The psalmist pleads: “When will peace come to Jerusalem.” We live today in a New Jerusalem, but the cry is the same: When will peace come to America?
On any given day, they spill out onto the streets, driven by fury.
They march. They kneel. They sing.
They cry. They pray. They light candles.
They chant and shout, urgent voices, muffled behind masks.
They block freeways and bridges and fill public squares.
They press themselves into asphalt, silently breathing for 8 minutes 46 seconds.
They do this beneath the watchful gaze of uniformed police offices standing sentry.
Why? Because of the death of a black man after an encounter with a white police officer, who pressed his left knee on the neck of the man the world now knows as George Floyd. Violence against African Americans is a familiar song. We know their names Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner and Rayshard Brooks. They uttered the same anguished plea as Mr. Floyd – “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.”
There are those who criticize our church, who criticize us for taking part in the peaceful demonstrations. They say that the church should not be partisan. Yet, we are the church, we live in society. The church does not live behind the four walls of the structures where we worship. It is a challenge of Pope Francis: “Get out of the four walls and get into the world and make a difference proclaiming the Gospel beyond the four walls.”
We ask: “How long will the marching continue? More important, will the rage and fist pumps, the prayers and the songs, give way to enduring change?” There is some hope as cities and states question their policies on police training, on public housing, on health care, and childcare. Some hope, as we continue to rid ourselves of racist thinking. Some hope, as we believe that we are sisters and brothers, unafraid to be challenged in our attitudes and ready to embrace a just society.