Holy God, open our eyes to a fresh vision
for a peaceful world,
along with the will
to seek alternatives to revenge and violence.
Lord, have mercy. Enough with the damn guns, and with violence and racism and all the other ills that prevent us from realizing our sacred humanity. I can barely breath I am so heartsick.
EPF spent a day in Lowndes County, Alabama, back in August, commemorating the feast day of blessed Jonathan Daniels as part of our Year of Action. The hundreds in attendance were, whether they knew it or not, under the watchful, caring eyes of Sheriff John Williams. You see, Lowndes County is -- decades after the murder of Jon Daniels for doing nothing more than trying to register people to exercise their right to vote -- still not a safe place to be. On Saturday, Sheriff Williams was fatally shot once, right through the head, for doing nothing more than asking a white child to turn down the music in his truck. The murder happened at the convenience store right across the street from the Lowndes County Courthouse where we celebrated a Eucharist in honor of Jon Daniels and all the martyrs of Alabama. Many of us bought cold drinks there on that hot August day. Fresh blood now lies on the concrete.
Four hours after killing Sheriff Williams, and after a manhunt was initiated, the white child (son of law enforcement himself) who committed the crime walked up to the officers at the convenience store, weapon in hand, and turned himself in. He was taken into custody without incident, the newspaper says. Imagine a black child walking back up to the scene of a murder, anywhere in America, holding a gun. Would he still be alive? Not likely. He would not even have to be a suspect to be shot first, tried later. That I believe this makes me ill. You can read a news account of Sheriff Williams' killing here: Lowndes County Sheriff ‘Big John’ Williams shot and killed; 18-year-old suspect surrenders https://www.al.com/news/montgomery/2019/11/lowndes-county-sheriff-big-john-williams-shot-and-killed-in-the-line-of-duty.html
I've been trying to find a peaceful place in my heart since I got home from Palestine a month or so ago to write about the racism and violence that I saw there. I can't find words adequate to share with you how much despair I have after bearing witness to the horrors Israel incessantly rains down on our Palestinian brothers and sisters. Guns are a big part of that story, too. Be patient with me. I will write, but I keep getting gobsmacked with fresh nightmares that make me feel incompetent to say anything useful, or healing, or holy. I just feel paralyzing grief.
And yet, I think that I am supposed to "buck up" and find a reason to be thankful, hopeful, particularly this week, of all weeks, with the Thanksgiving holiday and the beginning of Advent nigh. I certainly have so much to be grateful for, not the least of which is the work I have been called to do -- to advocate for those without voices, to promote peaceful resolution to the extravagant bounty of conflicts our world presents, and to love, love, love even those who visit horrors on the weakest among us. So, I'll just call myself grateful for this grief. Good grief. It makes me human. It has the power to transform. I'll just sit here with it, and let God do God's thing, which is to shower grace on all the brokenness, making it whole, making us well, healing the world. And I'll keep working for peace and justice, in my small, imperfect way, because that is the only way I know to help God, and to honor gun victims like Sheriff Williams.