Tumbling in the Sand
Officer Brent Thompson
Officer Patrick Zamarripa
Sergeant Michael Smith
Officer Michael Krol
Senior Corporal Lorne Ahrens
I watched the videos this week.
I watched Alton killed.
I watched Philando die.
I watched the chaos that issued at the Black Lives Matter march when the gunfire started.
It made me sick to watch, but I watched anyway — and wept.
I tried to absorb the horror of it all.
I thought about those I know and love — mentors, friends, colleagues, schoolmates —
who happen to be black men.
I thought about their brilliance, their humor, their huge hearts. Their sacred, fragile lives.
I thought about the police that I know and have known — who have been some of the best people I could ever hope to have met. And I thought about their sacred, fragile lives.
I read a whole lot of other people’s words — and more words — and more words. Some really, really great words.
I guess I was trying to find the words that I needed to speak — especially to you,
who I barely yet know
and who do not yet really know me —
And I am yet not sure I found the right words. Perhaps this could be an invitation to conversation.
—honestly, there are no words
there are no words that make sense of the horror of killing other human beings.
There are also no easy words that make sense of this earth—this very ground beneath our feet— that is saturated with the blood of too many people who’ve died because of racism and racial hatred.
People fighting for freedom, for rights, for the hopes of peace as though these things needed to be limited resources
as though the freedom and rights and peace of one group of people
precludes the freedom, rights, and freedom of another.
Which is an absolutely ridiculous notion, by the way,
but there is little doubt we act as if it were in fact true.
We have not learned that to love our neighbor as ourself means something else entirely —
and so we set one against another — again and again and again —
in this case,
black lives against police lives
— which is really just an iteration of black and brown lives against white lives — this country’s original sin.
But, there are other cases:
Israelis against Palestinians
Muslims against Christians
In Jesus’ day, one of these divisions was the Jews against the Samaritans
The Samaritans were generally viewed by the Jews as unclean, as outsiders, as others.
When they has come back from exile in Babylon, the Jews appropriated the land from the Samaritans that were there, pushing them further and further to the margins.
The Samaritans pushed back.
And the Jews and Samaritans hated each other
— disagreeing about religion, about holy places, about land, about leadership, about everything in between.
The crazy part of that is that the division was essentially false.
The Samaritans themselves claim to be the descendants of the Northern Kingdom of Israel from the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. Descended from the Israelites who were left behind when Israel fell to the Assyrians — and today (because the Samaritans still exist as a people today) they are considered to be a branch of Jews by the moderns state of Israel.
But this division – the Samaritans and the Jews — is not the only division that is false
that is really maintained only by stereotypes, fears, hatred
and systems of power that benefit from us being convinced
that some people are more valuable than others
and some people are a fundamental threat — simply for being who they are.
And we live with and into these divisions—
when we ignore the humanity of those who are not like us
perpetrating stereotypes, hatred, and fear
when we do not listen to the hurt of others
when we do not see their humanity
when we do not empathize and do not acknowledge the truth in one another’s stories
when we leave the suffering ones on the side of the road for dead
And in doing these things, we destroy our own humanity in the process.
For how are we to truly love ourselves if we do not love our neighbor?
“And who is my neighbor?” the lawyer asks Jesus.
The answer reveals more than a call to reach out to the ones who are hurting
to make them well
as if we were all already whole
because, if you notice, Jesus puts the lawyer in the place of the broken man
on the side of the road
receiving help from the one he would least expect.
Notice how Jesus turns the question back,
“Which of these three was the neighbor to the man …?
It’s as if Jesus would remind the man and us as well
That without our neighbor, we would die.
That our divisions and false assumptions about each other damage us deeply
And only when we bind each other’s wounds
and accept each other’s care
are we made well.
And it also might just be a good way to remind us
That a certain outside knelt down,
touched the earth and our wounds,
and became human.
That outsider joined us in our suffering
caring for us with their very divine life
so that we might live.
May God continue to bind up the broken and heal what we cannot.