Earlier this year, 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery was killed by two men who approached him with their pickup truck while he was jogging. These men were not arrested until a video of the murder went viral.
Our friends at the Vineyard Justice Network has posted a statement by a group of black pastors in the Vineyard USA. Among other things, they write:
How long, Lord, must [we] call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make [us] look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before [us]; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted. Habakkuk 1:2-4
Written on 5/8, what would have been Ahmaud Arbery’s 26th birthday.
We’re angry. We’re tired. We’re tired of being angry.
There is nothing different about this time except that we are in a pandemic. A pandemic that disproportionately affects Black and Brown bodies, due to unequal access to healthcare, food and other life essentials. A pandemic that has us saying goodbye to our parents, grandparents and relatives at an alarming rate. A pandemic that compels us to wear masks when we know what the consequences could be – dangers that run deeper than the risk of infection.
Besides that, what’s different?
A Black man’s life taken by a family affair: a father and a son.
A Black man’s life taken by a family affair: a nation stuck in cycles of racialized violence and death.
This isn’t new. It’s history.
Lynchings were public gatherings — spectacles where human bodies, still alive, were stripped, tortured, dismembered, sometimes burned, and left to die. Community is not supposed to be like this. Our churches, too, are public gatherings — a place where the Body, however broken, can seek healing from the One with pierced hands. And yet, as pastors, we can simply feel responsible for informing the church about these tragedies, even as we hurt inside, barely having had time to process them ourselves. The Church is more than a place to announce Black Death, it is a Body meant to uplift Black Life.
This uplift involves looking sin and evil in the face and standing against it. As Jeannine Hill Fletcher says, “If Christians desire a world of racial justice and religious integrity, understanding the sin of white supremacy and Christian theology’s role within it is our only way forward.”
God does not look away from the pain and affliction of his people.
Neither do we.
Editor’s note: Less than two weeks after this statement was released, George Floyd was killed by a policeman in Minneapolis, making it even more relevant.