“You are not anti-black if you grieve the loss of the officers killed in Dallas and you are not anti-police if you grieve for the loss of life of the black men who were killed.” - Tomiquia Moss
This week the news just kept on coming and it was bad.
After Orlando a few weeks ago, its focus on the LGBT community, terror and gun violence, we held an interfaith dialogue to ‘think and pray’ with a Muslim and Jewish colleague. We barely got the video up online (thank you Brian Leckey) when I saw the news that there have been a series of terror attacks in Istanbul, Dhaka, Bagdad and Medina. Friends online put out the challenge that if we are willing to grieve for Orlando, we should grieve for these cities. They are all in Muslim countries and were experiencing terror just as Ramadan turned into Eid. So responding to that challenge I added these cities to my prayers.
Then I began to see the news of the shooting of two black men by police: Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Philander Castile outside St Paul, Minnesota. It was almost too much to process, more loss of life and a reminder of the complications of police/community relations, racial tension and inequality in our culture.
I began to prepare my sermon for this Sunday, based on the reading for this week: Luke 10:25-37. It is the story of the Good Samaritan. As I re-read it in the light of the shootings it seemed to be more than ever a tale about violence and race.
That is when I heard about the 5 police officers who were killed and 7 others who were injured whilst working on the route of a peaceful protest in Dallas, Texas. The names of the officers who lost their lives are: Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarippa, Michael Krol, Michael Smith and Lorne Ahrens.
The mounting tragedy, of terror, systemic racial inequalities in our justice system, gun violence and enmity between communities and those who would protect them, it all feels like too much. At times like these, being a white male minister of a predominantly white congregation in a comfortable suburb outside of San Francisco I find it hard to know what to say.
This morning I reached out to an African American friend who I knew was dealing with protests in Oakland. I met Tomiquia Moss on my trip to Israel a few months ago, she is the Chief of Staff of Mayor Libby Schaaf. I asked her what religious leaders should be saying to help. She told me to say:
“You are not anti-black if you grieve the loss of the officers killed in Dallas and you are not anti-police if you grieve for the loss of life of the black men who were killed.”
She added, “there is pain all around and it’s complex and I think it's important to hold the space for it all.” She finished by saying, “prayer is also helpful!”
In our interfaith dialogue last week, Rabbi Ilana said that we should move beyond our comfort zones with each other and engage more deeply. Noni, our Muslim Educator speaker said, “we need to move beyond tolerance towards genuine friendship.”
Our country, and world, is facing a crisis and we have to decide how to respond. Will we push each other away, creating more and more strangers and enemies; or will we do the hard work of listening to each other, examining our hearts, and growing together in love. Will we do what it takes to trust each other? Will we become friends?
I am left with these thoughts:
There is going to be a Vigil at Grace Cathedral at 6:15pm on Monday, July 11th - on the indoor Labyrinth. I am going to try and go. Will you join me? Email me if you are coming and we can see if we might drive together.
From the UK, Matthew loved US culture from the first time he picked up a Fantastic Four Comic when he was 12.