Our spirits groan for injustices committed against Black lives.
Last night, as Eastertide moved to Ordinary Time on the liturgical calendar, I resolved to stop using my phone in bed. Ironically, I haven’t had a night where I’ve had more reason to clutch my phone by my side more in a long time. Sheltered-in-place for months, then called to a citywide curfew at 11pm, helicopters overhead, sirens blaring as cars flew down the street right outside our bedroom window, I stayed glued to social media and the reports from people living nearby us, images of burnt Walmarts and rumors of home break-ins by looters (unfounded, I think… a “telephone” mix-up of actual news of “Home Depot” break-ins). The #SanLeandro trending Twitter posts sprinkled those rumors and reports with retweeted petitions for Emerald Black, miscarried last year after being kicked by San Leandro PD, and images of Steven Taylor, tased and killed by police at the local Walmart while wielding but a bat.
So with mall break-ins nearby at the same time as nationwide grief over George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and more, peaceful protests and social uprisings, my protective dad-vigilance reared into high gear. It’s already been activated, as moral urgency and grief make me feel need to be on the streets protesting despite our household’s tighter pandemic quarantining. Last night, I stayed up, praying and watching out the window, refusing fear or weapons, concerned for our neighbors.
This morning’s lectionary reading came from Joel 2 about the years the locusts have taken and pouring out the Spirit, and Romans 8 about the creation groaning in frustration, longing for liberation from its bondage to decay. I wonder about the young-men-who-could-be-me-but-for-grace, risking something to get out there to that crowded Walmart on a Sunday night, whether spurred by fury or frustration or freeloading or fear, to steal goods and set fires.
We are, I grieve, suckered into a desperate consumerist culture that parcels us into purchasing agents, the only semblance of our significance we can feel. The economic insecurity, already there but now plummeted to fearsome lows, as every one of us knows someone close who is unemployed and scared.
And the rage is real. To listen to Nikole Hannah-Jones listening to men arguing whose anguish and contradictions are as sincere and painful as any people of conscience. I try to listen and learn, and I watch my partner doing that too. We listen to discussions, we read about marchers, we immerse in policy and history and narratives. It’s inadequate; it’s wrenching; it spurs action and restlessness; it’s also just more borrowed valor for those of us who get to choose when to identify and claim solidarity. For the Black, Indigenous, Latinx whose histories of oppression and dispossession at the hands of White American cops and governments and—yes—schools, it is hard to moralize about the righteousness of any actions from that rage. Maybe necessary, but wrong if you think it’s easy.
These pass through my mind as I sit by the window and watch and worry about my daughter and wife, our bed not ten feet from the street where police race to Bay Fair. It is for these sorts of groanings that Paul wrote Romans 8, right in the teeth of empire. For the gritted crises that Joel wrote that God promised God would restore and pour out.
The hope of glory that reminds us each of us are, even in the face of systemic death, worth God’s identification with us and our sufferings, we image bearers. George Floyd, image bearer. Breonna Taylor, image bearer. Steven Taylor, image bearer.