The Time Is (Still) Now

Two police officers were murdered in New York City Saturday. Awful. Terrifying. Undeserved.

The title of the sermon about that would be: "This S#$T is scary." And, Ralph and Anthony at St. Mark's would say "Amen."

I am intrigued by how quickly people have been willing to exploit the shooting of these two officers as a sign that we should stop working for racial justice, specifically accountability for police officers who kill unarmed people: Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Akai Gurley, Ramarley Brown and so many others.

I was just reminded in a talk by two young women from Ferguson, MO that they "haven't won anything yet." You might feel like there has been a lot or maybe too much activism, but not one thing has changed yet.

I would like to think that officers Ramos and Liu would have wanted to work in a police force that did not criminalize and murder people based upon race.

From what I can tell these two officers were at the wrong place at the wrong time and took the brunt of a black man's armed psychosis. Terrible, but what does that have to do with police accountability?

Well, the psychotic man who murdered them said he was out to avenge the murder of Eric Garner.

He also shot his former partner in the stomach in another state, hours away, first, and she and her amazing family in the midst of their own trauma informed the police that he was threatening to murder cops in Brooklyn. You have to wonder how vulnerable we are to being shot, and if we might want to face that together, when the NYPD with their high tech anti-terrorism kit and expertise cannot protect their own.

I wonder why this heinous murder has become a referendum on protesting unjust police practices and not on domestic violence; transporting guns across state lines; failed threat alerts; or mental illness?

Why does the shooting of police officers matter more than the shooting of the woman who was shot by someone she knew? I'm pretty sure I know why. Not because they protect and serve, but because they symbolize the power of the state in a way that an ex girlfriend with a civilian job does not.

We are scared, some of us, right now, because it is the state that was vulnerable while eating lunch in a state owned vehicle to the raging of an armed lunatic. The state. You know, the people you elect. The government. The reason the banks are a sort of safe place to put your money, or used to be. The reason you don't have to keep a rifle by the door and bars on your windows to protect yourself. The reason we have roads, public schools, streetlights, and bridges. Oh, right.

We are questioning the need for that kind of state today. That effeminate, nanny state is big government, but big police are somehow not. A crumbling infrastructure; terrorized, armed citizens; the mentally ill left to pray away their sickness; and a gun a month in our pockets make our state, not just private citizens, vulnerable. We just saw that our armed, trained, uniformed public servants are vulnerable. It isn't just their violence towards us that we cannot resist. We are in this together.

We are awash in instability, and we are armed.

Some of our leaders have asked us to behave more peacefully. By that they mean go back to business as usual. Shop. Pray. Let other mother's children be murdered and let the police take care of it at their own risk and by their own rules. I can't understand how that is a Christian response in this time.

It's Christmas. The Christian story is that when God comes to meet us as the Prince of Peace, it is not as one who can enforce a peace or reign in power or privileged denial. Jesus is himself vulnerable to a powerful, ruthless state. The Roman state murders him, legally.

Maybe we are too comfortable with the murder of innocents as Christians. Maybe, or maybe we make peace with a powerful status quo too quickly, forgetting that when God comes among us, before he is brutally executed by the state, he commands us to proclaim his good news: release to the captive,... the oppressed will be free.

Let's get our marching boots back on, friends. We're not even close to peace yet.