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Hate, Hate, and More Hate

We are being Tested!

Today is one of those days when it’s hard to be a pastor. It’s especially hard to be an urban pastor, and triply hard to be an urban pastor who mothers children of color. And yet, if we are to believe what our faith teaches us, then we are all urban pastors who parent children of color because we are one in the Spirit: What affects one, affects us all.

The horror that is befalling Memphis is befalling us all: another Black man senselessly killed at the hands of law-enforcement. It brings tragedy, grief, and unbelievable sadness to our nation and the world. I find myself  embarrassed that we, as a people, have not yet figured out how to curtail this behavior. It has been reported that Mr. Tyre Nichols was pulled over as a “routine traffic stop.” That should not, in my opinion, ever rise to the level of execution short of a trial by jury.

I would say that I’m happy that the five individuals allegedly involved have been arrested and charged. And on some level, I am grateful for the speediness of the authorities to take action. But lest we think that everything will be resolved because both the officers and the victim are all Black men, think again.

There will be those who will condemn the entire African-American community because of this. That’s wrong.

There will be  those who will do whatever they can to shift the focus away from  examining policing techniques in this country and try to stay focused on personalities or mitigating circumstances. That’s wrong.

And yet, if I were a person of color, I would be preparing for another punch to the gut tonight when the video from the officers’ personal cameras is made public. There will be attacks and frustrations not only from outside the Black community, but also from within it. Fingers will be pointed. Angry words will be said. Tears will be shed. I pray that violence will not erupt despite the centuries of frustration and continued injustice.

Some will choose to avoid watching the videos, but not watching does not give license to avoid knowing about, talking about, thinking about and praying about it.

Memphis police chief Cerelyn “C.J.” Davis said Thursday that she expected citizens to be outraged by what she called the “heinous, reckless and inhumane” conduct captured in the video. She said she expected people to protest and called on them to remain peaceful (<https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/least-1-ex-memphis-police-officer-indicted-tyre-nichols-death-attorney-rcna67632>)

And it strikes me that this is all happening on Holocaust Remembrance Day. The more research that is done on that period in human history, the greater the number of people who are documented as being killed during that horror.  According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:

The Holocaust was the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of six million Jewish men, women and children by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. … During the era of the Holocaust, German authorities also targeted and killed other groups, including at times their children, because of their perceived racial and biological inferiority: Roma (Gypsies), Germans with disabilities, and some of the Slavic peoples (especially Poles and Russians). Other groups were persecuted on political, ideological, and behavioral grounds, among them Communists, Socialists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and homosexuals. (<https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/documenting-numbers-of-victims-of-the-holocaust-and-nazi-persecution>

Estimates are between 10 and 17 million people were intentionally killed as part of the European Holocaust – 6 million of them, Jewish. That is not only intolerable to me as a 21st century woman of faith, but is also deplorable to me as the man whose life and teachings I follow – Jesus of Nazareth – was, himself, a practicing Jew.

Hate begets hate.

Our Scriptures are filled with stories of despicable, violent leaders who oppressed the people.

God would send prophets to remind everyone of God’s presence and Law, and still we would fall away.

And then there was Jesus.

Born into a violent world of an occupied country.

A place filled with infighting and power struggles.

A world of economic oppression, hunger, homelessness, systemic injustice and sickness that were all used to divide people one from another. Why would the people in power want to divide the masses? Because divided, they lacked the power to change things.

Jesus came to teach us the power of Justice-Love and of being One in the Spirit.
Therein lies the greatest power of all, and the hope for humanity.

He is the Light of the World and the Darkness shall not overtake it.

Dr. King taught us that:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

It was true in Biblical times; it is true today.

It was true in the Holocaust; it is true today.

It was true when Dr. King went to Memphis and it will be true both now and in the days to come:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

Where we stand as we remember the Holocaust — with Jesus — with Dr. King — with all who work for peace, regardless of their faith tradition (or no tradition at all) …  Where we stand against  violence and injustice needs to ignite in each one of us the passion for doing the work of the Kin-dom of God right here and right now.

We are each being tested today to see which side of history we will be on.

To see whose Gospel we will lay claim to with our very lives.

May God lead us into the Light!


The Reverend Deborah Fae Swift is the Pastor of both South and Irondequoit Presbyterian Churches in Rochester, NY