The first iteration of this article was written the day after Mother’s Day 2020. Ahmaud Arbery’s death was the first in a string of police involved shootings of black men that became the grounds for national and international outrage. It was also an election year as well as the year of a worldwide pandemic. Life as we knew it was about to take a turn that none of us could have ever imagined.
As I look back on this article that first appeared in Christianity Today, I also remembered my own spiritual practices that got me through such an agonizing period. They are included at the end of this post.
I do not pretend to know everything or have all the answers. What I do know is that in this long obedience in the same direction (a Eugene Peterson saying) we are called to partnership with the Triune God to provide spaces for ourselves and others to serve, protect and heal. While there is still tension between people groups, there is also the hope of peace.
It is the day after Mother’s Day and I get out of bed tired. Tired because my spirit would not be quieted within me over the last few days. Tired because I join my African American sisters and brothers in being tired, angry and filled with grief thinking about the horror of another African American Momma looking through her tears, catching her breath as she glances a backhoe waiting to close the grave of her slain child. Tired because so many of my white American friends are tired of hearing me talk about race, racism, violence against African Americans, white privilege, white supremacy and slavery. Most are indifferent and apathetic.
Where does that leave me this morning, the day after Mother’s Day? Thoughtful because my heart is broken in a million little pieces as I think of the sorority of women who call themselves The Circle of Mothers. Women whose sons and daughters have been murdered because someone saw them as occupying spaces that somehow made a white person feel a perceived threat. Women whose children were not seen as human or innocent, just the wrong color and somehow deserved to be gunned down. Mother’s Day was no celebration for these women and certainly not for Wanda Cooper-Jones who became a member of this sorority February 23, when her son Ahmaud Arbery was murdered while jogging through a white neighborhood and thought to be a burglar. The fact that Cooper-Jones gave birth to Maud, as he was called, on Mother’s Day 1994, only added to my lament.
I lament that Ahmaud was not safe to go for a run weaving in and out of neighborhoods near his home. My imagination tells me that as he jogged, his curiosity about a home under construction got the best of him and he slowed down to take a peek. My family and I have done the same thing too many times to count. It is hard to imagine the danger we may have been in. Two white men were watching and laid in wait for Maud; a third was filming. Three shots later, Maud is dead on a street in Glynn County, Georgia.
I am tired, angry and filled with grief. Ever since the first 20 or so Africans were sold to the American Colonists in 1619, those Africans and their descendants have lived under a tyranny that has used criminal violence to dominate and the Bible to indoctrinate. Enslaved African Americans provided free labor that turned those fledgling colonies into the financial colossus we now know as the United States of America. The system of slavery fed the wealth of this country that exists today. It is that system that has dehumanized African Americans and puts them at risk of death on any given street on any given day. Racial profiling and citizen policing are used to cause fear and humiliating interrogations, detentions and justify murder. And if the lives of the victims are not perfect, the American thought is they deserved what they got.
It was a 36 second video gone viral that caused a national outrage so Georgia law could no longer protect the perpetrators from being arrested on May 7th, almost three months after the murder. Christian African American voices joined with national leaders to call attention to the situation using social media platforms to bring awareness to this latest injustice….#JusticeFor Ahmaud
I end with this observation. Wouldn’t this be the right time to stand with the African American community and say these senseless killings have got to stop? Jesus’ gospel was an inclusive one as we see in Acts 10. Jesus’ gospel calls us to solidarity, peacemaking and partnership with each other. This is where the message of the gospel could change the world. Let’s remember Ephesians 2:14-16:
“Christ is our peace. He made both Jews and Gentiles into one group. With his body, he broke down the barrier of hatred that divided us. He cancelled the detailed rules of the Law so that he could create one new person out of the two groups, making peace. He reconciled them both as one body to God by the cross, which ended the hostility to God.”
So, let’s walk through those practices:
- Lament is nothing I fear or run away from. I let it come, I let it out, I totally immerse myself in it. It has its roots in the Biblical story and gives us space to grieve with deep sobs, curiosity and discovery. I have also found that lament, in time, leads to a heart of praise and thanksgiving.
- Silence and Solitude are graces that become worthy companions. To sit in the fourth seat with Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) is an honor that gave me a calm mind, brought rest to my body and opened my heart to love the unlovable.
- A community of trusted friends who listened without judgement and sat with me in the ashes.
- Lectio Divina helped me make and keep solid an ancient faith that seemed to be deteriorating right before my very eyes. I had to unlearn some things and experience Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) new ways.
Written by Rachel Conner
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