I'll never know

July 30, 2020

Scripture Readings

I'm hesitant to write this devotion today. The OT section is a genealogy, the Psalm is a partial with little context, so I'm left with the NT reading. That passage is about submitting to authorities, and as I write this, there are buildings engulfed in flames in the protests/riots in the wake of George Floyd's death/murder.

Frankly, I'm terrified to talk about George Floyd. Even the choice of using the word "protest" or "riot," or the use of the word "murder" or "death," can reveal one's bias and put people in opposition. And here we have the Bible telling us to submit to authorities. Touchy.

I'm privileged enough not to have any issue submitting to the authorities. I once blew through a red light at about 30 over the limit right in front of a cop car. The reason? I was woolgathering, probably writing something in my head. I didn't even notice. When the cop pulled me over a few blocks later, he was sort of stunned and amused by my explanation. But he never doubted me, and he was friendly. But I'm a white guy. If I'd been black, maybe the story ends the same way. Then again … maybe I wind up face-down on the pavement, or face-up in a grave. I'll never know.

I think, "I'll never know," is one of the safe things for a white guy like me to say about this tragedy unfolding in America. I'll never know terror at being pulled over by a cop. I'll never know the pain of discrimination or oppression. I'll never feel the frustration of seeing persecution against people of colour in successive generations. I won't feel the pent-up rage as promises of reform are broken again and again.

Too many Christians use a passage like this one about submission to criticize protests that turn violent. Sure, ideally, protests would be perfectly law-abiding. But focusing on the lawlessness that followed George Floyd's murder is a deflection from the much larger transgression, which is the toleration of a society that allows racism to flourish.

I think privileged folks like me need to zero-in on the second part of today's reading, where Paul focuses on loving one another and behaving decently. At this time, loving someone who's hurt by this tragedy sounds like this: "I'm sorry this is happening." "I'll never know." "Tell me." This is a listening time for people like me, one that should then naturally shift into a time of action. That could take the form of voting, letter-writing, protesting, campaigning, I've read a number of suggestions out there. But for now, it's time to listen.

Adam Schnell

Frequent contributor to the 2020 project who loves hunting, writing and being a Dad