A Confession Following Baton Rouge, Minneapolis, and Dallas

I feel like I need to confess

After a tragic week in our nation, perhaps “what the hell is going on?” is the best response. Common DreamsWe are heartbroken at what happened in Baton Rouge, Minneapolis, and Dallas. This is a civilized society? Hearing from Alton Sterling’s son asking to see his Daddy makes this all too real. Knowing similar scenes are taking place in Philando Castile’s home and in the homes of five Dallas police officers is almost too much. We have lost our sense of value for human life. We have lost our sense of “us”, only seeing people not like us as “other.” We are all too willing to let our politicians divide and incite us. We uphold this type of behavior as strong leadership, rather than condemning it as we should. As I went to write about all of this, the only thing that could make any sense to me was my own confession. You see, I am implicit in being a part of a world that has given way to all of this.

The biggest thing I have learned in ministry is to never discount anyone’s experience. Life shapes each of us uniquely and gives us a unique view. I’m a white male who has had a fairly privileged life to this point. I spent my early years in a diverse community until we moved out farther into the suburbs in Atlanta’s white flight of the 1980s. As an adult,. I’ve taken a fairly comfortable life and sought to make it even more comfortable. I’m an ordained minister in a religion that is built upon the life of someone who spent most of his time with the poor, the marginalized, and challenging power structures..I spend very little of my time with the poor, the marginalized, and challenging power structures.  Far too often, I take the path of least resistance because that path protects my relative comfort. It is time I own this.

I don’t know what it’s like to be a black man and be pulled over by the police. I don’t know what it’s like to have that twinge of fear that a routine traffic stop may suddenly go really bad. I also don’t know what it’s like to be a police officer and to know that when you leave the house for work it might be the last time you see your loved ones. I don’t know what it’s like to put oneself in harm’s way in order to serve and protect communities that are becoming increasingly hostile. Neither of these is my experience. Too often though, I’ve thought and acted like I know what either of these life experiences is like. I’ve made assumptions based on my experience rather than theirs.  I will not do that again.

My realization is that perhaps I am part of the problem.My assumptions and my comfort are part of the problem. As I look at my kids and they type of world I want them to live in, I realize that I thought I was part of the solution, but I’m not.

In seeking to make their life comfortable, I am doing the exact opposite. In working to make the church more faithful and sustainable, I am doing the exact opposite. In seeking to be who God created me to be, I am doing the exact opposite. We live in a complex world where there are no easy answers and perhaps no comfortable paths to the fullness of life.

Today, this is my confession. Lord, in your mercy. 

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