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Christian pastor's emotional video reaction to recent police shootings goes viral: 'This is not OK'
Savanna Hartman, a lead pastor at Banner Church in Tampa, Florida, posted an emotional video reacting to the shooting death of Alton Sterling that has amassed more than 12.5 million views since it was posted to her Facebook page July 6. - photo by Billy Hallowell
A Christian pastor's raw and candid reaction to the shooting death of Alton Sterling, a black man who was killed this week during a clash with police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has gone viral.

The 37-year-old's death has sparked intense controversy and protests in cities across the nation, renewing debate over race relations and ongoing claims about purported police misconduct.

It was Sterling's death that led Savanna Hartman, a lead pastor at Banner Church in Tampa, Florida, to post an emotional video reaction that has amassed more than 12.5 million views since it was posted to her Facebook page July 6.

Hartman, who opened the nearly 10-minute clip by saying that she was nervous and unsure of how it would be received, proceeded to explain that she is frustrated and confused in the wake of Sterling's death.

"There have been a lot of tears in my morning, a lot of frustration and a lot of hurt and confusion," she said. "I feel like no matter what is said someone will be hurt."

But despite her contention that her message would likely offend, she proceeded to read a poem about the state of race relations in America, prefacing her pointed words by saying, "No matter what color you are, I love you very, very much."

The poem focused on the plight of black Americans and encouraged white people to come together to acknowledge the problems faced by the black community, with Hartman becoming emotional throughout her delivery of the message.

"I won't pretend to know how you feel, but I have something to say that's true and real, and that's that I'm sorry for how we behaved, starting the very moment that you were enslaved," the poem read, in part. "I'm sorry for scars you bore then and bear now, because of wounds we have caused or allowed."

At one point in the incredibly emotional poem, Hartman pleaded with white people watching not to exit out of the video and to listen, despite the fact that she acknowledged that the discussion is "uncomfortable."

Watch Hartman's video here.

"To say race isn't an issue perpetuates myth," she continued. "I'm not against cops, so don't make this about that. ... This isn't about black men or white women or cops. It's about senseless behavior on all sides that must stop ... all our lives matter. We were bought with love."

In the end, Hartman said she feels compelled to speak out, even if that means losing friends in the process. She concluded with a prayer for justice for African-Americans impacted by a broken system and asked God to help whites accept their role in what has unfolded.

"Somebody has to stand up and say that this is not OK. These lives matter," she said. "I cannot keep living in a broken system in a broken world, where I am weeping over deaths that were avoidable and unnecessary."

On the same day that Hartman's video was posted, another African-American man 32-year-old Philando Castile was shot by a police officer during a traffic stop in Minnesota, further intensifying debate and protests in cities across the nation.

Then, on July 7, shooters killed five cops in Dallas during protests against police an attack that CNN called "the deadliest incident for U.S. law enforcement since Sept. 11, 2001."

A total of 11 cops were shot during the assault, with three suspects currently in custody.

In the wake of these incidents, many will surely be looking to churches and faith leaders to help cope with pain and confusion, but there will also be broader discussions and questions about how the faithful can each individually step in to help work toward reconciliation and take other remedial actions.

"If evangelicals were to say, No more with the veracity, with the energy, with the conviction that the protestors do, stuff would cease tomorrow," author Lisa Sharon Harper told Relevant this week. "Because not only are evangelicals the largest single religious group in America beside Catholics, we also tend to hold a lot of power in society."
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