I would not consider myself the smartest man in the room. I know lots of folks who really are the smartest people in the room. I have a lot of respect for those “brainiacs.”
I would, however, consider myself a reasonable man. A good man. A kind man. A compassionate man. An Irish-American man who loves a good laugh. I am a man with a conscience.
But, I can be a jerk. And, at times, an idiot. I make mistakes and there are times when I think and sometimes say the wrong thing.
I’m also man who has the God-given ability to navigate through what I think is right or wrong. I’m a pastor and to say nothing about the death of George Floyd would be wrong.
Here’s what I think I know from what I have gleaned from the press: 46-year-old George Floyd died seven days ago on May 25, 2020 in Powdertown, a neighborhood south of downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota.
George died after a Minneapolis police officer held George down with a knee on George’s neck for nearly nine minutes. Two other officers appeared to help pin George to the ground, while another stood nearby. Video of George saying, “I can’t breathe” went viral, sparking calls for justice.
Preliminary results from the official autopsy* found no indication that George died of strangulation or traumatic asphyxiation, but that the effects of being restrained, combined with underlying health conditions, including coronary artery disease and hypertensive heart disease, and potential intoxicants in George’s system, probably contributed to his death. (*Note: at the time we posted this blog, we discovered George’s family had an independent autopsy done and the results were that George died of asphyxia, contradicting the county’s exam. – June 1, 2020 at 4:55 p.m. EDT)
All four officers involved in George’s death have been fired. One of those officers has been criminally charged. Many people are beyond frustrated by the deaths of black people time and again at the hands of law enforcement officers.
I realize there is probably a lot more to this story; and that there is more than one side to every story. I also know we ask a lot of our law enforcement officers who risk their lives every day in the line of duty. God bless the wonderful law enforcement officers who do what they do day in and day out with hardly a notice or thank you from the rest of us.
Protests continue to pop up all across our country and around the world, as tens of thousands of people turn out, calling for the three remaining officers to be charged and for an end to the inequality and maltreatment of black Americans. Although in some areas people peacefully gathered to protest, in other areas looting and violence has occurred. Police cars and buildings have been set on fire; businesses caught in the cross-fire, destroyed.
During this painful time, I’ve engaged in countless conversations with parishioners and friends who want desperately to create or find a safe space to discuss all that has happened surrounding the death of George Floyd. Until now, I have not made a public comment about George’s death and I want to stand in solidarity with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, who said that the only response to this tragic death is love. Love.
Here’s what Bishop Curry said:
“I recommend a different path – the path of love. Our nation’s heart breaks right now because we have strayed far from the path of love. Because love does not look like one man’s knee on another man’s neck, crushing the God-given life out of him. This is callous disregard for the life of another human being, shown in the willingness to snuff it out brutally as the unarmed victim pleads for mercy.
Love does not look like the harm being caused by some police or some protesters in our cities. Violence against any person is violence against God, which is blasphemy – the denial of the God whose love is the root of genuine justice and true human dignity and equality.
Love does not look like the silence and complicity of too many of us, who wish more for tranquility than justice.”
– Michael B. Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, The Washington Post, May 31, 2020
Love. This is the way of Jesus. The way of Jesus should always be the way Christians think and act.
As a pastor, I invite members of our parish to do the following:
1. Think about George. His life. His death.
2. Think about Derek Chauvin, the officer who has been fired, and who, through one way or another, participated in the death of George. Also, I urge you to think about the involvement of the other three officers.
3. Think about justice and injustice. And, remember the searing words of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who, while sitting in a prison cell in Birmingham, Alabama, said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
4. Think about impact. Ask yourself, how does George’s death affect you? How does it affect others both inside and outside your community?
5. Finally, think about action. What are YOU going to do about it? And, what are WE as a nation, community, and congregation, going to do about it?
As always, know you are in my thoughts and prayers. Please keep me in yours. I’ll leave you with this prayer, For the Human Family, from the Book of Common Prayer, p. 815.
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus Christ your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Peace friends, chuck.
The Rev. Joani Peacock, Editor for Emmanuel Voices: A Parish Blog