Judge and Jury Folks

Smart phones are everywhere…video cameras are everywhere. So…we’re all news filmers?  There’s good in that.  We can catch news happening on the spot.  There’s also bad in it.  We can release a video that shows a part of a story or worse one that is edited to show what we want it show.

Ferguson Missouri 2015 – it appears that a white policeman shoots and kills an innocent black man.  Riots happen.  Obama sends the justice league.  “Got my hands up don’t shoot”.  Everyone yells RACISM and BLACK LIVES MATTER.  Guess what?  The black man turns out to be a thug and is trying to kill the policeman.  Sad thing – that white policeman is still in hiding because of death threats.  Trial by public opinion.  He was guilty for the very beginning.  I understand the racial tension.  I understand a race that feels violated and profiled.  I’ve had to warn my brown sons to be careful – that they are not viewed the same as the rest of their family.  I have also written on white privilege and how I have benefited from it.  I hate bigotry and if there is a bad cop, they need fired.

But…we can’t continue rushing into news stories and judging parties based on videos.  It’s called legal process.  Remember the phrase: Innocent until proven guilty?  Yeah, that’s it.  We all learned it in school.  We always want to go around it when we have  been harmed but boy are we glad to have it when we are wrongly accused.

We are living in extreme tension in our country.  The left and the right.  Whites and black.  Poor and rich.  Those with government aid and those who pay for it.  Muslims/Christians/atheists, the list goes on and it includes police and minorities.  There are problems and we need to address wrongs done but firing off judgmental statements of racism when all the facts aren’t in only helps to stir up anger and division.

You can cloud all this into religious “we are all sinners and have mercy on us” but c’mon – who elected you judge and jury to rule racism based on horrible videos.  Investigate these killings.  Find the truth and rule through the courts.  Stirring emotion at this point is leading to many other innocent people being killed and it will lead to anarchy.  We ALL need to be innocent until proven guilty.  No matter if we are black or white, policeman or citizen on the street.

May God have mercy on us – yes.  Our nation needs to bow and come together in His mercy.  A nation divided will fall.

Lord, when will this stop?

Ervin Stutzman, executive director of Mennonite Church USAErvin Stutzman is executive director for Mennonite Church USA.

I’m writing from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, where I’m a guest at Mennonite Church Canada’s biennial assembly. When we gathered on Wednesday evening, we sang, “By the Rivers of Babylon, we sat and wept….” Several times during our assembly, we were encouraged to express lament for some of the things we were experiencing. My laments grew out of the tragic events back home in the Unites States.

I grieve the loss of two black men’s lives by police shooting – Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Philando Castile in St. Paul, Minnesota. My heart goes out to their families and loved ones, and the communities whose fears of armed police are running at an all-time high.

These shootings carry the ugly marks of racism, a systemic and pervasive sin that runs deep in all parts of our nation. I cry out, “Lord, when will this stop?”

I am deeply disturbed that African American men and women in our churches, neighborhoods and communities – even members of my own staff – regularly face racial profiling. They are less safe than White folks on our sidewalks or streets, when even a routine arrest for an alleged traffic violation can turn into an occasion of confrontation and violence.

We must find ways to heal this wound in our land; we need a radical reorientation to transform suspicion and anger into trust and reconciliation.

As a White person in a position of power in the Mennonite Church, I want to call other White folks in this denomination to pay attention, to make space for the voices calling for justice and change in our midst, and to seek concrete ways to confront racism in our communities, our congregations, and in ourselves.

I grieve too for the police force in Dallas and the people who lost family members in the tragic shooting of police there last Thursday. I echo the words of Byron Pellecer, Associate Conference Minister of the Western District in Texas, who wrote earlier this week:

It is with a heavy heart and much pain that we ask you to pray for the peace and for the welfare of the city of Dallas. What was intended to be a peaceful demonstration in downtown Dallas on Thursday turned into a place of darkness, violence and death. We lament the loss of human lives and repudiate the acts of violence that have filled the streets and neighborhoods across the country. May the light of Christ continue shining through us in the midst of this dark moments in which we live.

Yes, may the light of Christ shine on St. Paul, on Baton Rouge, and on Dallas, and every place where violence has left its ugly stain this week. And may the love of Christ lead us together toward a future free from the sins of racism, oppression and violence.

May God have mercy on us all.

Lord, when will this stop?

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