There’s too much death in the world.
That’s what I find myself thinking as I look at every social media feed I have, every news notification that pops up on my phone, even in church prayer group emails I receive. There’s just too. much. death.
I started writing this because of the recent attention the murder of Ahmaud Arbery is getting. He was killed in February, but people are only caring now. I decided to mull over this disconnect today a bit. In the midst of that, I wondered why I was so relatively numbed to the death all around me. Why it’s hard for me to care about one more person, when people are murdered every day across the globe for a variety of reasons and intersectional conflicts.
Yes, I know that white on black violence is a hot topic in media, but many more black communities are torn apart from the inside. This dynamic was something I got a hard look at in a book I read recently for Community Development 210, a class at Covenant that should be required for all students. The book is called Our America, by LeAlan Jones and Lloyd Newman. I wrote a paper on this book, but first I cried as I read it. It is a plea from the inner city of Chicago, for us to turn, look, and listen to the other America, the one where there isn’t hope. Where the only dream these Americans have is to get out.
This book holds a parallel to the fervor with which the media has grabbed onto Arbery’s death. In 1994, two boys dropped a 5 year old boy, Eric Morse, out of the window of a high-rise in the Ida B. Wells housing project in Chicago. Now, the way the book is laid out, you’re already used to the sickening apathy towards death in the Wells. People were killed, often, by each other. There was mourning, but just a perpetual and almost routine state of it. So when you hear about Eric Morse, you’re sickened that a 10 and 11 year old would do such a thing, but, knowing the culture they’ve been raised in, you’re not exactly surprised. However, it makes national news. Eric Morse’s name is used as the rallying cry to fix the ghetto. For us to do something.
But no one ever does anything helpful. They plant a tree or a statue in his name, sure, but what does that do? Nothing. The community has hope that things will improve, but nothing ever comes of the passionate outsiders proclaiming the need for change. Eventually, the story fades away. And more people are killed. More go to jail. More die in jail. More get out of jail and kill more people or are killed themselves. And this is normal life! It was before Eric Morse and it was still after him.
So why do these stories blow up? These stories are powerful because each one became a symbol. They each gave us someone we could picture and cite and strive to avenge. Today, there is now an investigation into why Arbery’s killers were never prosecuted, and this is good! This is outrage used well!!
But it’s not going to change much at all, ultimately. Systematic violence is systematic. We don’t have a moral compass as a culture. In a post-modern “my truth”-worshipping society, you can’t give anyone good reasons to value life.
Yet, we are saddened. We are upset. We are angry. Because someone was killed and it could be someone we know and love next. We inherently know that life is valuable. This is a good thing to come to terms with!
What are we going to do, what are we going to change in our own lifestyles to reflect that knowledge? That passion? People die everyday. We all are going to die unless Jesus comes back first.
If you haven’t noticed, on a post about death I haven’t even talked about the millions of people who are infected with the newest coronavirus, one frighteningly contagious to everyone and definitely dangerous, even fatal, to those at risk with pre-existing conditions. A lot of people have died from this disease. But a lot of people die from medical malpractice every year. A lot of people die in car crashes. As far as I’m concerned, I don’t want to be a reason someone dies, period. I try to drive safely, and I try to wash my hands and stay at home.
< But I’m not living in fear. We all will die. I want to be an example on how to live >
The death surrounding us should give us, as people of Hope, that much more stimulus to live! We limit our own freedoms to protect others and even serve them in times of plague.
We are not bound to the chains of fear or of recklessness that our leaders will alternately preach to us from our news feeds.
We take action in our communities to stem the tide of violence where we can. We reach out to children and adults alike in love with the Gospel that breaks every chain.
We fight for justice for the powerless and oppressed.
We love with a fierce and confident joy, knowing that our labor will not be in vain if we follow the example of our Magnanimous Messiah.
I’m glad the media picked up another symbol of the oppression so many communities face every day. We need to be reminded! But we also need to be reminded that we have power in our communities to advocate for those who can’t. That that’s how we use the blessings (privilege) God has given us. We are wealthy in so much more than just money. This is a spiritual fight. How can we use our wealth to kneel before others and wash their feet, to help them stand?
Pray for your communities. Get involved in them. We’re here for a reason 🙂