Tonight I sat in my bed watching Suits on my computer while eleven police officers were shot two blocks from my apartment. And I’m not sure what I was doing when Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were killed but I imagine it involved something similarly trivial like snacking or watching snap stories. Sirens are still loud outside. The live feed of the news is playing in the background and I feel a weird mix of scared and sad and helpless. They said the snipers opened fire from an elevated position.
I said I’d never post about this kind of thing. I always feel irritated when people do. I avoid Facebook on weeks of social outrage because people’s posts irritate me and I don’t really know why. I hate that about myself. We all feel indignant, or outraged, or spurred on to action and no one knows how to handle that, Facebook or otherwise.
But this is my home. I run on that street. I ran there yesterday. And now I’m seeing it on the news littered with cops crouching behind cars.
Earlier today, I prayed about my annoyance with social media after events like these. It shouldn’t be irritating – we all want to speak out, to be heard. But it starts to feel like we’re all just trying to outdo each other on how reverent and reflective we can be. We’re just hashtagging things. Broadcasting our outrage or support or prayers, but to what end? Updating a status isn’t really doing anything and it pisses me off. I get a weird, elitist attitude about it, but I don’t know why. It’s not like I’m really doing anything either.
So I try harder to identify my underlying frustration and I struggle. Because, like all of us, it’s a hundred things at the same time. Disgust and fear and dumbfoundedness and deep, deep sadness. But I realize that one thing ties all of those emotions together, one thing is common in almost every Facebook status and blog and tweet and hashtag in these moments, and it’s that we all act as if we’re all so above this. We just can’t believe things like this can happen in our world. We just can’t believe people can do a thing like that. I just can’t believe I can exist in a time where I can be watching TV in my bed while the police are being gunned down outside my door.
Please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying – we are, I hope, above this and I can’t, in fact, believe it. I don’t think everyone is capable of killing a man outside a convenience store or opening fire at a protest. Those who are are deranged and mentally unstable and very, very out of touch with reality. But let’s take a moment and remember that while these events, God willing, remain the outliers of our time, the people that carry them out are real people, someone’s son or daughter, someone with pain and fear and self-interest and goals, however misguided they may be. And don’t we have all of those things too?
I don’t want to dilute the horrendousness of these acts or excuse those capable of doing them. But I do want to point out that at the root of these things lies things we are all capable of: sin, elitism, entitlement, hatred, pride. We’re not above those things at all. In fact, we are those things – all of us. We put our interests above others. Put our plans above God’s. Put our emotions, our reactions, our beliefs out there, loudly, and look down on those who oppose. We set ourselves on our own little thrones and reign with fists full of air. Because isn’t that what pride is? Aren’t we all in an elevated position?
I don’t say this to antagonize or add to the sadness of the reality we’re seeing. I think for the most part we’re all doing the best we can. But I invite you to join me in stepping down from my indignance, hopping off my tiny throne, and falling on my face before God’s. Because what we all have in common here – those hurt, those scared, the victims and the villains – is that we’re all guilty. We’re all elitists. We’ve all in an elevated position – devaluing another’s life for the sake of improving our own.
So yes, pray for Dallas. Pray for the black community, the families of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, the law enforcement, the world. Pray for mercy. Pray for safety. Pray for Christ to come soon.
But let’s pray also for ourselves, for humility. That our eyes would be opened to every prideful thought, every moment of elitism, and every place we look down from an elevated position and think someone else’s life matters less than our own.
We’re all guilty. We all need grace. And we won’t find it in a blog or a protest or a hashtag. But amidst chaos and confusion, loss and unimaginable fear, we will find it in God, in Christ who came, who left his rightful throne, who valued our lives over his own.