We woke this morning to learn of horrifying carnage on the streets of Dallas: five police officers killed, seven wounded, the deadliest attack for law enforcement in the U.S. since 9/11. They were targeted while managing an otherwise peaceful demonstration responding to the equally horrifying deaths of two more black men earlier in the week, both shot while in police custody.
These events are too close to have a deeply rational conversation. I’m feeling the need to cry out like the ancient psalmist: “How long, O Lord? Will you forget us forever? How long will you hide your face from us? How long must we take counsel in our souls and have sorrow in our hearts all the day?” (Psalms 13)
So I retreat into prayer for the moment, attempting to hold close those who lost lives, those who took lives, and all those who loved them. My words falter, but my heart is sure. As Paul instructed his friends, I pray in groans too deep for words. As you read this, I invite you to join your heart to mine…
As I lift my spiritual gaze higher, I consider the implacable divisions that continue to plague our land, especially the pernicious racism that was baked into our national genetics from the beginning of our democratic journey nearly three and half centuries ago. “I want to kill white people,” the sniper proclaimed, as reported by the African-American police chief. “Black Lives Matter!” demonstrators assert, responding to recurrent images caught on cell phones revealing how black lives evidently don’t matter.
I consider how a free society relies on a courageous and virtuous police force. I am reminded how much I value their commitment and service. They should not fear for their lives for wearing a uniform. But neither should any citizen fear for the safety of their children because of their skin color, in a land that has historically and systemically perpetrated a double-standard society.
The Christ Church mission statement comes to mind: We seek to love God above all things, and our neighbors as ourselves. And I consider how this rises up as a rebuke to our current moment; a hopeful rebuke, for it doesn’t leave us powerless. Perhaps it seems puny and sentimental in the face of senseless violence, but sacrificial love has been revealed as God’s weapon of choice for ushering in God’s good kingdom. We sense the underlying grounding logic of this.
But who shall bear witness to this love? More and more, I am coming to believe that the church, the people called and gathered in the name of love and for the sake of love, are, or should be, at the vanguard, pointing, leading the way forward.