Be it known – cops are heroes

First, read this –

He’s connected some dots – and he’s not the only one – that aren’t as connected as he thinks.

So you know, I’m not a protester. My feelings on the Martin/Brown/Garner cases are that they all involved a fight and someone died. The person happened to be black in each case and the one(s) who survived were not black. Because of the struggles – with weapons at had to be used by either party – they make lousy examples of bias on the part of the police. If the race of anyone in those cases had been different, we would have heard very little about them.

Only in the Garner case did I think there was adequate proof that the cops probably should have acted differently. That is, I think if someone says “I can’t breathe” when you have a choke hold on, even if there’s a 99% chance he’s faking, you let up.

That said, I do believe there is still anti-black bias in America today. It’s not as it had been (I was going to post this picture but due to its graphic nature, I’ll leave it up to you to follow the link – – the look on the white people’s faces is vicious and satanic). Truly we have progressed. But we’re not done.

And there’s a part that black people play as well – because sadly the ones who thinks that black lives matter the least are themselves black. I believe the church is the place where this has to be remedied. The gospel, when believed and acted upon, infuses equality and hope.  And I do not mean only the church among the poor, but the church at large.  Segregation and prejudice has no place in the church that Jesus builds.  When those are present; it’s a good church to change.  Or leave.

Over all, America’s race problem has to be fixed. But honestly the fix has been progressing and already it’s taken generations to get to where we are now, from forced slavery to having a black man in the White House. Whatever political stance you make, that demographic is significant as is the long-term perspective. We’re just impatient and for good reason – people are suffering.

Understand I am NOT part of the protest movement. I do know people who are or who sympathize, but I do NOT.

Now, going back to what the NYPD cop said, here are the places I think he jumps to conclusions:

  1. That people see the cops as the enemy. First of all, it’s only a small part of the populace that has protested in recent days. Secondly, it’s not clear how many of them think cops are the “enemy”. No doubt some do. But it’s a stretch to say all.
  2. That Ismaaiyl Brinsley acted as part of the protest movement. He could say whatever he wanted, but the protests were at most disruptive. No one was killed and if there were injuries they were accidental. Put another way, if the protesters started carrying and waving (and shooting) guns then they would become an armed militia and enemies of the state, to be put down by quick and violent means.
  3. That no one thinks cops are heroes. This is the one that breaks my heart because TONS of people are grateful for every day that every person wears that uniform. They need to say so and get out there publicly. Maybe that’s me. Maybe I personally need to do more like that, just because there are cops who really feel this way.

The coward and madman, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, is dead. His mother said he was a very sick person; and he used the climate and movement of the day to capitalize on his murderous intents. Think of it, without the protests, what would his crime have been? An isolated incident, no more.

People, inspired by the media, are marching to beats fueled by anger and frustration. Without stereotypes, the march would lose its beat and healing might occur. But that doesn’t sell newspapers or get people elected. The cultural divides are hundreds of years old and though some mending has occurred, it’s not happening through this movement.

Black neighborhoods need MORE police to enforce the law and keep people safe. Instead, those neighborhoods are ruled by gangs who label and duly punish any “rats” who inform the police about them. It would be an interesting study in analogy to compare such “rats” to another species. Would that other species be snakes? Or predatory cats of some kind? Anyway, such a “rat” is a noble person; one who hungers and thirsts for righteousness. Or just justice.

But even the snakes are candidates for grace; that’s the gospel. And that’s where my money is, and my prayers.

I note that Rafael Ramos, one of the slain officers, was training to become a chaplain.


Painful patterns of conflict

How I will start my sermon today:

Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman

In 2009 I served as foreman on a jury in Fitchburg District Court. We found a man guilty of driving under the influence, acting upon the evidence presented by prosecution and defense attorneys. I remember thinking how much better a case was presented by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts than the defense; really, we had almost nothing to consider from the case his lawyer presented. To this day I have no qualms about our verdict.

Last night a jury of his peers found George Zimmerman not guilty of any charges relating to the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, a young, unarmed African American man. Immediately after that, my friends on Facebook, and black people throughout the nation expressed anger and outrage over the verdict.

Let me say a few things, personal convictions that I believe, about the case and the verdict:

  1. I have no reason to believe that the jury did the same work I did in 2009 – that is, they considered the evidence and all the testimony presented to them to arrive at a verdict. Now, that evidence and testimony was gathered and presented by people with different skill and resources. I have no question that George Zimmerman’s lawyer did a better job than the State of Florida. They had more money – raised at a rate of $77,000/week through online contributions – and they were better lawyers. Trayvon Martin, a dead person, could only afford a state prosecutor.  None of those facts have nothing to do with race; they just express how the system works, and sometimes how it malfunctions.
  2. I wasn’t there. I have no idea if Zimmerman acted out of self-defense which was the defense’s successful claim. I do believe that excessive force was used and that Trayvon Martin did not have to die. What that means in terms of Florida’s laws I can’t say, but I don’t believe George Zimmerman was an innocent man. It takes two to tango and by all accounts he picked a fight and he killed someone in that fight. That’s wrong and there’s a strong case that he should be punished under some law for some crime. All that said, even the prosecution’s case pointed to a verdict of not guilty; there was nothing to support a second degree murder conviction.   Wrongful death lawsuit, maybe.  Again, this has less to do with race than it does with rich vs. poor in a flawed judicial system. That’s a pattern that can be observed across time and across legal precedent.
  3. This case conformed to a very painful historical pattern to black people. It should be painful to whites too, but it is less so. Is that racism? Probably. It’s certainly insensitivity and insensitivity of a type that has gone on for generations. If I don’t take notice of the patterns of conflict represented in the Trayvon Martin case, then I am ignoring a huge dividing wall in our nation erected for years by people with the same color skin as me. I thought of posting sick pictures of lynch mobs and disfigured, beaten and dragged bodies of dead black men here.  Those make me ashamed of my white skin, or ashamed that someone would use skin color or anything to justify brutality like that.  So, you probably guess that I am taking notice of this conflict. Big time.

Another case, much closer to home:

On the night of August 11, 2012, four women were sitting and talking in a parked car in Dorchester, Massachusetts. One of them was the daughter of a friend of mine, Pastor Agabus Lartey. Someone came to the front of the vehicle, pulled a gun and sprayed it with bullets. Three of the women were killed, including Kristen.

Like most people, I read the newspaper “at a distance” .. seeing things historically but not too personally. This time I couldn’t do that. I knew the people involved.

As the time came near for Kristen’s funeral, I knew I had to go. So I prayed about what God would have me do. And I heard Him say that I was not to go as a pastor, dressed up and sitting among clergy, though I could do that and there would be nothing wrong with doing so.

No .. I was to serve the people after the service.

So I did. I hauled ice, served food, cleaned up, offered second helpings to everyone, and just served.

Please don’t think anything special about me for doing that; I was only being obedient and though I want to obey more, if I do that for just one day a year I am blessed.

I will never forget what I saw.

I mean on people’s faces. It was a despair, a resignation to disaster and injustice that destroys lives and kills dreams.  “Here we go again” their faces said.  They were tired, beaten down.  The older people hugged the younger ones a little more closely and eyed the teenagers with a distinct fear for their immediate future.  You could see it.

This violence was black-on-black, but worse, it snuffed out the life of a rising star. The highest hope in human form in that community was senselessly murdered.

I’d like to think that serving up potatoes and chicken and and ribs and bringing around ice water would do something to help. And people thanked me, they were very gracious and touched.

But nothing like that way I was touched.

See, I want to take away the patterns of dysfunction, of violence, fear and murder from the minds and hearts of my dear African American friends.

There may be riots now; it happened in 1968 after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. White people at large don’t understand that. It’s not that they don’t want to; they just can’t. But I want understand to help other people understand, because in just a small way, I “get it”.

I’ll say that I would die for that cause if I thought it would matter.

But I’ll say that Someone already HAS died to take all that away, and HE will bring peace out of the midst of the conflict.

He will resolve it and remake new patterns of life and hope and restoration.

It wasn’t easy and it won’t be easy, but that’s what Jesus does.

And I want to be part because it’s in my heart to serve.

So framed by such real human drama and events, we need to learn about God’s peace this morning.