I would rather write this week about African Violets, than I would about the social unrest in our country. It would be a way safer subject, and unlikely to be controversial. I feel like anything I write about our country’s unrest—and the injustices fueling the anger—will probably miss the point. Yet, what are we saying, if we don’t say anything about the injustices we are witnessing?
This is a difficult subject to try to address. I can only speak from my own experiences, and it’s unlikely I’m going to fully (or even partially) understand the experiences of others. Where do we start? It seems to me respect is a good starting point. What if we lay down our judgments, and truly listen to each other? We need to see each other as equally worthy people, and to learn from each other. This doesn’t mean to ignore our differences, but to appreciate our differences. Each person brings something valuable to the table if we will make room for one another.
It’s hard, though, to force our way to the table. It’s easier, and more productive, to be invited. Who has the power to invite? Power is an important issue. So often we underestimate our own power. Words like “privilege” have a way of immediately getting people upset. It’s difficult to admit we have advantages we did nothing to earn. This can come from things like the color of our skin; the country where we are born; our gender; sexual identity; physical stature and health; mental health; the neighborhood where we were raised; or the family who raised us. We like to believe we have achieved all of our successes on our own, and tend to focus more on our challenges than our advantages. Have we ever said: “If I could do it, anyone could do it”? What if this statement is based on false assumptions? As we look at the race of life, could it be accurate to say we each have different starting lines?
Power is an intense responsibility. If it is irresponsibly used, it can damage, destroy, and even kill. Used appropriately, it can build up, encourage, and improve lives. Power can be very unpredictable. The power we have in one moment can be gone in the next. It needs to be used wisely, and with some trepidation.
This week I have especially been thinking about “Black Lives Matter” and “The Thin Blue Line”. Recent history has been devastating for both of these groups. There are names we quickly recognize, like George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. Other names most of us don’t recognize, like Waldis Johnson. Officer Waldis Johnson, a City of Detroit police officer, was shot in the head while responding to a domestic violence call in Detroit on April 30, 2017. After a three year battle, Waldis died from his injuries Sunday evening. None of these lives were expendable. Each case is a tragedy. With all of them, power was inappropriately used. Do we care?
Being a pastor, it’s probably not surprising my mind goes to scripture. I’m thinking about when Jesus was arrested. Because of Jesus’ instructions, his disciples brought along two swords (Luke 22:36-38). Jesus said scripture must be fulfilled. At the moment he was being arrested, his disciples asked: “Lord, should we strike with the sword?” It looks like they didn’t wait for his answer. We are not told who was the one who struck the slave of the high priest with the sword. We are told he cut off the slave’s right ear. Jesus responded by saying: “No more of this!” Then he touched the man’s ear and healed him (Luke 22:49-51). Why did Jesus do this?
Can our country—and our world—be healed? I think the answer depends on how much we are willing to care for other people. It’s time for us to say: “No more of this! We have got to stop killing each other!” Each of us has the opportunity to use our voices, and our power, to stop injustices. We need to love strong enough to break through our own biases and fears. Change can start with the voice and actions of one person, though it can’t stop there. Real change is dependent on the “many” becoming involved. Do we care enough to become involved? This is a question for us both as individuals and as churches.
Your brother on the journey, Mark
Further thoughts: I’m now in my last month of being the South District Superintendent. Our world keeps changing so fast, I’m wondering what will I write about in my four remaining “Mark’s Musings”?