It’s not often that I get overwhelmed by the news. Maybe this week is just overwhelming for me personally, and then hearing about death on the news sends me a little over the edge. Or maybe it’s just that I’ve got so much cognitive dissonance from knowing so many good people but seeing people do such amazingly horrible things on the news and the internet. There are a lot of things to feel this week, and events are pulling us in so many different directions that it’s hard to tell how to be peacemakers in the midst of the chaos. Yes, as Fred Rogers said, we’re supposed to look for the helpers. But we’re also supposed to be the helpers. But it’s hard to help when I’m so afraid.
I’m afraid to be pulled over by a cop. As a white person. I can’t imagine what it would be like as a black person. After listening to the video (couldn’t watch it) of Philando Castile dying while sitting in the car with his girlfriend and 4 year old daughter, I’m simply blown away. Let me be clear: police have a right to protect themselves (but also a responsibility to protect and serve), and people who don’t cooperate immediately, fully, and politely with police shouldn’t be killed for not following orders. But it seems at this point in time that Castile did everything right; everything that I would do. And he was shot four times for pulling out his ID. I’ve done that before. Will I be killed for it next time? I’m afraid of this because, on the video, the cop seemed to be devastated that he’d killed this man – this wasn’t a cop who was out to kill. The cops who stopped me weren’t out to kill either.
I’m afraid to own a firearm. I’m told that I should carry so that I can protect myself. But carrying got this person killed. I only have one life to live, I’m not about to throw it away because, one day, there might be a chance that there would be a shooter and I would be calm, collected, and correctly positioned so that I could take action – and would I even? If I can be killed for having a cell phone, an ID, a bag of candy, or a water pistol – why would I worsen my chances of survival by actually possessing a firearm? By possessing a firearm, I am giving anyone the legal right to kill me with impunity, it seems.
I’m afraid of what will happen next. Not only were two more black men killed by police this week, but a black man murdered police officers at a protest. Protests are supposed to allow us to take serious action on life and death issues without resorting to more killing. Now, I’m afraid that nothing will change because a small, extremist element took violent action – and that will justify retribution, discrimination, and upping the stakes in this conflict. After all, isn’t that what continually happens with our government’s relations with Muslims – both US citizens and those abroad? It seems at this point that we are going to want to keep Muslims, Hispanic people, and black people out of the country. Why not just have a policy that only white people (and maybe Asians) can come to the US? I’m afraid we’re headed right back to an officially racist government.
In the midst of this fear, I’m reminded of the passage I preached last Sunday. Perfect love casts out fear. The only response I can have, the only response I’ve learned from my interactions with God, is love. The stronger my fear gets, the more I will love my neighbor. The more frightening the news gets, the more I will love the person right in front of me. And maybe in that loving interaction, I will find the Holy Spirit, find love, find peace, and find a path forward that honors God.