A Statement on Current Events

Below is a statement shared as part of our worship on 6/24/18.

As a pastor, one of the harder matters to discern is when it is a time to speak and when it is a time to be silent. Speaking is both commended, in right moments and matters and condemned in wrong moments and matters. I have often jokingly cited Proverbs 17:28, “Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.” However, it is no laughing matter to be silent when on a matter God is not silent. Our culture has further complicated these distinctions by being one in which very few people read more than headlines or hear news from divergent sources. Adding to the mess is our hair-trigger reaction to anything we feel threatens or furthers our view, our political party or our clearly superior understanding of these headlines and the storylines that go along with them. Combine all of this and we have the mess we are in currently.

Even so, I feel it necessary to risk speaking out on two matters in particular. In the last week these matters have risen to a level where I feel that to not speak would be inappropriate. And while I am sure that my understanding of these matters is as partial and fallible as anyone else’s, I think it wise to give voice to some matters which are plain within the complexity.

First, on a national level this past week or so has been the plight of children who have crossed into the United States illegally. To be sure this is a complex issue which cannot be fully commented on here. That is not my objective. There are some things that need to be said though. First, human suffering matters to God and therefore ought to matter to the people of God. This case of human suffering is not somehow distinct from others in that sin is its root cause. The tragedies of this complex situation are sadly being used as political talking points, first by one party and then the other. But, it is a complex situation which demands more than political powers can address. To have refuge-seeking people there must be something from which they are seeking refuge. Why are these people fleeing their homes, cultures, jobs and so on? How desperate are the conditions in places like Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala from which tens of thousands of people are fleeing? Whole families or unaccompanied children are making a perilous journey to escape. What are they escaping? Further, there are among the tens of thousands of people in these stories those who have very nefarious intentions. Human trafficking is a pandemic and definitely has a part in what is occurring. Again complexity far outranges simplicity in this tragic situation. The glaring reality is that the immigration system in our country needs fixing. The horrifying pictures and audio and video that have garnered front page and top story billing in the last week prove it. And yes, I know some of these are old images and videos and sounds. My point is each person is no less real or loved by God based on who was president when their face or voice was captured for a story. The crisis at the southern border is real and growing. Let us be those who refuse to become pawns in a political chess match. Let us refuse to be those who point fingers and yell and post angrily on social media while never seeing something change. Instead, let us be those who invest ourselves in loving and caring and reforming. Let the church be the church. Let us be a community that loves and cares about people enough to do better than our culture. It is not okay to break the law. It is not okay that 4 year olds are crossing our border without an adult. Prayerfully, you and I can do better than we have so far and be a part of solving something that, neither political party has demonstrated the will or the wisdom to solve. If nothing else, I know that we can love people better than the government. Let us at least begin there.

Second, a local headline has now reached the point of comment as well. Tuesday around 8:40pm, Antwon Rose died when he was fatally shot by a police officer, Michael Rosfeld. Antwon was 17 years old. His death is a tragedy. His death is also a complexity. How did a 17 year old end up in a car that was stopped because it matched the description of a car involved in a drive by shooting moments earlier? How did a 17 year old end up in a car with guns inside of it? Why did a 17 year old African American feel safer running from a police officer than staying in the car a police officer had just stopped? Amidst all these questions rise again the matters of human suffering, sin and a justice system that is broken. Sadly, to this point (it’s Thursday afternoon as I write) little more than headlines, tweets and slogans are being thrown about. What is clear is that Pittsburgh is very divided on what this young man’s death means and how it should be understood. Tragic. Tragic that a 17 year old is dead. Tragic that a police officer was fearful enough to use his weapon. Tragic that Officer Rosfeld, will bear the weight of taking a human life for the rest of his days. Tragic that a 17 year old was somehow in the circumstance to begin the whole scenario. Tragic that a community is divided about what it means. We ought to grieve this tragedy. We ought to seize on this common grief to see change. Antwon Rose was no angel. He was a human being. He had wonderful qualities and talents, choices and relationships. He had poor choices and relationships as well. After all, he was a human being. Tragically, his poor choices are the ones we will remember most profoundly. In closing, I want to share a poem, released by Woodland Hills School District which Antwon wrote in his Honors English Class dated May 16, 2016. I hope you hear his humanness. I hope you grieve his tragic words and his even more tragic loss in living and dying by the realities they capture.

 

I AM NOT WHAT YOU THINK!

I am confused and afraid
I wonder what path I will take
I hear that there’s only two ways out
I see mothers bury their sons
I want my mom to never feel that pain
I am confused and afraid

I pretend all is fine
I feel like I’m suffocating
I touch nothing so I believe all is fine
I worry that it isn’t though
I cry no more
I am confused and afraid

I understand people believe I’m just a statistic
I say to them I’m different
I dream of life getting easier
I try my best to make my dream true
I hope that it does
I am confused and afraid

 

Finally, allow me the privilege of praying for us a prayer I wrote.

Dear God,

Help us. We see the maladies of our culture and confess that we are not above the sin that causes such horrific brokenness and pain. Instead, as we see ourselves in the mirror of Your truth, we find much in us that wreaks the same havoc and if left unchecked will add to the brokenness and pain we lament. Forgive us as we earnestly repent. In Your grace form us instead into the image of your Son. Heal our blindness that we might see the human being beyond the headline. Quicken our paralyzed arms and legs, hands and feet that we might reach out in love and run from hate and prejudice. Replace our hard selfish heart with a heart of flesh, tender to human suffering. Empower us to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to be angry. Grant us the grace of loving well the least of these where ever we may encounter them. Help us to do better than quick fixes that feed short attention spans and even shorter news cycles. Might Your Kingdom come in us. Might Your will be done by us. For the glory of Your Son, our only Hope in this life, Amen.