Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Abel's Blood

The LORD said, "What did you do?  The voice of your brother's blood is crying out to me from the ground."

Genesis 4:10 (CEB)

Cain has just murdered his brother Abel, and when confronted for it by God, gives the world's first ever Nuremburg defense: "I don't know.  What am I, my brother's keeper?"

Yes, yes, Cain is.  And a police officer is his/her citizen's keeper.  Because without keeping your citizenry in your heart, there really is not much point to serving and protecting.

Yesterday, the graphic and terrible footage of an African American man, Walter Scott, being gunned down over the course of eight shots by Michael Slager, a white police officer, hit the news, along with the headline that the officer who shot him (and then, to compound his sin of murder, planted a Taser next to Scott's lifeless body in an attempt to demonstrate that Scott represented a threat to his immediate safety) would be charged with murder.

I feel like I wrote these words already, for Michael Brown and for Eric Garner and for Tamir Rice.

But here I am, writing them again for Walter Scott.

Because his blood, and the blood of his brothers...of OUR brothers...cries out from the ground for justice.

At least for now, justice is being pursued on behalf of Scott, which is a damn sight more than I can say for Brown, Garner, or Rice, since the two officers who killed Brown and Garner emerged without any indictment filed against them, and the investigation against the officer who shot and killed Rice is still ongoing, despite similar video being made available of his murder.

Which begs a question: how many more black men need to die at police hands before we can say that there is a pattern here, not just cases of isolated police brutality?

Because literally the same day as this footage was made available, another white South Carolina police officer was arrested on an entirely separate felony charge for shooting and killing another African American man, Ernest Satterwhite.

And if this is indeed a pattern, then we cannot simply wash our hands of it as easily as Pilate did of Jesus Christ.  Isolated instances are easy for us to write off, at least in our minds.  Surely Pilate thought the same of Jesus Christ...after all, most Israelites claiming to be the messiah advocated the violent overthrow of Rome (which is why at certain parts of the Gospels, the crowds expect the same of Jesus, and He demurs; He really is the Prince of Peace is the end).  A nonviolent messiah?  That's a one off.

But Pilate, and us, would be ignoring the larger pattern here: that we are the ones putting our citizenry to summary deaths at our hands, sparkling clean though they may be from the washbasin's water.

And so it is not merely the ground from which the blood of Walter Scott cries out for is from our hands.  My hands and yours, because with enough outcry, our leaders might actually have to change the way they do police work.

And if nothing changes, then our hands shall remain stained with Abel's blood, no matter how much soap we shall ever try to use.

Yours in Christ,

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