A few months ago I got pulled over in Cave Creek for speeding. Passing through unfamiliar territory, I wasn’t paying attention to the speed limit signs; I offer no excuses. I took an on-line driving class so that the points wouldn’t go on my record, and that was that. Those of you who attend our church (who have also seen those red and blue lights in your rearview mirror) know that sinking feeling that I felt, but I doubt you have ever felt the abject terror that an encounter with a police officer could possibly end your life.
I am writing in the recent aftermath of the killing of George Floyd and Daute Wright—and the longer aftermath of Breonna Taylor, Trayvon Martin and so many others. My heart just weeps when our brothers and sister of color are dying at a much higher rate at the hands of police than white people. In fact, per a 2019 research article from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, black men are about 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police over the course of life than are white men.
That said, I also have friends who are police officers who are exhausted and feeling reviled and unsupported. They lament the lack of respect for the law they are supposed to uphold and enforce. Many are burned out, quitting all together, or retiring early. That is worrisome because we know we need a fully-staffed, well-trained, and healthy police force to protect society. It would be truly awful if we needed help and no one was there to respond.
In this most polarizing of times, it seems we are all caught in a vicious cycle of whose lives matter the most. And that is getting us precisely nowhere. Jesus knew and acted on this deep truth: His message, in both his living and dying, was to yield power and privilege for the sake of us (read Philippians 2:1-11). I think of the whole biblical canon and all of the stories that tell the lengths God always goes to protect God’s people, and how quickly we forget that we are called to live into that image. If God seeks to protect us, we must respond by seeking first and foremost to protect one another. If we could all get on board with that message, what a radically different world that would be! Blue lives would seek to protect black lives, and black lives would seek to protect blue lives. In fact, that’s the only way the world can truly work. Someone has to break the cycle though. May we all live lives of looking first to the needs and interests of others.