God makes a way when there is no way!
By Rev. John Vaughn
In the last 48 hours, horrifying videos have once again offered witness to the racial injustice present in our criminal justice system. A 37-year-old father of 5, Alton Sterling was shot by police officers while selling music in Baton Rouge, and 32-year-old Philando Castile was shot by police officers in his car in St. Paul with his young daughter in the back seat.
Then this morning I awaken to the news of five police officers in Texas being shot and killed, who also have families who worry about them on a daily basis.
There are no words right now to express the outrage, fatigue, and disbelief of the normalized nature of the killing of black lives. I am equally horrified by the killing of police officers who have been called to protect and serve communities.
The lack of accountability in the unwarranted death of citizens at the hands of law enforcement is sickening. The killing of those who put themselves into harm’s way daily so that all may be safe is shameful. As faith-rooted people, inspired by the generations that came before, we can never give up on justice in the face of institutionalized racism and the ways that it negatively affects ALL communities.
People of faith know firsthand that God makes a way when there seems to be no way. Even in this moment when I want to retreat, lock the doors and protect my loved ones, I know that God and love are greater than the fear that I believe is at the root of these shootings.
I remember when I was engaged in Anti-Apartheid organizing in the mid-80s and there was a general sense that the South African government was standing firm in the face of mounting international pressure and would find ways to weather the storm. I thought that Nelson Mandela would die in jail. God makes a way when there seems to be no way.
Fear wants us to believe that the police shootings of black people will continue and is just a part of life. Fear wants us to believe that killing police officers is justified retribution. Fear wants protesters in the street to demonize all law enforcement officials. Fear wants police officers to believe that there are different approaches based on race. Fear wants white communities to believe that it is just another isolated incident. Fear wants us to believe that police officers are justified in their fears and therefore exonerated in plain view. Fear wants to divide police and community, White and Black, The “good” and “safe” people of color from the “bad” and “irresponsible” people of color.
Dearest leaders of faith and moral courage, this moment and these movements need us. We must proclaim and embody revolutionary love. In a moment when I want to blame a deeply flawed and wounded criminal justice system and community members who have embraced violence as an outlet for their anger, I refuse to demonize.
My God commands me to commit all of my being to working for just policing policies for all Americans. My God commands that I find and support strategies that help communities and law enforcement see that we are actually on the “same team” and that together we can address the larger systems and leaders that turn us against each other. My God commands me to love — not just the people I know and like, but ALL people.
Rev. John Vaughn is the Executive Vice President of Auburn Seminary. Which Voices leave you wanting to hear more? Email us ideas for interviews at email@example.com.