Clergy love.

Disclaimer: My thoughts on the following topic are not my most articulate.  Please do not throw tomoatoes.

On New Year’s Day, a white BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) police officer fatally shot a black man after a fight had broken out.  On Wednesday night, riots in Oakland destroyed the businesses of, ironically, black people.

The officer who shot the bullet resigned his position just before he was otherwise required to issue a statement.  One of many theories is that he thought he was reaching for his gun-shaped tazer.

My heart breaks for everyone.  The victims and the shooter.  When I read that dozens of clergy were willing to meet with the officer, I thought, That is a step in the right direction.  That guy needs some love.

Then I read that the clergy were outraged with him, “demanding answers”.  At that point, they were no longer “clergy” to me.  I could not distinguish them from “everybody else”.

One of my earthly heroes is Sister Helen Prejean.  She came to speak at St. Mary’s College when I was a student there, and she revolutionized the way I think about our justice system.  One idea she has shared is:  “The only way I know what I really believe is by keeping watch over what I do.”  She is beautifully and artfully able to entwine herself in complicated and tragic situations, loving the victims and the accused.  In my heart, she has earned the title “clergy”.  Clergy love.

9 thoughts on “Clergy love.

  1. aly hawkins

    I think the difficult thing for many clergy is knowing when to be pastoral and when to be prophetic. In the ideal world, ministers would be able to hold these in tandem (they’re both very important), but in my experience, most have a default setting of one or the other.

  2. aly hawkins

    In the biblical tradition, prophets speak the word of the Lord. Sometimes they are words of comfort and assurance, but more often they are words of warning and/or condemnation of particular actions or attitudes. This tradition is carried into our times by ministers and other leaders who prayerfully look at the direction of society or the church and speak God’s truth in response, as best they can.

    The prophetic tradition is especially strong in the historic black church (see Wright, Rev. Jeremiah), so it’s not surprising to me that the scales tipped in that direction in the Oscar Grant situation.

  3. sharolyn

    If this were a systematic problem, as in sanctioned executions of train riders from any given race, a prophetic word may be warranted.

    I am assuming that the shooter in this case feels remorse. At worst, let’s say he is a racist and that has influenced his actions.

    There are scores of people shouting at him, telling him what he did was wrong, vandalizing businesses, destroying cop cars. I don’t see how one additional person sending him the same message would bring him to a place of repentance, or self reflection (“Am I racist?”). How is a prophetic voice helpful?

    Again, I feel everyone in this crisis needs some love.

  4. Eric

    Christians, even clergy, aren’t immune from the human tendency to demand justice (which all too often seems to mean “fix blame”) instead of offering compassion.

  5. Zack

    Clergy aside, here’s an update on the dude who pulled the trigger. I’m sure his heart is breaking now…

    OAKLAND, Calif. – A former transit officer has been charged with murder in the shooting death of an unarmed black man that set off violent protests, officials said Wednesday.

  6. Sharolyn

    A wise friend once told me that is it better to know your principles before the crisis. Should clergy be in the business of weighing evidence? I admire Helen Prejean because in a myriad of murder cases (and I consider this one) she has committed herself to caring for and praying for both parties, more so the imprisoned. (And people imprisoned for other atrocities, too.) That says more to me about the nun than the murderer.

  7. Sharolyn

    PS – This is who Susan Sarandon portrayed in “Dead Man Walking”, and these questions certainly come up in the movie, though it’s been a long time since I’ve seen it.

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