November 11, 2017
Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, Raleigh, NC. Learn More »
By Rev. Donna Schaper, Senior Minister of BPFNA Partner Congregation, Judson Memorial Church, New York City
This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts. Zechariah 4:6
The names Wilson and Brown are such ordinary all-American names. Now they are forever linked in a piece of American history that will become a part of a trivia quiz, even though the most archetypal of American struggles connected them. One is a policeman; the other a boy. One is alive; the other is dead. One had a gun; the other did not. One had the protection of the “law,” the other did not.
Heavy hurts will begin to subside. People will try to remember the names of all the black men killed by all the police. We won’t be able to do so, so many are there.
What meaning can we make of our amnesia, our trivia games, our all American struggles with each other? We can start with Zechariah’s words to Zerubbabel. We are more a nation that believes his promise than not. Our beliefs are not yet fully available to our laws, and thus the cultural incompetency of our legal system. We teach our children: use your words, not your fists. We say to ISIS that violence resolves nothing. We say to each other “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit.” What does that mean in a world where law enforcement lags behind its cultural and religious consensus?
It means that we are reaching. That we are not there yet. That more is going on underground than above ground. Today is one of those days, those in between days, when more is going on underground than above. More is pre conscious or un conscious or sub conscious than conscious. We could pray with the two Z’s and try to mean it. We want spirit to prevail over might and power. We want to be better than we are. Especially white people, like me, want to be better than we are.
In New York, right after the verdict was announced, we gathered in Union Square and walked the long walk to Times Square, some back to Washington square. We have squared this route more than once, the square of the Union, the Times, the founder. Many had the energy to yell. I did not.
When I got back to the church, which is at the South End of Washington Square, one of our board members was there. She wanted the church to “open up.” With tears staining her mascara, she remembered her UCC youth group taking her on a two week immersion from Iowa to Chicago in 1963. Andy Young was the youth leader then. She had a roommate who taught her that “white people see the world completely differently than black people.” As we talked on the steps of the church, well dressed black people rushed by, in the middle of the street, carrying bags with anger, showing us that they didn’t feel safe on their own streets. Jane and I felt safe. Then again, we are white and get protection from might and power.
Spirit of the Living God, you who are stronger than might or human power, help us. Help us soon. Get us off our well worn path of cultural incompetency and complete the hopes of our nation. All of them. Amen