A Few Words About The Last Few Weeks

by Sam Melden

I’ve been thinking about how different people deal with the issues we’ve all been faced with over the past few weeks. From Orlando to Alton Sterling to Philando Castile to officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge and so many other tragedies… we all deal with these things. One way or another, we process them, we talk about them, we all do something to respond.

So, a few thoughts…

I’ve been thinking about empathy.

In the midst of our impulse to reduce people to politics we are so easily seduced to argument and debate in the place of mourning, understanding, or simple silence.

I have a friend, who’s a cop, who had a brother who was a cop, until his brother was killed in the line of duty. Every single time I read the stories and watch the viral video accounts… I think of him. When I read all of these stories about how “bad” police officers are, I think of him. Sometimes I even talk to him or other police officers I know to hear their voice in the midst of these stories.

I have another friend who I spent some time with last week or so and we talked about race in our country. He’s black and he has children. He talked to me about his personal experience, how he has to drive differently than me simply because of the hue of our skin. He talked to me about what he will talk to his son about. How the list of do’s and don’t’s he will have to cover with his son is growing. And every single time I read the stories and watch the viral video accounts… I think of him, and his son.

And I have many more friends, on every which side of these issues we read about. And every single time I watch the videos and read the headlines, I think of them. I try to think of how they might be experiencing this, and I sit. I mourn. I try to mourn with them… but often I also find myself morning for all of us.

I have also been thinking about faith communities. There are groups of people all over the world that come together at regular times because of a shared belief of how the world should operate, how human beings should interact and behave. Some shared understanding of human existence, a common experience with the divine. So, naturally when these groups gather and world around them is so violently out of line with how they think the world should work, those gatherings would reflect that dissonance, right? Not necessarily. This is actually my first thought to offer to any person of faith dealing with these headlines in our day and time.

If your community of faith doesn’t make space for you to work this out, talk about or process the things you are dealing with… you are being cheated. You are attending, and faith leaders are welcoming you in to their space, but they aren’t leading you well. If you can’t connect your heartbreak with their sermon or homily or liturgy, you aren’t getting what you should. If you don’t have a sacred space to work out your deepest desires for the restoration of all things in the midst of fear and trembling, that is a problem. Now, I understand these gatherings are meant to be set apart spaces… but, they also happen in the world as it is today. And if you go to your church, synagogue, or mosque and it feels like no one in here is aware of what’s happening out there… something is wrong.

And this is connected to my other thought about people of faith in times like these. It’s simple really. If your response to these type of tragedies are in anyway connected to your faith, in anyway rooted in your theology, and they don’t in some way improve the situation here, today on this planet for those in need of rescue and relief… may I suggest that you are cheating us.

Your theology is empty and your faith is a mirage.

Don’t talk about tomorrow when people hurt today.

Don’t talk about how things were when people are dealing with how things are.

Don’t talk about praying for peace when the rest of the world is mourning and scrambling and protesting and organizing and legislating and working to carve peace out of the side of the mountain of injustice that seems to be growing in front of them everyday.

If your understanding of faith doesn’t lead you to action… it’s dead. And that won’t cut it, because the last we need is more death.