A Pastor’s Response to Events in Baton Rouge, St. Paul and Dallas
Yesterday in worship, I addressed last week’s deaths of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Philando Castile in St. Paul, and the deaths of the five police officers in Dallas – Sgt. Michael Smith, Senior Cpl. Lorne Ahrens, Officer Michael Krol, Officer Patrick Zamarripa, and Officer Brent Thompson. Because I know we are not all together each Sunday, and because of the profound implications of the events of the last week in our nation and in our faith, I wanted to reiterate some of my thoughts here.
My soul aches when I witness our nation feeling compelled or impassioned to take a side, to say that we have to choose either to support our law enforcement community or to support the Black Lives Matter movement, but not both. As I witness this trend, I see a powerful force that is trying to dehumanize us by driving us apart. By making this an either/or decision of who to support and who to hate, instead of following the way of love that almost always leads us into more grey areas of both/and.
I feel as a minister of the gospel that it is my duty to name this dehumanizing force and to call all of those who claim to follow Jesus to resist it. The force wants to whisper in our ear, “Look, those supporters of Black Lives Matter are just violent,” but we must resist this force. This dehumanizing forces wants to convince us, “All police officers are racists,” but we must resist this force.
I resist the force that tries to diminish the voices of my African-American brothers and sisters by remembering that I do not know what it is like to be black in America today. So instead of making a snap judgment, I must resist by pausing to listen. If the ones I love are saying that they are vulnerable, hurt, judged and victimized, I have to listen before I start telling them how they should really feel. Love seeks to understand. While it is true that all lives matter in the eyes of God, I have to remember that is the house on fire in my neighborhood that needs water. All houses matter, but that one needs immediate, emergency attention. After Jesus preached the beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, someone could have stood up and said, “Jesus, you say ‘Blessed are the meek, blessed are the poor in spirit.’ But aren’t we all blessed?” Jesus knew that we needed to be reminded that certain members of our population are blessed. So I resist the dehumanizing force by standing with those who say that Black Lives Matter.
And I resist the force that tries to smear my brothers and sisters in the law enforcement community with broad strokes, calling them racist and considering them evil. I must remember that I do not know what it is like to protect and serve in America today, and that their calling is indeed very complex and very important. As wielders of authority they also have a very high responsibility, but to show our support and to seek to understand the issues at stake is a more helpful way to hold them accountable. It is certainly more helpful to listen to them and try to work with them than to resort to the type of vengeful violence that we all witnessed in Dallas.
When we face the darkness of our own brokenness like we have in the past week, it is infuriating and humiliating and humbling, but paralysis cannot be an option for those who wish to see the agape love of Jesus Christ win the day. If we become paralyzed, the dehumanizing forces will not stop. So even with broken hearts, we must resist.