Tragedy in America
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Greetings in Christ. The night of the shooting of police in our city, I was writing this blog piece when the news broke. I wanted to leave a time for grief and solidarity with those who work for public safety in the City of Dallas. But I do want to offer my prior thoughts as well.
In an intensely political season, in which everything, it seems, becomes someone’s partisan football, there are some things which so cry out that they defy politicization. With two more shootings of African American men this week we have reached a point of shared national anguish and urgency.
I do not have a ready antidote for this pain and division. It has immediate causes and deeper roots. As a white male I am sure there is much I do not understand. Gestures are easy but of limited help. But I do know this. The witness of Christians is essential at this moment. Are the divisions of race and class absent in the Church? Of course not. Should that stop us from finding what modest witness we can? It must not.
A few months ago I had the privilege of taking a tour of churches in south Dallas and their ministries of outreach in our own city. Baptists are housing young men recently released from juvenile and helping to find them jobs. The destitute are fed. Women trapped in prostitution hear the Gospel and find a community in which they can struggle toward a new life. The mental health implications of poverty are confronted. Tutoring and mentoring are offered to young people. Might someone say these efforts are too little for the magnitude of the problems? Of course, but that cannot be our response, which is, first, simply to give thanks to God.
Supposing quickly we have an answer is a mistake. We do better to sit in patience with our sense of shock. We need simply to begin by acknowledging that these are our problems, since no person, and so no group, is an island. But I am sure of this much: a witness is called for from us who are Christians together, black and white, in our city. It is required not, first of all, out of guilt or anger, but because we actually are one body, already. We need to pray and seek, by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, how we can make common cause, not for political reasons, first of all, but because we, as Christians together, are called to pray for the ‘welfare of Jerusalem,’ the city God has here given us. I am quite confident that the shape of that common witness and diaconate will come clear, as we listen as well as speak. Join me in the coming days, in that silence, and helplessness, and prayer, and resolution, and the rediscovery of the prior reality of the Body.