Dallas Pastor Makes Emotional Plea For Justice In His City And His Country

"We just cannot sit back and be patient and watch these things happen when our sisters and brothers are hurting like that."

Dallas pastor George Mason had no idea his sermon would reach quite as many people as it did. He says he was just doing what he does on most Sundays: preaching about justice.

Mason, who works at the Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, spoke with palpable emotion about the death of Botham Jean, a 26-year-old man was shot in his own home by an off-duty police officer in early September. But it was his criticism of the justice system and his call for other Christians to join the African-American community in solidarity, that got the attention of civil rights activist Shaun King.  

"I want to commend Dallas Pastor George Mason for these words on the murder of Botham Jean and the ugliness that has followed," King tweeted out with a link to Mason's sermon. "This is a good example of how white pastors should be using their pulpits to talk to white people about racism and police brutality."

In his sermon, Mason spoke directly and candidly about the failure of the justice system to protect people of color and called for all worshippers to take up the call for equality and justice.

"It's been a hard week in Dallas. The fatal shooting of a young and impressive professional man named Botham Jean by an off-duty police officer, Amber Guyger, is a tragedy that has rocked the soul of this city," Mason told his congregation. "This police officer shot an unarmed citizen in his own home. The victim was Black, the officer White. Even if race didn't factor into the event initially, nonetheless, the preferential treatment of the officer by the criminal justice system reminds us that justice in the city and in this country is still not colorblind — whether you are White or Black or brown or blue."

Reached by A Plus for comment, Mason did not take credit for the words in his sermon. Instead, he pointed to his Black colleagues and fellow clergymen who taught and inspired him. 

"My life has been influenced and touched by many of my Black colleagues throughout the years who have taught me and been patient with me and opened up to me and invited me into their lives and been truthful with me about what is going on," Mason told A Plus. 

Mason was also inspired to give his sermon by a deep outrage at the killing of Jean, and what many perceived as an attempt by the Dallas Police Department to assassinate his character after the fact. Mason's outrage, paired with his faith in a religion he describes as filled with stories of the oppressed, marginalized and disenfranchised, led him to speak out. 

"Any attempt historically by the White church to pretend that you can have a gospel without a commitment to justice for those who are suffering inequality and justice in society is no gospel," Mason said. "It has to be good news for everyone or its good news for no one."

Lindsay Burehl, who lives in Sachse, Texas, but has been going to the Wilshire church for a little less than a year, said Mason's sermon was par for the course. She found Wilshire after what she described as a "dark night of the soul" and a desire to be part of a church that spoke for justice. 

"Wilshire has always been doing justice work but we can't continue to be this lonely little church, we can't take on all the burden we need more help from other churches," Burehl said. "I hope this sparks a fire to get more churches involved in justice. It's just the most amazing thing to participate in when you've been given life and you can help other people have life too. There's enough for all of us."

For Burehl, the Wiltshire church's strength goes beyond just addressing racial justice. She said the church was LGBT affirming, it was the first time she was affirmed as a woman, and it was the first time a church had created a space where she felt she could share her #MeToo story and trust that she would be believed. 

The video's spread wasn't without controversy. Some people online suggested that the congregation seemed uninterested or unenthused by his words. In the video, several members behind Mason appear to be looking at their hands or away from Mason while he speaks. But by Burehl's account, the church is so used to Mason's fight against racial injustice that they weren't particularly surprised by his words. In fact, she said several members of the congregation spoke after the sermon — prior to the clip going viral — and said that they wished they had responded with more "amens" and clapping.

Mason insisted that while he is getting a lot of attention now, he is one of many clergymen — including White clergymen — who speak about issues like racial justice. His colleagues often don't have large platforms, and so they often aren't heard, he said. Still, that doesn't minimize what he viewed as the main problem, which is that people are "not willing to take a responsibility for our White privilege and for the legacy of White supremacy and the persistence of racism."

Both Mason and Burehl are hoping that this sermon creates momentum for other churches to get involved in fighting injustices.

"This family is in pain and the community is hurting," Mason said. "This is against the backdrop of so many times people in the Black community do not feel that they are treated equally or fairly under the law or by law enforcement. We just cannot sit back and be patient and watch these things happen when our sisters and brothers are hurting like that."

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