Reflections on last week's shootings as a pastor, a father, and a man

I was disturbed and heartbroken when I learned of the shootings last week. The video and live-stream recordings of disturbing actions by police officers in Baton Rouge and Minnesota left me in a state of shock. I thought to myself, this can’t be happening again. The news about the Dallas shooting was heartbreaking: lives were taken, families left grieving, and our nation unsettled.

The shootings were senseless and downright unjust. I believe that historical tensions between the police and the African-American community are one of the reasons for the senseless and irresponsible shootings; but a lack of personal interactions and honest dialogue between the two groups will create a greater divide that could lead devastating circumstances.

The shootings affected me personally when my 21-year-old daughter expressed her fear of driving alone in her vehicle; she feared she could be harmed by the police. Her concerns caught me off guard. I, an African-American man, have lived with that fear for years; to have my child, a generation later, have to live with the same fear is troubling.

The following day, my 24-year-old daughter sent me a text that caught me totally off guard. She shared her concerns for my safety and the following instructions: “In this world that is not perfect, make sure you are doing everything by the book as a Christian, as a father, as a citizen, and as a black man. I want to make sure you our time is not cut short due to misunderstandings.”

That’s some good advice to receive from your child, and she really has a pretty good perspective; but it hurt me that her message was also shared out of concern for my life. No man wants his children to fear his being killed because of his race or ethnicity, let alone fear his children losing their lives in a country where we should feel free, protected, one nation under God with justice for all.

Honestly, I have mixed emotions about the recent events. As a 50-year-old African-American male, I am disappointed by the minimal progress made over the years in the relationship between the police and the African-American community. I am disappointed that my daughters have to fear for their lives and mine.

But I am hopeful, and I believe we need wisdom through prayer as well as the strong hand of God to intervene so that there might be mutual respect, honest dialogue, trust, and solidarity.  I receive hope, comfort and strength from these verses:

For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. For he alone is my rock and salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.” (Psalm 62:1-2)

Finally, for us to move forward, I think we can start with having honest and intentional dialogue within a multi-ethnic context. We have diverse group of folks in our church that meet on a quarterly basis and have discuss various topics of race and culture. I would like to see similar groups assembled so more people can move toward understanding. These kinds of interactions provide opportunities for honest dialogue that could establish/deepen race relationships in the Church, neighborhoods, and in our city.

Quite frankly, if the local evangelical church doesn't do a better job at intentionally engaging the greater community in honest dialogue about racial equity, our city could have similar issues that other cities around our nation are experiencing.

Below are some resources that our pastors have compiled to help us all better process recent events so that we might participate together with wisdom and boldness.

Pastoral encouragements and prayer of lament by Pastor Brandon Shields (audio here)

Prayers of lament from our friends at Redeemer Kansas City

Book recommendations for racial reconciliation

Multi-Cultural Normativity by Duke Kwon

After the trigger is pulled by Sojourn Network

Supporting white Christians when they attempt to work for racial justice by Jemar Tisby

Campaign Zero

Image: Lendeh Sherman, "Pain Portraits"