Hundreds of evangelicals from churches across the region sang, prayed and tambourined from a side street in Anacostia — with passing cars honking as the marchers held aloft signs mixing Bible verses and “Black Lives Matter” — and to the U.S. Capitol reflecting pool.
Their presence highlighted the decidedly religious flavor of Sunday’s demonstrations, where hymns rang out and many marchers stopped and prayed along their way to the Capitol and the White House.
While conservative evangelicals were a presence in the crowds protesting in D.C. last week, the Sunday march included some of the most high-profile faces, among them David Platt, pastor of McLean Bible, one of the country’s biggest evangelical churches.
Platt gave an opening prayer after being introduced by Thabiti Anyabwile, pastor of Anacostia River Church and one of conservative evangelicalism’s more outspoken black figures on the issue of racism.
“We praise you, in particular, today, Jesus, as this group, for taking the judgment we deserve,” Platt prayed, as the group of a few hundred, mixed in age and race, responded, “Mmm-hmm.”
“As your children, we pray you would forgive us for our history and our present. God forgive us,” he said, pausing long, “for the sin that so infects our heart.”
The march was organized by church leaders who felt the demonstrations haven’t had enough explicitly Christian voices — and because, some of them said, they, in particular, needed to repent.
“We’ve not represented our Lord well,” said Kay Walker, 35, who carried a sign reading “Jesus is for justice.”
“If you say you’re with Jesus, you have to be for justice,” she said. “It should be the church in front, but it’s a shame in past years we haven’t been.”
Anyabwile said he helped organize the event after watching all week how few events were clergy-led.
“This iteration of civil rights is not located in the church, so the church is playing catch-up when it was once the vanguard,” he said.
His church is racially mixed, but he said conversations about the causes and solutions of racial inequality are challenging.
“One skill we don’t have as a country or a church is conversation,” Anyabwile said. “We’re unpracticed at that, and so we’re wrestling with hope.”
As they approached the Capitol, the marchers sang hymns and songs.
Fred Lau, 42, half-chuckled after shouting, “No justice, no peace, followed by MORE justice, MORE peace!”
“It’s two sides of the same point,” said Lau, who lives in McLean and attends Platt’s church. “To a group like this — as Christians, we’re calling for more peace. The message is the same.”