LITTLE ROCK, Ar.—This past week, two African Americans—Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La, on Tuesday, and Philando Castile in Saint Paul, Mn on Wednesday—and five police officers in Dallas on Thursday—Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, and Lorne Ahrens—were killed in shootings. CBF Arkansas Moderator, Dr. Patricia (Pat) Griffen and CBF Arkansas Coordinator Dr. Ray Higgins share their perspectives with Cooperative Baptists in Arkansas and partner congregations.
AMERICA IS WEEPING
By Pat Griffen, CBFAR Moderator
Do ye hear the children weeping, O my brothers,
Ere the sorrow comes with years?
They are leaning their young heads against their mothers,
And that cannot stop their tears.
The young lambs are bleating in the meadows ;
The young birds are chirping in the nest;
The young fawns are playing with the shadows;
The young flowers are blowing toward the west—
But the young, young children, O my brothers,
They are weeping bitterly!
They are weeping in the playtime of the others,
In the country of the free.
From The Cry of the Children by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
How long, Lord, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not save?
Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.
Therefore the law is paralyzed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted.
Habakkuk 1:2-4 (NLT)
How long, O Lord, must we weep because of racial injustice, because of hatred and bigotry? How long, O Lord, must we weep because of violence in myriad ways based on race, gender, gender expression, gender identity, sexual preference, disability, religious belief, ethnicity or nationality? How long, O Lord, must we weep for your children?
The mass murders in Orlando, the killings of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, the five police officers in Dallas and the death of countless victims at the hands of police brutality serve as a call to grieve, a time to mourn, a time to weep, and a time to feel anguish about the hatred and violence in our country. This is a time for America to sit with our grief, to feel the pain of the sufferer, the heart broken, the traumatized.
Through the pain of our grief may we connect with the humanity of suffering and the sufferer. Through the pain of our grief may we move to understand the suffering of those who are different from us. Through the pain of our grief may we move to intimately understand the heart of the grief stricken. Through the pain of our grief and the sting of our tears may we move to love more deeply, more compassionately with a deeper understanding of the “others” in our country.
My prayer is that America will be guided by a moral compass that moves toward justice for all. My prayer is that America will embrace the beauty of its diversity. My prayer is that through love we will truly become a “United States of America.”
SEEING PEACE AND JUSTICE IN OUR TEARS
By Ray Higgins, CBFAR Coordinator
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate (Matthew 23:37-38, NIV).
As Jesus approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, if you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes (Luke 19:41-42, NIV).
The Gospel writer, Matthew, gives us this description of Jesus’ thoughts about violence in the Holy City during his day. And, the Gospel writer, Luke, describes the scene as Jesus rides a colt into Jerusalem on what would become Holy Week.
Jesus names the problem in his day and ours: you who kill.
Kill whom? The good and innocent people.
Jesus describes how he would like to respond. He longs to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.
He describes why he hasn’t responded that way: you were not willing.
As Jesus rides into the city of Jerusalem for Passover, he weeps.
Why does he weep? If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.
At the end of that week, he is killed on a cross, and he shows us through his death that love is stronger than violence, that love gives life, and that love is the way to bring peace.
Approximately 20 years later, the Apostle Paul writes to the Christ-followers in Corinth: For Christ’s love compels us….
Why? Because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again (2 Corinthians 5:14-15, NIV).
Christ died for all. Every person matters.
And because Christ died for all, his love compels us…
To no longer live for ourselves;
To love God, love our neighbor as ourselves, and even love our enemies;
To treat others as we want to be treated;
To see the violence and weep;
To grieve with the families of those being killed;
To reach out and embrace all of God’s children;
To speak with wisdom, truth, courage, and compassion about the causes of violence;
To confess that prejudice against people who are different is sin and leads to deaths;
To nurture diverse friendships, mutual understanding and respect, and liberty and justice for all;
And, to pray for shalom in our homes, streets, neighborhoods, cities, country, and world.
Unlike those first century citizens in Jerusalem, may we find ways to stop the violence, bring people together for the common good, and work together for what will bring all of us peace and justice.
NOTE: Pat Griffen, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, retired psychology professor, a member of New Millennium Church in Little Rock, and the Moderator for CBF Arkansas. Ray Higgins, Ph.D. is a former pastor, ethics professor, member of Second Baptist Church in Little Rock, and Coordinator of CBF Arkansas.
BACKGROUND: In August 2007, CBF Arkansas and President Fitz Hill and Arkansas Baptist College formed a partnership. Since February 2008, CBFAR’s office has been located in a renovated 1890s Queen Anne cottage on the ABC campus on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. During these eight years, ABC and CBFAR have worked together in neighborhood and community development, providing support for college students, racial understanding and respect, and congregational partnerships. Also, since 2002, CBF Arkansas has partnered with Together for Hope Arkansas in community development in Helena and Phillips County.