The recent guilty verdict of Derek Chauvin in the murder (okay, manslaughter) of George Floyd is, I heard in a report recently, the first time a police officer has been found guilty of such a crime. I have not had time to research that, but if it is true, it is horrifying. One significant thing I have found in conversations with police officers recently is that, for the first time, I hear them saying that he should be found guilty and put away for life. This may be the turning point that is needed to bring about real justice. Two things are true – the vast majority of law officers do their jobs right and well – and there are too many bad cops getting away with murder, often race-related. We can support the police and work to fix the broken system we all live with.
I have sadly come to believe is that it seems that too many Americans love their guns more than they love life, and I am so tired of hearing politicians say, “Our thoughts and prayers are with you” every time there is a mass shooting or a police shooting. I am also tired of mental illness being used as the only cause for these tragedies. It isn’t that I am against thoughts and prayers – I do both a lot – and it isn’t that I don’t believe that mental illness plays a large role in these kinds of crimes. I have always thought that one must be very sick to be able to murder people. No – my problem is that too many of us are satisfied with platitudes, and refuse to do anything substantial to make changes. When you look at the numbers of murders in our country compared to other developed nations (not sure anymore that America is actually a developed nation), our murder and incarceration rates are far beyond most countries. Why? Again, I am not sure, but I know there is a lot of money in guns, war, and mass incarceration.
This level of mayhem is especially oxymoronic when I hear many of the same people who oppose common-sense gun approaches declaring that America is a Christian nation. I know lots of people who refuse to even discuss the issue, while proclaiming their love of Jesus. Pres. Obama was criticized when he quipped that Americans love their guns and God, but he wasn’t all wrong. And again – I am a firm believer in the Constitution, so I am not against the lawful use and ownership of guns, even though I have never shot one. I am against the way we trivialize the pain and suffering of victims by offering them thoughts and prayers with no real solutions. I think that if we really love Jesus/God/Allah as much as we say we do, we would ask how a so-called religious nation like ours can be so recklessly cavalier about violence. We would also do everything we could to keep people safe, regardless of where they live or how much money they have or, yes, what race or culture they are.
And while I reject the violent protests that have become regular news, I also understand how hopeless, frightened people would resort to that kind of rebellion. The truth about police shootings is that while the African American population is 12.6%, they make up 26% of these shootings. The white population is 74%, yet 50% of these victims are white. These numbers come from the World Atlas, a non-partisan source. These numbers are telling, but they can also guide us in finding answers. And while we can try to help the police do their jobs better, the real question is this: why are we Americans so in love with violence, and when will our thoughts and prayers turn to fix these problems? When will we actually practice our faith, and not some distorted perversion of it?
We need to keep people in our thoughts, and we need to keep praying – but we also need to do more. We will never rid ourselves of violence; it has been part of who we are since Cain murdered Abel. We can, however, be better at being people of faith, and use that faith to save lives. If we don’t, we are the problem, not the solution.
Prayer – Our prayer today is that we turn our thoughts and prayers into actions and solutions – guided by Your real hope, and not our made-up excuses. Amen.
Today’s art is “Justice Scales” by Emory Douglas.