I am a white man. I have the privilege of sitting here in rural Washington living my life as if nothing has changed and nothing will change; as in, my life goes on just as peachy, prosperous, and promise filled as before.
I find myself watching Facebook and Twitter to get a pulse for where “my people” are at on the recent verdict. My seminary friends – mostly pastors now – and especially my African American “friends” around the country are angry. There is righteous anger. There is serious reflection. There is a sense that they are all asking, “Seriously, this happened in 2014?”
And then there are my more conservative “friends.” They too feel a sense of righteous indignation. They too feel wronged in this moment; after all, this was a police officer, one of US, defending himself against a criminal.
I read. I weep. I get pissed off. I wonder. What will I do? How will I respond? Will I tweet something provocative? Will I share links that agree with where I’m at? Where am I at?
And I realize. We all need to shut up. Especially those of us in the white, privileged community. We need to shut up and listen, grieve, seek understanding, and forgiveness. We need to shut up and realize that a young man’s life has been cut short. A young man’s life has been ended. Whatever he did; whoever he was; the truth is that he was unarmed. He was alive one moment, dead the next. His life was cut short, taken from him, ended.
If this happened in my community – to someone I knew – I’d want answers. I’d want justice. I’d want things to change, or to at least know that this event, this terrible, tragic, insane event was taken seriously enough to incite change.
And then I see it. I see what’s wrong with the paragraph I just wrote. Did you catch it? I “would” want this; I “would” want that. Why don’t I want it now? Sure, this happened thousands of miles away from me. Sure, this doesn’t really impact me right now, right here in rural Washington. But maybe it should. Maybe it does. No, strike that 'maybe,' it does.
If I’m serious about Jesus’ definition of neighbor. If I’m serious about Jesus’ call to love neighbor as I love myself, then this should matter. I shouldn’t see Michael as a MEMBER of some community somewhere, out there, over there, different, detached, separate, OTHER from me and my people. Michael is my people. Michael is a kid that could be on my football team; he could be in my youth group; he could be a friend of my kids’ one day. Michael could be the son of a guy I coach with. Michael is part of me.
But it’s easier to protect myself from going there. It’s easier to ignore that truth. It’s easier to go about my life because I’m allowed to go about my life; I’m privileged to go about my life.
Jesus says, “To those who much has been given, much is required.” I hate that passage. Why did he have to say that? I ask because the truth is, I have a lot. I know it, and therefore I have no excuse.
So what will I do? Where am I at?
Writing this is the beginning – a really lame first step. Some who read it will question my motives. Some will disagree while others will want to join their voices to mine. But those who truly know me – know my heart for the Lord and desire to see the Good News be Good News for all people – will know that these words, these musings, are but a beginning.
Lord have mercy.