A Lament for George Floyd, Racism in America and Violence on our Streets

Probably nearly every one of us has sadly seen the horrific video footage of the arrest of 49-year-old, African American, George Floyd. We were horrified to see him restrained during an arrest by an officer kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes. We heard his cry for help – “I can’t breathe.” We essentially saw him die.

Just another sad story of an African American suspected of a crime, killed by vigilantes or police officers? No! A human being, made in the image of God, killed unnecessarily. We need to be outraged!

Amid an already fragile society where there is a lot of pent up fear, frustration, and unrest, we see the wave of responses in protests around our country. Legitimate protests, mourning the violent loss of an African American citizen and calling for justice and change, have spilled over into violent looting and destruction in cities around our land.

But the violence and looting does nothing except to fuel prejudicial stereotypes. It does not bring positive change but furthers the darkness of a tragic situation. 

And, so it goes. The seeming endless cycle of prejudice, bias, racism, and violence continues.

We stereotype and judge people based on the group they belong to, whether that be a racial or ethnic group, a socio-economic group, a political ideology, gender, or a vocation, etc., etc. And thus, we generalize statements about people who belong to those groups and presume that we belong to a superior group.

Yes, there may be some African American young men who belong to gangs, are violent and break the law. But when we pre-judge ALL African American young men as thugs who steal, sell drugs, and break the law, we are prejudiced. Pre-judging and presumption are the root of prejudice and racism.

There may be many poor white people in inner cities who struggle with low paying jobs or rely on welfare. Many of them struggle with addiction, especially to opioids. If we pre-judge ALL poor white people as “white trash” we are prejudiced against them.

There may be some police officers who are biased against people of color and act like vigilantes, shooting unarmed first, before or instead of asking questions. But it is equally wrong to judge ALL police officers by the few who are overly aggressive or quick to pull the trigger. Most police officers nobly serve our communities. So, we cannot paint all police officers with a broad stroke of corruption or excessive force in policing. That is not reasonable or rational.

For that matter, preachers may be greedy and prey on other people to build their own wealth, promote their own kingdom, and support their lavish lifestyle. They may preach a false gospel for their own good. But it is wrong to stereotype ALL preachers or evangelists based on those ones who are following their own whims and self-glory instead of following Christ.

Some wealthy businessmen and entrepreneurs may indeed be greedy and corrupt, circumventing the law and using countless other people to pad their own bank accounts. However, if we view ALL successful businessmen or women through that lens, we are exercising bias and prejudice toward and whole group.

We need to repent of our sinful biases, and our prejudice and racism. We need to speak out against injustice and oppression, whether of the poor, immigrants, or people whose color and culture is different than ours. We Christians need to mourn our failure to follow the example of Jesus, who did not exclude based on gender, ethnicity, social status, or position in life. 

God have mercy on us, forgive us of our prejudice and biases, and give us grace to love and show mercy even to those who don’t deserve it. Because in the end we ourselves do not deserve God’s mercy and grace, and yet by faith we ourselves are recipients of that mercy and grace. 

We as Christians need to be the voice that speaks out against injustice, violence, oppression of the poor or the alien, prejudice against people of color and corruption of those in power.

We need to lament the sinfulness and brokenness of our society, a society which seems more and more separated from the righteousness of God, and alienated from the love of God by our own choices and actions.

God have mercy on us. God have mercy on the broken and brokenhearted. God have mercy on a nation that is broken and suffering in so many ways.

Forgive our self-centeredness. Forgive our prejudice. Forgive our violence. Forgive our reducing humanity to so much less than the image of God in which we were created.

God have mercy. Call us to repentance – to change – to mercy – to compassion – to love.

Call us to pray, Lord. To pray in the evenings at the end of our days. To pray in the morning at the beginning of new days. Always with the glorious hope of a new day coming. Even so, Lord Jesus, Come!
Former Pastor Paul Erny