The morning after the lack of an indictment of the officer in the Eric Garner case, I find myself frustrated, numb, wondering what to say on the second Sunday of Advent – and thankful that my original submission for this blog mysteriously disappeared from Paul’s computer!
Weary of systemic racial injustice, wishing I could make a difference, I am also in a community heavily populated by law enforcement officials. Our children play together; we’re part of school functions together. I can honestly say that some of my favorite people work in law enforcement. They’re not perfect, but neither are folks in my own profession – even my favorites.
I am, as I assume you are, part of a tradition that puts great stock in the law, in part because so much of our theology was penned by a lawyer! It’s no news to you that John Calvin held the position of civil magistrate in such high regard, that he thought civil government necessary to preserve “the humanity of men.” (I take that to include women, too!) And that citizens have duties to pay taxes, bear arms in defense, unless governmental actions contradict their prayerfully shaped consciences.
You know all this, as well as Niebuhr’s “moral man and immoral society” concept – the way our social, political, and economic systems can rationalize immorality, and thus “power sacrifices justice to peace within the community and destroys peace between communities.”
What’s happening is not about whether cops are good or bad (they are both, just like all the rest of us), or if our legal system is racist (I believe it is, in the same way racism permeates all of our systems).
It’s just as much about Christ coming, here and now, this year and to this time and struggle. It’s about how peace on earth and goodwill to all become real, today. In this light, my Advent questions: How will I get ready for the Prince of Peace? How will the voices I hear in the streets, on #blacklivesmatter, and in all the communities I know give voice to the angels proclaiming a Savior is born, not just for me, not just for the people I hear, but for everyone?
Emmanuel, God with us, we know it is Advent, yet we wonder what time it is. Is it time to clean out our homes and our hearts, or is it time to be filled with cider and sweetness? Is it time to sing out carols with candles, or is it time to call out in anguish and lament?
According to scripture, there is a time for every purpose, and we trust that you create us for such a time as this. Give us wisdom to read the signs of our times, whether signs of hope in our halls or protest in our streets. Give us faith to read in all of them signs of the tiny child, the Human One. Give us ears for any alarm set for his hour of peace on earth, quickly coming, and help all humanity to be there together, on time and in our time. Amen.
Laura Cunningham is the pastor of the Nauraushaun Presbyterian Church in Pearl River, NY.