In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet onto the road of peace. – Benedictus
This morning as I read the Psalms and the Benedictus, I kept replaying in my mind the awful video footage of Terence Crutcher being shot and killed by a Tulsa police officer. No weapon, arms held in the air, and still he was killed.
Defend me, O God, and plead my cause
against a godless nation.
From a deceitful and cunning people
Rescue me, O God.
In the video of the killing, taken from a helicopter above the scene, an officer is heard saying, “That looks like a bad dude too. He might be on something.” Think about that for a moment. From a helicopter many, many feet above the ground, Terence Crutcher is deemed a danger. A man with his hands up, who’s only crime was that his car stalled on the highway.
Since you, O God, are my stronghold,
why have you rejected me?
Why do I go mourning
oppressed by the foe?
How many more of these videos do we need to watch before we as a country say enough? Inevitably, the purposeful denigration of Terence Crutcher’s character will begin, as we try to justify what has been a regular part of life for African Americans in this country, and what white Americans have only recently been forced to witness. This can not continue.
O send forth your light and your truth;
let these be my guide.
Let them bring me to your holy mountain,
to the place where you dwell.
This senseless death is magnified by the fact that Ahmad Kahn Rahami, the man accused of setting off a pressure cooker bomb in New York City, was taken into custody, alive. Rahami was armed and dangerous, and engaged in a shootout with police officers. And yet, law enforcement was able to take him alive. They took him alive, because they wanted him alive. They had a vested interest in his survival; hoping to question him about possible ties to terrorist organizations. If a wanted and dangerous man can shoot at police officers and still be taken alive, why in the world did Terence Crutcher have to die? In what way was he a greater threat than Rahami? It seems to me that what made Crutcher a danger in the eyes of the officers was the fact that he was a black man.
And I will come to your altar, O God,
the God of my joy.
My redeemer, I will thank you on the harp,
O God, my God.
White Christians in this nation have a responsibility to stand against the oppression and violence that are killing the African American community. Our voices need to be heard crying out, demanding justice, and an end to violence. We need to remember that we follow a Christ who was himself, a victim of state violence. We follow a Christ who forfeited his life, and refused to ignore or forget about, those people whom the world had declared unfit for dignity and acceptance. We are not called to do less, or to decide that the world is simply broken and we have no power to change it. We are called “To act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God” (Micah 6:8). Our silence is unjust. Our inaction is unjust. Justice is not borne of silence, nor is silence merciful. We can have compassion for the African American community and law enforcement while still demanding that justice be done.
Why are you cast down, my soul,
why groan within me?
Hope in God; I will praise God still,
my savior and my God.*
Talk about this today and tomorrow and the next day. Have this conversation with your family, friends, and worshipping community. Pray for the victims of state violence and for their families. For Terence Crutcher, Tyre King, Philando Castille, Sandra Bland, Alton Sterling, Tamir Rice, and the ever growing list of names. Find out how to support those organizations in your community that are seeking to end police violence. Our voices are powerful and they are needed. Enough is enough. Be heard.