Kneeling in Prayer
Today, while the COVID-19 pandemic continues, our country faces a new crisis, one that unlike the coronavirus, has plagued our nation for generations. The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the subsequent demonstrations across the country have diverted our attention from the pandemic.
Beyond the biblical and theological issues presented by brutality and overt racism, I have personal experience with both law enforcement and racism. I grew up in a law enforcement home. My dad, who is now with the Lord, served as a U.S. Marine, a businessman, and a peace officer. Dad was a deputy constable and deputy sheriff in Nueces County in South Texas. He also served in the U.S. Marshals Service for the federal court.
He taught my brothers and I to respect the rule of law, while at the same time respecting the rights and dignity of those who break the law. Dad demonstrated respect for every person he arrested or apprehended. He never saw himself as judge, jury, prosecutor, or defense. And while my dad was far from perfect, he had a reputation at the jailhouse, courtroom, and on his beat as someone who treated others with respect, regardless of their race or ethnicity.
I am deeply grieved by the numerous examples of blatant disrespect and lack of human dignity shown to people of color. Our country has a long and growing list of people who were victims of racial, systematic, and institutional racism.
We need new laws, a new awareness, and a new norm for what is acceptable treatment of people of color in the United States of America. Beyond legal changes, national police reform and social change, we need spiritual help too, the kind of transformation that leads us to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
The connectedness of our world today means issues that affect any of us affect all of us. We have seen evidence of that with the coronavirus pandemic, but in recent days it has been most evident with protests in our nation over racial injustice. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said it this way: “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.”
Throughout most of Buckner’s history, we have worked quietly to end injustices, whether it is injustice done to an abused child or serving vulnerable families put in harm’s way by a system that does not recognize them. Buckner has always been and is today an action-oriented ministry, preferring to act more than advocate. However, we cannot be silent about recent events. We have a biblical duty to speak against injustice, while acting to correct it. When you consider that many of those we serve are people of color and a large number of our employees are as well, we are expected to speak out and to speak up.
The death of Mr. Floyd and the subsequent protests have shone a bright light on what for centuries has remained in the shadows of our great nation. If we, as followers of Jesus, are to be His light in the darkness, we will use that light to also look at ourselves, individually and as an organization. When we do, we will see that we need to work together to change Buckner.
Please join me in seeking God’s strength and direction and with me, please hear again the words of Micah who tells us simply what is good and what God requires of us – “but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”
I saw a meme on social media the other day of a spaceship hovering over a person on earth. Looking up at the ship from outer space, the earthling says, “I’ll literally pay you to take me.”
And while my initial thought was, “Good idea,” I came back down to earth and remembered that it is for times like these – pandemics, inhuman treatment of humans, neglected children, hurting families, and lonely senior adults – that God wants us to stay and to make a difference. As the Apostle Paul once said to the Philippians, “To live is Christ, to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me.” (Philippians 1:21-22a.)
President John F. Kennedy once said, “For one true measure of a nation is its success in fulfilling the promise of a better life for each of its members. Let this be the measure of our nation.” He also said, “I want every American free to stand up for his rights, even if sometimes he has to sit down for them,” a recognition of the power of protest.
Over the past week, we have watched as thousands of our fellow citizens have expressed their rights of free speech and of a better a life, free to pursue liberty and happiness. Kneeling has become a powerful symbol of solidarity with George Floyd and with protesters. Law enforcement officers throughout the nation are kneeling with angry citizens.
I can think of no act more powerful for all of humanity than to kneel in humility before God and ask for forgiveness and restitution – to God and to each other.