Sunday, November 22, 2015 by Trayce Stewart

One Year Later: a pastoral letter

Second Chance Christian Church

One Year Later

525,600 minutes. This is the amount of time each of us is given in a year. If you have ever watched, or at least listened to the musical Rent, you know that each of us can measure a year in different ways. The song suggests a year can be measured in daylights, in sunsets, in midnights or even in cups of coffee. Unfortunately, a 12 year old child by the name of Tamir Rice wasn’t able to enjoy the full measure of a year after being gunned down by police in Cleveland, Ohio; and his family is left measuring a year in different increments. Instead of smiles and laughter, Rice’s family is left with tears as they remember a life that was too soon taken from them. There will be no junior prom, no high school athletics, no first kiss or graduation. Instead, like so many others, his family will only be able to visit him in one place for the rest of their lives.

Today marks the one year anniversary of Tamir’s death. Life has gone on but the remnants of an all too common problem remains. Since Tamir took his last breath there have been countless other shootings of young black men and women at the hands of white law enforcement. The media has done its best to paint these shootings as either isolated events or will vilify the victims by painting them as “thugs, thieves or disrespectful”. Almost all of these deaths, including Tamir’s have resulted in the non-indictments of officers, protests in the streets and citizens living in fear.

The evidence of a larger systemic problem continues to threaten to break forth from the darkness. America has tried to hide its ugly truth of a broken criminal justice system that all too often fails to serve and protect all lives because it is threatened by some lives. The disregard of young black lives, the criminalization of black men, the dismissal of black women and the refusal to see these as problems leads me to wonder do black lives really matter.

The question is formed in a theological framework that is birthed through a narrative of struggle, inequality and racism. In order to proclaim All Lives Matter we must all be willing to proclaim Black Lives Matter. In 1963 Martin Luther King wrote the following:

I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. 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. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

There are no quick solutions to lead us out of our current predicaments of race relations here in America. There is no one size fits all when it comes to gun control. There is no blanket training that addresses police engagement in different communities and situations. But what I know is that the solution is not wishful thinking that things will just get better in the future; nor is the answer to withdraw from society and “do you”.

At best we have tried to place a band aid on a situation that requires a tourniquet. We continue to bleed out in the streets and yet too many rush by blinded by the fact that we are all in this together. To use Paul’s analogy of the interrelatedness of life we know “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it (1 Corinthians 12:26-27).

Today we pause to remember Tamir’s life, but we remember all who have similar narratives due to race and skin tone. As pastor of Second Chance Christian Church, I lend my voice to many concerned individuals who are actively searching for the Beloved Community while demanding equality for all because America was bold in its statement that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men (and now women) are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

While we cannot change our past, together we control our future. It is my sincere hope that we will find ways to love our neighbors, to take care of our brothers and sisters and walk hand in hand toward a brighter tomorrow.

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