CHICAGO, IL (December 9, 2015) — Covenant pastor Daniel Hill was stunned by the amount of vitriolic feedback he has received since a news broadcast showed him leading a prayer at a recent gathering in which he repented for injustices inflicted on minorities by whites and then again later when he explained to a CNN interviewer the reasons behind his words.
“We got 50 phone calls at the church. I got hundreds of emails. A lot of people responded on some of my previous blog posts,” said Hill who is pastor of River City Church, an ECC multiethnic congregation in Chicago. Although a vast majority of the response has been positive, there still has been a large backlash.
“I don’t think I’ve ever experienced so much hate,” Hill said. “I got called the devil and a pawn of Satan’s schemes. I’m thinking, ‘How can a Christian who’s calling for corporate repentance be a pawn of Satan?’ ”
Hill said he normally doesn’t read past the first line of an email if he sees that it is hateful, but those can be bad enough. The first line on one email he read before arriving at church on Sunday said, “I hope one of those n—gers in your church kills you and he leaves you out on the street dead today so you can see what you’re fighting for was stupid.”
Hill said, “I expected people to be more civil. I thought maybe I’d get, “I’m a Christian, I’m not racist, and I don’t think you should be repenting for me.” And I’m fine with that. I get it.”
The prayer gathering was held November 30 in front of Chicago Police Headquarter and drew more than 200 people. Covenant ministers played a large role in organizing the event and were among several who led different prayers. Hill was asked to lead the prayer of repentance.
He referenced the shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by a Chicago police officer. A video released by the city shows the officer shooting the teenager 16 times.
Speaking through a megaphone, Hill prayed, “We repent of the violent acts done in the name of racism. We repent of the apathy that has caused so many of us to sit on the sidelines.”
Hill also prayed, “[We repent for] the history of holding our people, our color, our kind as the epitome of most valuable, and of devaluing so many other people. Of devaluing so many black lives. None of us want to say it out loud, but we show it in the ways that our systems play out every day in our country.”
CNN asked him to appear in an interview with Brooke Baldwin after a news crew filmed him at the event. He subsequently has been interviewed by Jet magazine and was a guest Monday on The Alan Colmes Show aired by Fox News Radio.
In addition to being surprised by the vitriol, Hill was as surprised that he received so much attention from the media. “It’s not like I’m the first white pastor to have prayed a corporate prayer of repentance. This isn’t something new with me.”
Corporate prayer also isn’t a new concept, Hill said. “There’s a lot of places in the Old Testament where there is corporate lament and confession. Almost every prophet repents for the entire community and certainly they’re not saying each person is equally culpable. There are nuances in it. But there’s still is this larger meta-narrative of a corporate confession.”
Hill added, “I mean it’s up to each person if they want to repent personally, but you could be the most perfect, non-racist person but you couldn’t deny that the system in which you live has been shaped by racism. We’re all culpable by just being in it.”