All day I've been thinking about the tragic police shootings that have taken place this week. It's difficult to believe that only two day ago, a man was shot and killed and that video was posted all over social media. This morning, as I got my morning fix of NPR, I could not believe that there had been another gruesome murder, and once again, a video posted onto social media. At first reaction, I wanted to place blame, I looked at the seemingly ostentatious teeth of Alton Sterling and the seemingly callous comportment of Philando Castile's girlfriend and associated the worst of my own prejudices onto the situation. Furthermore, my energy went toward the police as I think of what they must be going through and what their world must be like, especially now, with so much aggression. That took me onto a tangent that has been brewing in my brain since early today. Why all this aggression? Where has it come from and what can I do about it? As I mentioned, upon hearing about these two men's deaths, my instinctual reaction as a goody two-shoes and as a person of my own upbringing, I wanted to blame the guilty and exonerate the innocent. During my prayer, though, something happened. For the first time, I realized that the guilty were not the dead men. Nor were the innocent the officers. In actuality, there is no innocent and the guilty are guilty for reasons other than their rap sheets or their trigger finger. Even as I type, I am trying to grapple with the reality that our world has become so familiar with death and violence. As a minister, I am challenged by the call of Christ to love, the service of Jesus which was to heal and the movements of the Holy Spirit who calmed the chaos at creation. As I reflect on the violence that has taken place, I am shaken to recognize the violence within me and how that is triggered by the shiny gold teeth in Alton's smile, or the shiny gold badge on the officers. As I think about this, I am forced to discern on what it means to be a child of God, and not just as a lip service to the God's of Facebook, but as a true believer in the One who calls me to be a part of His body, the One I see in my brothers and sisters. It scares me, but the aggression I feel is not of God, nor is the anger that naturally rises within me as I read or hear about another black man's death. This isn't just a reality of black men being killed, instead, it is a deeply rooted growth that has taken over our country, not this Christian nation that so many want to shout about, but this country, a land created for all. A land where I am able to celebrate who I am and live freely. Our agression and fear have driven us to see each other not as sisters and brothers, but as a nuisance at best and a threat at worst. We have become a society where we turn to our man-made god's and look for solace, often finding death instead. So all that being said, what does it mean for me to be a Christian? What does it mean to love? and how am I to respond to what has happened. First of all, no, I cannot go seeking revenge. Violence begets violence, no matter what. Secondly, as Christ calls me to love, how am I to do so in today's world? and how am I to do so as a person of non-violence? Finally, in love, how am I to be reconciliation, both within and beyond me? Ultimately, this begins with me. It begins with each of us. It means recognizing those things within us that bristle when brought into the light and moving away from that which is not of God. It means recognizing that the opposite of love is not hate, but fear, and it means going into the darkness with the full knowledge that within me, the light is.
A better tomorrow is not about perfection or Saintliness, it is about an authentic living out my life and celebrating others as they live theirs. It is about moving into tomorrow, not in toleration of others, but in an understanding that makes all of us stronger! I do not have all the answers, but as I reflect, I recognize and beg forgiveness (of the victims, their families and so many others) for those things that I have harbored that have filtered the way I looked at these events in the past. Today, I know what it means to say "Black lives matter." But I would stretch it beyond that, no, I don't intend to cheapen it by saying that all lives matter, instead, I will offer a remind to myself (if not for anyone else) that by saying "Black Lives Matter," I am reaffirming my belief in the Body of Christ, because insofar as the families of these black individuals hurt today, Christ hurts. Christ matters, and Christ is in that car, in that parking lot, in that park, and in that hoodie. I can no longer defend the supposed innocent, for I have seen in myself the ease of placing blame. I am for Christ, and Christ is bloody and dead, and that matters! As always, I love you, you are beautiful. Fr. Rick