Sleep on This: The pillaging of hope (June 2)

Sleep on This: The pillaging of hope (June 2)

Good evening, friend!

As I have shared over the last two nights, the horrific murder of George Floyd has jolted me into a deep, personal review of my own attitudes towards race relations in this country. Like many of you, I have been largely shielded from racial strife. Growing up in Yakima, we who lived in lily-white West Valley knew to avoid the “bad section” of town—which translated meant the “black section” of town. And now I live in almost-lily-white Gig Harbor—so nothing much has changed regarding my personal encounters with these issues. I have been as quarantined racially for most of my life as I have been socially for the last three months.

So…I am REALLY trying to listen; to understand; to empathize; to avoid knee-jerk responses. Talking with my daughter Rachel, who pastors a North Carolina college with a large African-American population has been helpful. And I am on my knees every morning with my wife, praying for our nation, for this pandemic for our church in these crazy times.

In short, I am really trying to understand in ways that I have never tried to understand before, the pain that Mr. Floyd’s death has stirred up among black Americans, and the incredible tenacity of racism, of which this incident is only the most recent example.

Which is why I am sickened at the violence that has overtaken the cities in our nation. Sickened at the reports that some are being paid to incite this violence (if true, this is nothing short of treason.) Sickened for the plight of business owners, many of them African-Americans, who have lost everything; of employees, many of them African-Americans, whose jobs will never return. Sickened that the honorable police officers, many of them African-American, are under attack, a few of them dying. Sickened at the wicked news coverage that throws gasoline on this conflagration…and intends to. All I have to do is listen to black commentators rage against this violence to know that my outrage is not Caucasian; it is human.

But perhaps my greatest outrage is this: hooligans and those who incite them, have hijacked what could and should have been a national turning point. The horror of what was done to Mr. Floyd was SO obviously horrible that even those who tend to ignore or dismiss claims of racial inequity were re-thinking their position. Were, perhaps for the first time, REALLY trying to listen to the voices who have been saying for centuries that we do not understand their pain or plight.

There should have been peaceful, angry protests! All of America should have risen up together in a moment of confession, a moment of repentance, a moment for reconciliation. But the brutes are trying to steal that moment. It is satanic. And I mean that literally. Who but Satan has more to gain by strangling in the crib this foundling hope of national healing?

When Paul preached Jesus in ancient Ephesus, the artisans who made a living selling pagan religious artifacts, led by Demetrius the Silversmith, incited violence against the Christians. At one point we read, “The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there.” (Acts 19:32) In other words, it was manufactured bedlam intended to whip up a murderous frenzy. Paul wanted to reason with the crowd; the believers would not allow him because the moment for talking and listening had passed; only violence remained.

Dr. Martin Luther King once said, “Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness…through violence, you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate.”

I beg you—even as I implore my own spirit—do not let the brutes steal this moment of personal reflection, confession and repentance. Do not let them harden your heart that was just beginning to soften. Beg the Lord to grant you the wisdom to separate anarchists from lamenters. The former deserve justice. The latter deserve to be heard, understood, embraced, and comforted.

Lord, as I lay me down to sleep, in the safety of my protected community, I lay before you those whose lives are being destroyed by demonic forces. Defeat the Enemy, Lord, defeat him…and protect the people who long to be heard and whose voices have, once again, been silenced. Drive me to my knees that I might intercede for those I may not understand and may never know—but who are precious to you. Amen.

Pastor Mark