Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; … You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”
During a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas last night, snipers killed five police officers and wounded seven more. Last night was the most police causalities the United States has seen since September 11, 2001. I have just learned of police being shot outside St. Louis and in Georgia, as well. I weep for the additional loss of life as a result of gun violence. While some voices were saying that those advocating for police demilitarization and accountability wanted the murders of police officers, leaders within the Black Lives Matter movement were calling the shootings horrific, and insisting that Black Lives Matter does not stand for killing police officers. According to the Dallas Police Chief, one suspect in the shootings said that he was not with Black Lives Matter and was working alone.
Justice is not a zero-sum game; it is possible to curb abuses by police without calling for their executions. No one — let alone Black Lives Matters organizers — is calling for police execution. At the same time we must not let go of our work of advocating for reform of our policing in our country, including here in the Bay Area. Let me say that equally on my heart today is the enormity of violence in the Middle East, the hundreds who have died in the span of very few days, and the miasma of fear that must enwrap the living in places of such uncertainty and pervasive threat. While it may feel to us that our ability to work constructively for peace in the wider world is beyond our reach, we must resist the sense of helplessness and hopelessness — for those of us who trust in the power of God's love we know that the world is never beyond hope or help.
I am asking the deacons of our diocese — those who have a special ministry under their bishop, and who are called to work on the margins — to begin organizing lobbying efforts at the city, county, state, and federal levels of government to impact both police use of force and overall gun violence. Our newsletters and social media presences will update those interested. We will also be sharing information about marches and vigils as we have it, and may be hosting one ourselves. Vigils and prayer must move us to act for legislating changes to behavior and policy. Campaign Zero’s Take Action page offers easy-to-use tools for contacting elected officials with specific policy requests — including in great detail on the Solutions page.
Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” No one is calling for an eye for an eye. We grieve the loss of lives of the police officers in Dallas, and we grieve the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. It was their extrajudicial deaths that spurred this most recent round of demonstrations which will continue as long as people of color are more likely to be killed by police than white people and until there are changes in policy. Black lives matter. Blue lives matter, too — but not more.
We cannot ignore the problems of systemic racism that plague our society and are more clearly visible in police brutality as a result of ubiquitous video cameras and social media. We must not, as the prophet Jeremiah warns against, treat the wounds of our people carelessly and cry “peace, peace” when there is no peace. We must work for justice, even in our grief.
This post was edited 10:10 p.m. PDT on July 8. References to Catholic theologian Tobias Winright and the book Rise of the warrior cop were removed. The sentences in bold were added. All edits were completed at the request of Bishop Andrus.