This summer has certainly been eventful. The massacre in Orlando, Florida, the Black Lives Matter movement and the shootings of Police Officers in Dallas, Baton Rouge and Ballwin, Missouri and Kansas City, Kansas worry all of us. Terrorist attacks in France, Libya, Iraq and India and others have become commonplace on the nightly news. Changes in the United Methodist Church have some of us wondering about the future of the church we love so dearly. First the Republicans and then the Democrats met in their national conventions claiming they have all of the answers. What are we to do?
First, I think, we need to stop and take a breath. Breathe in God’s presence, God’s hope, God’s love. Look around at all God has made; the clouds, the oceans, the mountains and the plains. During this summer of turmoil there has also been good. The world is no less fallen then it was last year. Jesus is as powerful as he has ever been. I believe we need to trust in God and view the world through God’s eves.
Some wonderful things have happened in the last year. Babies have been born, couples have gotten married, new life is all around us. About 3.3 million students graduated from high school in the United States this past spring and the dropout rate nationwide is dropping.* Among all the bad news there are good things happening.
If we can look past the violent demonstrations there are some significant issues that need to be addressed. The kinds of things Jesus talked about when he went to serve the least and the powerless people of his time. There will always be a few violent people looking for opportunities to hurt other people. We should not let their actions drown out everything else.
Black Lives Matter. Those three words have sure brought a firestorm in America. The people leading this movement have said and done some things I cannot support but they have brought about significant conversations. Statistically the black community represents 13% of the US population but 40% of our incarcerated population.** Blacks serve longer sentences for same/similar crimes. There are probably many reasons including poverty, lack of education and lack of resources to obtain competent legal representation. The same report indicates 70% of the hate crimes in America are against the black population. Maybe it is time to admit the racial injustice that has always been a part of our American society and take a stand against it.
Blue Lives Matter. Police officers have a very difficult job and work under immense pressure. They break up domestic disturbances only to be attacked from behind by the original victim that had called for help. They are cursed at by the driver too drunk to remember their own name. They are blamed for not preventing the break in because they were on another call. We expect every crime to be solved in a hour like they do it on television. They need to wear a bulletproof vest because you never know when it will be necessary. Recently they are being shot at just because they showed up for work today. I suspect most police officers are continually under posttraumatic stress. Yes some officers abuse their authority and some departments have become corrupt but we need to work with our local police to make our community the best it can be. It is time to support our police officers and at the same time hold them accountable.
Gay Lives Matter. The shooting in Orlando, Florida has once again demonstrated the violence of bigotry. Crimes against the LGBT community are nothing new. The number of these attacks has increased as the LGBT community has become more vocal and visible. Attackers may be homophobic or transphobic or they may just be mentally deranged and enjoy violence. They often claim cultural, political, religious or other reasons for their action. Recent gains for their civil rights have caused strife in the straight community and the church. I don’t have the answers and move away from anyone who claims they do. I am not sure how the church will get past this but I trust the Holy Spirit will provide a path that can lead everyone to God.
I could easily go on with Senior Lives Matter and Veteran Lives Matter and Teacher Lives Matter and on and on but the truth is ALL LIVES MATTER. We live in a world filled with broken people. Anger, self-righteousness, greed, fear, self-centeredness, hate, those are the symptoms of the brokenness I am talking about. The Bible calls that brokenness; sin. There is only one remedy for sin and that is God’s gift of atonement. We don’t have to remain addicted to sin, we can be liberated from death and receive life. In the face of sin, God calls upon followers to take action. Noah, Joseph, Moses, Peter, John, Paul, Timothy all took bold stances for God to stand against sin and God is calling us. God is calling us to say, LOVE MATTERS!
Wherever we go in God’s name The Spirit of the Lord will be with us.
Go in peace. Pastor Dave
*National Center of Educational Statistics
**FBI Crime Report 2015