Part 4: Conversations Post Tragedy

Part 4: Conversations Post Tragedy

Posted on October 01, 2016

Back in July, Senior Pastor, Dave Rod', reached out to long-time Grace attender, Marc Williams to get his perspective on the situation. Over the last few months, they've been having an authentic and public conversation on the tragedies happening not only in the U.S., but all over the world. We're restarting the conversation. But, before we do, catch up on Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of what has been discussed thus far.

Marc: So I knew that we would be able to continue this conversation because the Devil is busy. Now that's something I've heard since I was a kid and believe in firmly. There's always some work to do and the Devil is constantly doing something to get in the way of it.
 
At this point, I'm not really sure how to manage my emotional response to continued injustices of many kinds in our country, particularly involving unarmed people being killed by police officers. My whole life I've been trying to find a balance with police. My uncle is a police officer in Gary, Indiana. Some of my friends are police officers. Some of my friends growing up, their parents were police officers or in law enforcement agencies. Some of my students are children of police officers. It's not like I'm disconnected from the law enforcement community. 
 
And at the same time, I read and pay attention to history and the present. Black became subject to policing after the end of slavery in the South, in a system of Jim Crow laws and policies. So the injustices are not new and once were codified by law. Lynchings happened knowingly and in some cases with the cooperation of law enforcement. Cases where law enforcement did not pursue known suspects; the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in 1963 is an example. I watched Rodney King get beat by police who weren't held accountable. I saw the footage of Eric Garner, Oscar Grant, Tamir Rice and others die at the hands of police. I have all that in my head.
 
Since I've had a driver's license, I've been hyper-aware of police officers as I'm out and around my surroundings. I know that some people think Black men are up to no good, shiftless, non-productive or whatever. That is real. It's uncomfortable but it's real. I know that police departments do not exist in a vacuum. There could be people serving as officers who has this bias and prejudice. It would be impossible and foolish to suggest otherwise. Being a cop doesn't mean somebody's automatically a great person who is respectful of everyone and serves with humility. It also doesn't mean somebody's automatically terrible. So that's my reality with the police. I don't criticize myself for that, but that's my reality.
 
So that's what I'm trying to balance. 
 
But as a follower of Christ, I feel like I ought to have something to say about the injustices that do exist. I watch the Church move into ministry and service all over the planet and it's amazing. I've been on one trip to Rwanda and plan to go back very soon and I love that. But these ministries are not as widely controversial as talking about how racism and prejudice affect policing. It seems like we are really good at the ministries that we mostly agree are valuable and helpful, things that are not widely controversial. Most people agree that we should feed and clothe people or find shelter and care for those in need after natural disasters or wars. But some people see or hear racism and prejudice and get nervous, ready to leave the room. I think we all have seen this happen in person. Talking about racism, in any context, makes some people uncomfortable. 
 
So if we really drilled down where would Christ followers be in those conversations? Are we having those conversations in churches? Are we actively strategizing so we can take action to promote change with intentionality, focusing on racism and prejudice? If we are doing it, are we doing enough? I bet churches in neighborhoods with high violent crime rates and high recidivism are talking about it. It probably directly affects members of those churches. But if it's not on your doorstep, it's easy to dismiss it when it is controversial or makes people uncomfortable. 
 
This makes me uncomfortable though. So for anyone reading it, if you're uncomfortable that's ok. I just wonder what we are doing. Are we looking at it from far away and just kind of doing color commentary and play-by-play? Are we preparing to put on the armor and do work? Are we just blown away and clueless? I feel all of those on a daily basis. But I keep praying that God would once again show up with some instructions. This feels like a wilderness to me, just a whirlwind of confusion sometimes. I just find something to be thankful for as often as I can but it doesn't make the brokenness I see any less broken.