Last week my Facebook feed was full of stories about Michael Brown, but only after the protests and violence began. The hard truth is that August 9, 2014 was yet one more day in America where unarmed black men are shot and killed.
In just the last month, police officers killed three other unarmed black men: Eric Garner in New York, John Crawford III in Ohio, and Ezell Ford in Los Angeles. Nearly two times a week a white police officer killed a black person between 2005 and 2012, according to data reported to the FBI. I do not know all the facts in these cases. But, we cannot deny the reality that black men are disproportionately the subjects of violence. Nor can we ignore the increasing militarization of our police.
I am overwhelmed, as you must be too, by the images coming from Ferguson: by tanks rolling down residential streets, by hands raised in surrender in front of guns and gas masks, by peacekeepers desperately trying to curb protests turned violent. Today I read this update and wondered if I would have such courage were unrest laid on our doorstep:
“An armored vehicle moved down the street trying to clear the crowd, and some pastors stood with their arms locked trying to restore peace. They helped to move protesters away from the police line.”
Something is amiss when we, at least as followers of Jesus, take such violence as a matter of course. Ours is a savior who was killed unjustly at the hands of the state, the sacrifice to end sacrifices. We need no more death to keep us safe.
So I pause to acknowledge the injustice of this situation. I recognize that I have privilege that insulates and blinds me to injustice. I am troubled by policies that make situations like these worse, and must be changed.
I also acknowledge that I am a follower of Jesus. So I believe that the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead is at work among our bodies also. I believe that people of faith, in Ferguson and Washington, are sitting with this pain, looking at ourselves critically, acknowledging our own forms of racism, and saying, “Violence and injustice against another human being may happen in this world, but, by grace, let it not happen here.”
Lord, make us an instrument of your peace. May we work alongside you for a wholeness that yields a harvest of justice. Help us walk the way of the cross, to die to ignorance and passive acceptance of violence, and to come to life in rebellious hope. Help us know how to pray, what to say, and when needed, what to do. Draw our story into your story so that the death of Michael Brown is not the end of the story but only a new beginning.
May we throw our hands up in surrender—as we do at God’s table each week—to become what we receive, the broken but healed body that gives life to the world.
Jeremy Ayers is a Texan, beach lover, and serial comma user. He is a member of St. Thomas’ Parish Dupont Circle.