BALTIMORE MAY BE CLOSER THAN WE WANT TO ADMIT
Like so many in our society, my heart has been breaking the past few days as the news from Baltimore has dominated so much of our media. Seeing the destruction of so many properties and so many lives leaves me on the verge of tears. I would like to sit here and tell you that I cannot understand at all why people would act in such a way in the midst of the painful news of the young man’s death, because we all ‘know’ there is no justifiable reason for the citizens of Baltimore who had nothing to do with the events in question.
I would like to, but, quite simply, I can’t. And, upon further refection, I’m not sure you can either.
‘How in the world could you say that?’ Admit it, that is the first reaction many of you may have to my statement. Honestly, I kind of feel that way myself. However, before we get completely mounted on our high horse, let’s flesh a few things out for the sake of fairness.
Before I go any further, I want you to understand that in NO WAY am I excusing the rioting that has perpetrated Baltimore (and other cities in the last year or so.) Those who have been involved in looting and rioting must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law – for while I am completely in favor of non-violent protests as a way of expressing displeasure with the actions of any government entity we must also respect and be accountable to the rule of law.
Having said all that, I understand the need to express outrage when one discerns that an injustice has been done to another, especially when that perceived injustice hits close to home. I also understand that in many ways, the failure to find a way to express that outrage can be more damaging in the long term than finding a way to unload those feelings here and now.
‘That may be true, Lamar, but I simply don’t understand how you can say that you understand the absolutely senseless destruction of lives and property when the people being attacked had nothing to do with the incident in question.’
Let me ask this question: Have you ever engaged in destructive behavior towards another when you have perceived they have done you, or another about whom you care, wrong? Have you done it either actively or passively?
Physically and/or emotionally? In the interest of fairness and full disclosure, I’ll say now, even though I’m in no way proud of it, that I most certainly have done so. While I know that I am further along in my growth and maturity than I was even 10 years ago, and that I am hopeful that I grow in this area every day, I know that the natural human instinct to react violently (physically or emotionally) is something that comes out when we may least expect it to, and, as much as I would like to think otherwise, comes out at times to this day.
One of the reasons, I believe, that scripture deals so much with the reality of human anger is that anger, when not properly processed, will lead to needless destruction – emotionally and physically. Not by accident are we told in scripture to not let the sun go down on our anger, and why Christ handled the anger of his disciples in the way that made no sense to so many.
Tuning in to the news from Baltimore, I am extremely saddened. Sad not only for the lawlessness and destruction going on there, but also because there is an element in our society that seems to believe there is no other alternative. However, I am also forced to ask myself if I, too, don’t have those emotions from time to time, and, while I may not engage in the rioting and looting going up there, what destruction am I causing by my failure to properly channel outrage?
So, while I disagree with the concept that in any way the violence perpetrated in Baltimore is excusable, what I think disturbs me, and should you, even more is that in moments of complete, objective reflection and introspection, we, too, have been part of inexcusable, destructive violence (emotionally if not physically) towards others for no other good reason than it was our choice. In other words, Baltimore may be much closer than we care to admit.
Easter Sunday we celebrated the resurrection of forgiveness embodied. If anyone had reason to riot for an injustice, it was Christ. And yet among his final words were, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” May it be so for us all.
Grace and Peace, Lamar