Hello again friends,
This is a post that has been on my mind for a little while now, but I had the hardest time trying to get right. I had a hard time trying to get it right because for as much as certain people would want you to believe otherwise, our country is in a very complicated, very difficult time. There are no easy answers. There are no one size fits all solutions. So a blog post doesn't seem adequate to the task, and yet a blog is all I have.
A few days ago, Twitter started buzzing with this video of a young man who was shot while being detained by police officers. Twitter had a video of a man losing his life. You could watch it happen. I'll be honest, I didn't want to watch. I would rather just keep going about my day and not be bothered. How could I possibly watch a man's life end on my computer screen. But after a day or so, I convinced myself that it was important to watch, to witness injustice so I knew better how to speak out against it. It was, of course, unsettling. I sat in my study at home and trembled for a little while. How could this happen? How is something like this going on in my own nation?
And then, almost as quickly as I had watched that video, another surfaced. This time it was a video of a young man who had been shot during a traffic stop because he had a gun. Legally. He had paper work and everything, in fact it's been reported that he was reaching for the paperwork to show the officer who had pulled him over when the officer shot him. Two videos in two days of young, African American men losing their lives at the hands of police officers.
Now, what happened next seemed both completely predictable and shocking all at the same time. Facebook erupted with posts about the situation, with some folks lining up behind the Black Lives Matter movement and suggesting that perhaps young African Americans don't need to die at the hands of police officers, and other folks lining up behind law enforcement, saying that All Lives Matter and that BLM should stop stirring up trouble. I starred again at my screen in disbelief at our nation's inability to have a decent conversation around all of this.
And then Dallas happened. A man with some pretty evident mental health issues opened fire on police officers who had gathered to keep the peace around some Black Lives Matter protests. 5 officers dead. A bunch more wounded. This event did several things to be sure, but what it did super well was further cement certain people into certain view points.
When I take all of this in, I really want to run and hide. I really want to believe in a world where violence does not exist. I really want to believe in a world where we don't judge people based on the color of their skin, but rather as Dr. King put it on the content of their character. I want to believe in that world. I just don't live in it yet.
If I learned anything at Seminary, I learned my actual job description. Sure, I have tasks and duties at the church I work for, but I have one real job description. It's my job to preach the Gospel. It's my job to proclaim light in the midst of darkness. And so I feel the need to take a few moments to speak into darkness, and remind us all that there is in fact light in the world.
For starters, Black Lives Matter. It is, as I have learned, completely unhelpful to suggest in the midst of everything that is going on that All Lives Matter. There are countless good articles on this (as well as some really terrible ones) floating around the internet, but this one is really great. The long and short of it my friends is that we have a problem with race in this country. Trying to pretend it isn't there won't help. Trying to down play it's size won't help. Pretending that other people have a race problem, but we're really quite good doesn't help. Really pretending in any way, shape, or form doesn't help. I have needed to come to terms with the fact that as a heterosexual white man, I have never walked into a room where I needed to explain myself. I know plenty of people for whom that is not true. We have a problem, and it needs to be addressed. We as Christians need to come alongside our African American brothers and sisters and with them proclaim loudly that their lives do in fact matter, that the killing needs to stop. Jesus reminded us that he would be with those who were in the most distress, the least of these he called them. I have no doubt that Jesus stands with the African American community right now, as they try to sort out where to go next and how to make the world better. And I want to be where Jesus is.
But then comes the other side of the coin. My problem with social media's response to this week's news is that there is an assumption that there are sides to this issue. I bet you at least a dollar someone read this post up until this point, saw all that I had to say about Black Lives Matter, and left in a tizzy assuming I was anti-law enforcement. Hear this friends: not every issue has two sides. In fact, very few do. It is possible to believe that Black Lives Matter and at the same time recognize the incredible sacrifice that law enforcement officers make on a daily basis. I can still be amazed that these brave men and women charge into situations every day without knowing what cost it will have for them or their families. Everyone they meet could be armed. Everyone they meet could be out to get them. Everyone they meet could want to hurt them. And this is the job they signed up for! OF COURSE our police officers deserve respect, love, and affection. Of course the actions of the few do not speak for the many. Absolutely of course no officer deserves to die at the hands of a mad gunman. Support and encouragement is rarely a zero sum game. Supporting the Black Lives Matter movement does not mean I have less support to give the police officers to fight for truth and justice. I can, and I hope I will, support them both wholeheartedly in the days and weeks to come, and hope you will too.
You see, when we retreat into our corners, when we pick a position to defend, we're too busy defending to build. The beautiful part of the Christian story is that God is building a Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, and has invited us to participate alongside. The beautiful part of the Christian story is that the world I dream for, where violence is a thing of the past, is an actually realizable goal. I think what we're witnessing now is the result of too many people setting down the tools of kingdom building in exchange for the tools of politics and rhetoric. I think what we're witnessing now is what happens when too many servants bury their talents (Matthew 25). I think what we're witnessing now is anti-Kingdom.
If we're willing, you and I can turn the tide on this. If we're willing to set aside politics and rhetoric, willing to get out of our corners, willing to un-trench ourselves from the only choices the world hands us, things will get better. We've mourned. We've wailed. We've wrung our hands. And all of that was appropriate. But now is the time to bring in the kingdom. Now is the time to build something better from the ashes of disaster. Now is the time to let Justice roll down.
Who's with me?