Recent deaths of black men at the hands of authorities — Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La., and Philando Castile in a St. Paul, Minn., suburb — and the murders of Officers Patrick Zamarripa, Brent Thompson, Lorne Ahrens, Michael Smith and Michael Krol by a lone sniper in downtown Dallas have drawn a myriad of reactions.
Some protestors and others anxious to do something have focused primary support on those grieving the deaths of the African Americans at the hands of police, including many who embrace the “Black Lives Matter” movement.
In communities all across the land, churches and other groups are focusing their efforts primarily on expressing care and support for law enforcement in their own communities. In some, restaurants have provided meals to police stations, churches have offered special prayer services for officers grieving the deaths of five of their own and mounting personal encouragement card campaigns to personalize response to local police and other responders.
More deaths of young black men at the hands of officers and the massive sniper assault on Dallas officers have prompted others to grieve every death. More and more people have taken up the mantra that “all lives matter.” Surely more and more agree that this cycle of escalating discord and related violence must be reined in.
In these three separate incidents there must be a concern that justice is served. Increasingly, constructive efforts to address the racial divide in America simply must be addressed. It is encouraging to see video clips showing protestors and police officers crossing the street toward each other and embracing. But the resultant steps must be more than isolated anecdotal actions, as heartwarming as they may be.
Churches have an opportunity to take concrete, personal steps to bridge this disgraceful gap in many ways. The nation is right to grieve over every death, not to make charged determinations about who deserves sympathy and who does not. That would be business as usual.
And business as usual in this national crisis solves nothing.
Bill Webb is editor of Word & Way.