A Time for Patience, A Time for Peace
Rev. Dr. Steve Locke
First Presbyterian Church, El Cajon
I never thought the violence witnessed throughout the country over the last few months, in places like Charlotte and Tulsa, would come to my neighborhood. But yesterday on a busy street in El Cajon a man who was apparently acting erratically was confronted by the police and in a moment, when fear and anxiety ruled the event, a man lay dead on the ground with a Taser and several bullets in his chest. The people that witnessed this tragedy were horrified. Depending on your view and your emotional attachment you came away with different conclusions and motivations as to what happened. The pain of watching an event like this can only be equaled or surpassed by the ones who did the shooting and the family of the victim. Their lives will be changed forever as will the families of the man killed. No one wins in this. But many people will be changed.
Once it was announced that there was no gun found at the scene anger began to erupt in our community. The angry voices filled the streets and police and community confronted each other with demonizing outbursts. Protestors have no other way but to connect their distrust of police with shouts of pain that often sound like threats. Profiling and indifference will be part of the discussion as links to other shootings and police intolerance to the black community fills the air waves. This is understandable. But this immediate response has to be tempered with an understanding of community life and responsibility towards outcome. By allowing ourselves to be connected to all the previous images and feelings of these other shootings we endanger the conversation and truthfulness about what happened in our city. At the same time, we risk being able to help our police and community find a way to improve a relationship that has been strained.
The power of patience while pressing legitimate concerns before the public is a reasonable avenue to take. We must find ways to take the edge off of the emotional eruptions that are fraught with danger. These activities preserve the channels of communication which could be valuable for police and community. Victims have rights and the communities have the duty to make sure that all that can be done is done to expedite justice. Those days are coming when the videos, photos and reports should start rolling out to address the questions of everyone. Antagonizing the police or the police antagonizing the community before all the facts have arrived offer nothing but the possibility of violence and insurmountable walls of hostility.
Paul, the Apostle, writes in Ephesians, “Jesus has abolished the dividing wall of hostility between Jews and Gentiles.” He was not using this as a magic statement to solve all problems. He offered it as a point of reality that was created by the sacrifice and love embedded in the cross of Jesus. Jesus didn’t offer revenge as an instrument for justice. Instead he offered understanding through mercy as a starting point of resolution. This approach leads to a world with less victims and more opportunity to instill a reasonable justice. Justice is our single most important goal. But Jesus taught us that justice is entangled with the hard work of forgiveness, mercy and respect. Yet the moment I say this I know that the pain of our community is real and is seeking release. It is hard to say wait. But it is all we have in this situation at this time. The time will come when all comes out. Then we will find out the character of the police and the community. Until then we must organize prayer groups and walk in the shoes of the police and the victim’s family.