachings of Jesus, and Jesus, as we understand Jesus in the scriptures is described and believed to have been the most powerful human being literally to ever walk the earth. Jesus is God in the flesh. Jesus was there at the beginning. Jesus had the ability to take people into existence and out of existence. And yet Jesus through his life, showed us that in order to be human, he voluntarily gave up his privilege to walk among those who had none. The scripture actually says he voluntarily emptied himself. The Greek word is kenosis. He willingly emptied himself of privilege to learn obedience, even the death on the cross. Which just means that Jesus could have used violence to ensure victory over enemies, but rather than that, he chose to use nonviolence and love and a life lived in such a way that it left such an undeniable mark on the people who encountered him, that his memory, his teachings, and dare I say, the salvation he brought lives on beyond the kind of battles and victories he could have won with knives and chariots and horses. And so I try to encourage our people to live into that example and to remind ourselves that the weapons we fight are not of human origin, but they are mighty through the power of love, through the God we serve. And we have to do all we can to not fall into the trap of violence and racism and other-ism and dehumanization. Even when we don’t always agree with people, we don’t have to, you know, harm them physically. We don’t have to give them emotional and psychological terror, because you don’t agree with them. I tell my congregation you don’t agree with yourself half the time! So, like, you know, what’s the big deal?


Phillip Picardi: [laughs] That’s a good point. Well, that was a, that was really beautiful. Thank you. Thank you for sharing that. But Pastor Mike, one of the reasons you’re here today with me is because you’re not just preaching this, right, you are actually practicing this. You are involved in so much community outreach and so much legislative and legal outreach to help change the ways in which Americans think about violence. And you are actively working to help save lives. Can you tell us a little bit about what that work is and what that work looks like?


Pastor Mike McBride: Yeah, well, you know, we lead an effort for at least the past decade that has been attempting to organize churches, congregations, synagogues, mosques, temples, and even people who may not identify as a person of faith—we usually just say people of goodwill—to end the era of gun violence and mass incarceration of Black people, brown people and other marginalized groups in this country. We know that violence and incarceration is not an accident. It is a result of bad policies and disinvestments that bring kind of misery to such a head that hopelessness grips the heart of those who have very little or who are under such extreme stress. They know no other way to respond to the, to the pain they feel. And so we organize at the local, state and federal levels to help implement proven gun violence prevention strategies that reduce the number of gun-related shootings and homicides without sending more people to jail. We work to change policies that keep Black and brown and other folks in jails and prisons longer than they should. We try to restore the rights of those who have criminal convictions so they can vote and have jobs and have access to housing. But we also work to address police violence. I myself have been a victim of police violence. I was physically and sexually assaulted in 1999 by two police officers in the course of an arrest.


Phillip Picardi: I’m so sorry.


Pastor Mike McBride: Yeah. And it totally triggered trauma for me that I still obviously have to deal with to this day. But it does remind me that you can be, quote unquote, “doing everything right” and still run into state violence at the hands of police. And so we have to really rethink, reimagine, dare I say, radically transform public safety in this country, and the use of police and their methods of violence in order to secure a peace in our communities. And so that’s the work we do. We organize, we protest, we write policy, we lobby, we get people out to vote, we give out hugs, we feed people, we take folks to lunch. We do whatever it takes to build a coalition of peace and justice and love. And I think we’re going to win. Matter of fact, I believe we’re going to win. And I’m glad the devil is on the run because we plan to keep him on the run.


Phillip Picardi: [laughs] Well, I’m glad to hear that. My next question for you was, are you hopeful, you know, that the gun, the gun violence fight has been long and hard and Republican politicians especially have been pretty hard-lined against gun control legislation. And I know especially from watching the past couple of years how demoralizing it could be to consistently go up and lose these fights. But where are you seeing the wins? Like what wins are keeping you motivated?


Pastor Mike McBride: That’s a great question. You know, and I love to just say to younger people, you know, we are not a people of hopelessness, you know? And I know we we’ve come of age in kind of Obama era where, you know, hope was like so concrete, and then you got the dump truck presidency and it felt like all the helium got let out of a balloon, but we as a people have always, as Angela Davis reminded us, being committed to freedom. That is a constant struggle. And so the struggle is made constant by the hope we can tap into the hope of our faith, the hope of our ancestors, the hope of the wins and even the losses that we experience throughout life, knowing that as long as we are alive and the sun rises, we can indeed build off of our experiences of yesterday and yesteryear and make some big leaps. And so I do believe that the hope that is found in the gun violence prevention movement is found with the people who are the closest to the pain. The heroes, I call them superheroes, super-sheroes who are in every urban community across the country waking up every day to interrupt gun violence. They don’t use weapons. They don’t use jails. They use their words and their arms and the pennies in their pockets to interrupt conflicts between Pookie and Ray, Ray and Jose and Padre and Maria and Sha Nae Nae—and we out here in these streets and we’re literally reducing gun-related shootings and homicides using public health strategies without sending people to jail. Now, obviously, in the last year with this pandemic, a once in a lifetime pandemic, we’ve had to pull a lot of our work back because we just couldn’t be out in the streets. And that’s why I think the shootings are up in a lot of cities, because we were literally scaling gun violence prevention work across the country in so many cities, and then overnight we all had to shut it down because of the pandemic. And if you don’t give people the medicine, then they will likely fall back into their illness. And so I hope that this administration and all of us across the country that show up at hospitals to interrupt violence, that show up in schools and on blocks, that bring people caught in cycles of violence into conversations with each other, that we can scale that work back up over the next six months and get the shootings up back under control. And we can then take resources from police departments and put them into scaling up public health interventions that save lives and don’t incarcerate people. That is the hope that I see. The ground is shifting. Consensus is changing. People are starting to appreciate that. We don’t have to only fight Second Amendment fights in order to reduce gun violence. We can indeed scale up programs that work, and we can build coalitions across all of these differences to make peace in our communities a reality.


Phillip Picardi: So many of the people listening are going to be as moved as I am by your words and want to help, help you help the movement. What are the things that we should be doing?


Pastor Mike McBride: Oh, man, that’s great. So I always tell people to put some DAP on it. Man DAP is an acronym: Donate, Advocate, Participate. You can go to LiveFreeUSA dot org, and if you have five dollars, ten dollars, one hundred dollars, one time—


Phillip Picardi: $500.


Pastor Mike McBride: Yeah. You know, hey if you rolling like that, give us, give us what you got. Send the black preacher a tithe! Somebody say amen. But really donating to our work helps us to hire people with criminal convictions or folks who have come out of these conflicts and we literally hire people to be peacemakers in communities. Donating helps us to make sure we’re able to pass legislation at the local, state and federal level so we can scale this work up and get it funded by our local tax base. So donate is important. Advocate. We want you to help us amplify these solutions by calling your mayor, calling your police chief, calling your governor, calling your congressional representative, and tell them to fund public health gun violence prevention efforts, tell them to reallocate dollars away from policing and into mental health and gun violence prevention programs. So, advocate, use your voice, send a text message, send the email, go to LiveFreeUSA dot org, sign up and get our alerts and petitions. And then participate, in your city there is, I’m sure, a group of front-line intervention specialists—we call them change agents or peacemakers—and show up and help us. We do night walks, peace walks, people need mentoring, people need food, people need diapers and Pampers. People need all kinds of things that can help them make a different decision. And so donate, advocate, participate—put some DAP on it, man. Put some DAP on it, comrade, and help us save some lives.


Phillip Picardi: Excellent. OK, writing down: put some DAP on it. Will absolutely remember that. Pastor Mike, thank you so much for joining me today. I really appreciate it. And thank you for all of your hard and inspiring work.


Pastor Mike McBride: Man, thank you for having me. Y’all stay strong and stay, stay safe.


Phillip Picardi: Well, folks, that’s all for our show today. If you liked what you hear, please give us a rating, leave a review, and help stick it to Mitch McConnell by donating to the Democrats in Georgia Senate races. Stay safe, stay sane, stay healthy, and we’ll see you next time.


Unholier Than Thou is a Crooked Media production. Brian Semel is our Associate Producer and Sydney Rapp is our assistant producer, with production support from Reuben Davis. The theme song is by Taka Yasuzawa, and the show is executive produced by Me, Lyra Smith and Sarah Geismer. Thanks for listening.