Friday, July 8, 2016

All Lives Matter/Every Life Matters

I was writing again, as I do every day now, from the serenity of my screened porch, overlooking the lake. My entirely-too-spoiled Shih Tzus tussled at my feet. The breeze blew the loose strands of hair from around my face. It seemed peaceful and surreal there.

But it was not.

I'd seen the news and the video of Philando Castile's death. I'd listened in horror as he moaned, sat transfixed with shock as he fell over in death. 

I wept bitter tears as I heard his girlfriend say, "He shot him in the arm", because I knew no arm wound had done what I observed. There was at least one bullet in a vital organ. That much was clear.

I'm not offering condemnation for either party. 

I'm saying a man is dead, and that matters. 

A family grieves, and it matters. 

An officer's life has changed in an instant, and it matters. 

His family grieves, and that matters, too. 

All of it should matter to all of us.

We are polarized again, and we don't yet know all the facts. Make no mistake about this: there are still facts to be learned, from both sides. We can be sure of that. 

This blog post is not about who is innocent nor who is guilty. It's not about police or black people or white people. This is about all of us who respond with indignation, angry words, and threats of retaliation to what we have seen and heard. 

Twelve policemen were shot in Dallas last night. Five are dead. How does that make anything better? 

Is there anyone whose judgment is so skewed that they believe slaughtering policemen helped the situation? 
I could easily be overwhelmed with fear, because we have policemen in our town, and I know them. With just over 400 people, we know almost everyone. This little town is a kind of family of its own. 

I understand how quickly a tense situation can spiral out of control, and it frightens me, because an out-of-control situation can quickly become lethal. For one of our citizens. For one of our officers. For someone just passing through.

When that happens, there's always more than one kind of death, and far more than one person left to suffer for years to come. Families torn apart. Communities ripped asunder.  

As I've wept and prayed for our nation, one thing has become clear.

Guns are involved, but they are not the main problem. 

Skin color is involved, but it's not the only problem. 

The problem is, at least in part, fear and hate.

We are afraid, of each other and of the possibilities, and our fear and hate are killing us. The fragile bond of unity we thought was forged has shattered.

There is nothing to be gained by allowing this malignancy of fear and hate to continue. 

I wish I could propose a wise and far-reaching solution, but all that comes to mind is, "Perfect love casts out fear." 

When the love of Jesus constrains me, fills me, and casts out my fear, I don't have to panic over a frightening situation. 

I'm speaking as a white woman who's been in a frightening racial situation before, and it escalated out of control. 

Leaders, black and white, I'm speaking to you.

The ongoing harassment didn't frighten me nearly as much as the riot. If those in authority had allowed me to "take it" for a few more minutes, instead of standing up and making a fuss in the heat of the moment, there wouldn't have been a riot. If the one who threw the first punch had stayed in his seat, there would have been no riot.

So there. I've thought it a long time, and I've finally begun to say it. 

If anyone's anger that night made life better for me, I still can't see it. 

What I know is that their anger only hurt me in the long run. 

Did anyone care what I wanted? I couldn't tell it if they did. They were so proud of standing up for me and handling the moment that I was completely lost in the situation. And I am still miffed about it. 

It would have been better for me to take the minor brunt of a racially-charged situation than to allow a school function to escalate out of control. Blows were exchanged. If there had been guns that night, there'd have been gunfire. People would have died. I have no doubt of it.

Looking back with the distance of more than forty years, I understand that adults wanted to protect me and the other young woman who was also involved. That desire was both appropriate and admirable. In the end, though, they hurt me more with the way the situation was handled. It was FEAR and anger that drove their decisions that night and in the days that followed.

I'd hoped we'd learned from the mistakes of the desegregation years, but we haven't yet. 

I am not proposing that we allow abuse of any kind to continue. God forbid. I am not proposing that we allow criminals to run unchecked on the streets. I am not proposing that all people who are shot are actively committing a crime. I am not even proposing that all shootings are "justified" or unavoidable.

What I am desperately trying to say is that there is a better way, and we need to work together (black and white) to find it.

For the love of all we hold dear, can we stop this nonsense while we try to solve our problems? 

We are a nation of people with multiple skin tones, and those skin tones do not determine what's inside of us. The colors don't even extend all the way through the skin. 

Our hearts are the same color. Every single one of them.

Not every unexpected situation has to frighten us out of our minds. 

We do not have to respond with violence every time we're afraid. 

We do not have to shoot first. Whether we are law enforcement or citizen, innocent or guilty. We do not have to retaliate by shooting more policemen. It only feeds the fire.

I know it sounds like I'm a Pollyanna, but I'm not. I simply believe what I say I do. 

People of God, we have to love first. 

As fellow citizens of this nation, we need to be intentional about getting to know people of different socioeconomic groups, different skin colors, different faiths, different persuasions, and it needs to start with God's people. We need to see that they are not all our enemies. 

If Jesus loves "red and yellow, black and white," we should, too. And the world should be able to tell it.

Yes, there is evil in the world. Yes, there are people who are filled with evil and do evil things. But not everyone who is different from me is evil.

Even if they are evil, how will they ever come to Jesus unless someone who knows Him takes a risk and loves them with the love of Christ?

My life is full of people who are different from me in some way, and it is richer for the diversity. They help me to see life and the issues of today from a different perspective. They give a face to the social issues of the time. Increase my compassion. Decrease my prejudice and hate.

The people in my life who are different from me increase my ability to love as Jesus loves.

I highly recommend a life filled with diverse people and the love of Jesus

We have another problem that is more deadly than fear, and it probably makes our fear worse. We have forgotten how precious life is. Every single life. The born. The unborn. The young. The old. The black. The white. The whatever-difference-frightens-us-today life. They are all precious.

For the love of life, I crawled on my belly under azalea bushes twice a day for weeks, a spoon in one hand and a can of food in the other, in order to feed a dying dog. It was not because I'm a nut about dogs. It was because his life mattered. 

The life of the one who frightens me matters. Even the life of the one with a gun matters,whether he wears a uniform or not.

So, please, listen to me now. The life of the young black man who caused all the trouble forty-four years ago matters. I don't know if he has spent his life in a productive manner, or not, but if he still breathes, he still has a chance to change. And I still pray for him because his life mattered. 

And HIS life matters because ALL life matters. We were created in the image of God, and if that doesn't take your breath away, it should. We are still born in the image of God, though we have done our best to mar that image.

How will we fix these problems? I hate to tell you this, but we are broken and only Jesus can fix us. 

In the meantime, we can begin to make some better choices and they need to begin by understanding that skin color is not even skin deep. It's based on pigment in a few cells. We're all the same on the inside. Fearfully and wonderfully made because God Himself designed us that way.

If you have skin on your outside, you and I are fellow humans. I choose to act as if we have a connection. Because we do. I hope you will, too.

I choose to slow down. Listen to the facts. Look for problems we can change. Try to find solutions in this crisis. I hope you will, too. 

I choose to love you, regardless of your skin color or any other difference we have. I hope you will choose to do the same.

We have a problem. I don't deny that. We need a solution. I don't deny that, either.

Solutions are possible, and we can find them. I want to find them. I hope you do, too.

If you're grieving, I'm genuinely sorry. I want to help you find a way to make it count.

If you're afraid, I'm genuinely sorry about that, too. I want to help you find a way to ease your fears.

If you're angry, I'm especially sorry about that. I want to help you find a way to channel your anger into productive ways that result in positive change.

Fellow citizens, we have a raging fire that will consume us if we do not work together to put it out. Once and for all.

I beg you. Let's work together. Forget about the pigment in our cells and look at the hearts in our chest. We are all flawed by sin, but there is forgiveness, grace, and mercy available. Those of us who claim to follow Christ should know that most of all, should offer forgiveness, grace, and mercy first, should lead the way.

So, in the powerful name of Jesus, let's do what must be done. It is not killing we need. It is life. Love. Forgiveness. Unity.

If we must err, let's err on the side of love, and let's err with love together. No matter what color we are.

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." John 3:16 nasb

I have more thoughts on this subject and more to say. Fear, hate, and the devaluing of life are not our only problems and I intend to address the rest soon.

In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: The Sister Sleepover
#alllivesmatter #blacklivesmatter #Jesus #disciple
And here's the link to the follow-up post, Your Life Matters to Me