Friday, July 08, 2016

Racism, Tragedy, Empathy, and Prayer

So much has been said; opinions given, like buttons of approval, comments of disagreement. Trying to add to the conversation feels unnecessary at best and taking advantage of controversy for the sake of "likes" at worst.

But, I sit here distracted as I try to study and craft the sermon for this Sunday.  There is rich truth found in the passage and I look forward to preaching it.  Yet, all I can think about is how to help those God has placed under my care think about and act on the tragedies of the past few days.  

I've seen the video of Alton Sterling's death.  I’m not an expert on police tactics.  Nor, can I see or know everything that happened in that moment.  I’m not a judge, a prosecutor, or a jury.  But, I am a Christian.  I’m a Christian that is called to weep with those who weep.  Christians, of all people, should take on the role of empathy and understanding.  

I can’t imagine being a police officer who knows they have to make split second life and death decisions.  I can’t imagine carrying the weight of the ability to take life to protect others and my own. I’m thankful that men and women take on this God ordained role daily for our protection and the keeping of peace.

I can’t imagine being a black man who bears on his shoulders the weight of history - whether we like to admit it or not.  His father or grandfather was probably alive during the Jim Crow era.  That matters. There is likely an automatic suspicion of authority passed down from that experience.  I can’t imagine the panic Sterling probably felt in that moment that may have caused him to act irrationally.  

I can’t imagine being a black person viewing the video and experiencing a gut wrenching, unexplainable, tension running through their body thinking “here we go again.”

I can’t imagine being the parent of a black child, wondering if their child will respond "correctly" if they encounter the police.  In college I was pulled over because my car resembled one that had been stolen.  My friend, who happens to be black, was sitting in the passenger seat.  When the officer came to the window my friend leaned forward so he could see the officer and hear what he was saying.  The officer's hand immediately went to his holster, telling him to lean back.  I know the officer didn’t know why he was leaning forward and was acting to be ready just in case.  But, I wonder if my friend didn’t hear the officer say “lean back” and bent down further so he could hear what he said.  Then what? Innocent situations can become dangerous really quickly.  We’re simply ignoring reality if we can’t understand the fear that creates for parents of black children.

I can’t imagine the pain and heartache the families of the Dallas police officers are experiencing today. They were doing their job, planning to have dinner with their families the next day, but were killed by someone foolishly attempting to oppose injustice by acting unjustly.  

If all we do is blindly take sides and line up on one side or the other yelling at each other, then we won’t ever make any progress.  Instead, we have to try, as best we can, to understand why these things happen and try to prevent it from happening again.  Facts matter, but so do history, experiences, and emotion.

Therefore, as Christians we must strive to empathize with the pain and hurt so many are feeling today.  Weep with those who weep.  We must pray for God to bring comfort and peace to those in pain.  We must pray for those in authority, asking God to give them wisdom as they investigate this case and bring justice where necessary.  We must pray for police officers who risk their lives daily.  We must pray for Sheriffs and Police Chiefs to have wisdom as they seek to continue to train officers on how to handle stressful and threatening situations.  We must pray for empathy and understanding concerning experiences that are foreign to many of us.  We must pray that racism, in all its forms - conscious and unconscious, comes to an end.

One day King Jesus will come, bringing both justice and lasting peace.  Until that day we pray, “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

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