I protested the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and so many others yesterday outside of White House. Asked by a reporter, “Why are you here after the president’s threat?” I replied simply, “Where else should I be? He is Caesar, not Lord. I know my place and he should find his.” I was there the day before and the day before that and… Last night, I shared these words with a church that gathered virtually to lament and to cry out for justice:
I can’t breathe. Too many names are in my throat: George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Philando Castille, Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, Laquan McDonald, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, Rodney King, Emmett Till—all the way back to Kunta Kinte. Ahmaud was killed while running. It is cyclical with news cycles that give me circles around my eyes. Still, I rise in protest, in adamant defiance. No lie can keep me down.
No matter how much the ground shakes, it does not shift my crown. I know my position, given to me by my Creator and not a constitution.
Hands down and no question, the country is falling apart from the top- down. Holding a Bible for a photo opportunity, Trump stands in front of a church but won’t enter one. What has been done to Christianity that he feels so comfortable, that so many think that his political agenda and Jesus’ gospel go well together? The Church capitalized on Jesus’ name and in Jesus’ name and now he has politicized it. It seems he is “too blessed to be stressed” about it.
But I am worried about the Church’s reputation and who will be on the roll when this is over. Ida B. Well’s lynching record is long and unending. And justice for African Americans is a long time coming, which makes me want to holler so I chant in the streets. Like Abraham Joshua Heschel, I pray with my feet. Follow me or keep it moving. I can hear the drum major for justice’s beat.
Floyd’s death seen from every angle and around the world, still, there is not enough evidence? Still, the medical examiner rules that he had underlying health conditions. “At the hands of persons unknown,” they used to say after lynchings. Now we have videos and they still can’t bring themselves to say, “Murder.” You don’t say.
Say it isn’t so but it is. Denial of police brutality, of the hyper- surveillance of certain communities and bodies, of the vandalizing of countries and the looting of cultures for the building of monuments to white supremacy, let that truth burn in your heart. Don’t let your Amens stay in the corner but take them to your communities, your family gatherings, your clubs and leagues, your friends and coworkers. Agree with me in front of them.
Pour your heart out publicly or “cry me a river.”
And for believers who are more concerned with opening the doors of the church and returning to their committee meetings, with getting their praise on and high- fiving their neighbor rather than opening their eyes to the gross injustices right outside their doors, putting their feet where their faith is and raising their fists in protest, I say, “You are breaking my heart.” Jesus didn’t die so that you could dress up and have church on Sunday. No, if you follow Jesus, then you know that all roads lead to Calvary.
And if you have not suffered for Jesus, I don’t know if it was a cross that you picked up.
Pour your heart out publicly or jump in the river and by this, I mean, get baptized again and come back up with a gospel that makes sense for a man with a knee on his neck and can’t breathe, for a man murdered while jogging, for a woman shot and killed in her home. All unarmed. All dead. Enough church services, enough preaching, enough singing and enough said—unless you are pouring your heart out for justice and in lament.