We are killing each other. We are killing ourselves.
In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and then in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, police officers used deadly force against black men under questionable circumstances in just the last few days. Last night snipers killed five police officers and wounded six others in Dallas, Texas. The gunmen positioned themselves near the end of a march protesting the shootings in Minnesota and Louisiana.
Alton Sterling and Philando Castile—the black men killed by police—join a sorrowful list of well over 100 black people killed by police this year. The number of blacks killed by police has given rise to the Black Lives Matter movement.
In response to rising tensions between supporters of law enforcement and the Black Lives Matter movement, Louisiana recently enacted a Blue Lives Matter statute. Crimes targeting police, firefighters, and EMS personnel now count as hate crimes in this state.
Like a long list of incidents before them, the shootings of Mr. Sterling and Mr. Castile will be investigated by independent agencies. There is much we do not know.
At this writing, the motives of the Dallas killers have not been fully explained. As the hours and days unfold, we may learn more about their identities and the reasons for their vicious, despicable actions. During a standoff with officers, a now deceased shooter expressed his anger about killings by police.
There are some things that we do know.
Many in the black community feel unsafe. They feel, if not intentionally targeted by the authorities, then at least viewed by them at a lethally high level of suspicion in even the most innocuous interactions.
Police officers work under stressful and dangerous conditions every day. Sometimes they are forced to make life or death decisions in a matter of seconds.
Seven lives have been lost. Civilians. Law enforcement officers. Relatives, friends, and communities weep bitter tears. Hearts have been shattered. We are all joined in shock and sorrow and horror and disbelief.
We seek comfort and safety in placing blame. In finding bad guys to isolate, incarcerate, or eliminate. And it is true that we must apprehend criminals in our communities and weed out racist, unstable officers from the ranks of the police.
We look for peace by ridding ourselves of those who break the peace. And perhaps on this side of eternity we can achieve nothing greater. But Jesus still bids us to imagine and to strive for a greater peace.
Jesus taught us to be peacemakers. Violence—even violence against peace breakers—is still violence. When anyone dies, a child of God dies. Jesus weeps. And so should we.
We are each children of God. To kill someone is always to kill one of our own. In fact, we are one in Christ. To kill another child of God is like killing ourselves.
We are violent. And the Prince of Peace came to bring peace by making each of us peacemakers.
We can begin by praying for the dead and the injured. Pray for those wracked by grief and beset by fear. Pray for those consumed by hate. Pray for those whose hate or fear has driven them to kill. Pray for the grace to be an instrument of peace. In our actions, let us move beyond black and blue. To see in each other another child of God.