Columbia requires all entering Mdiv students to take a class called "Scripture Reading Practicum" where we essentially practice reading scripture aloud. There's only 6 people in my class and last night we each picked a favorite psalm to read. 5 of us picked rejoicing or thanksgiving psalms, but the last person read Psalm 22. When I woke up this morning to the video footage of Terence Crutcher's horrific murder, those familiar words were the first to run through my mind.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken us?
Why are you so far from saving us,
so far from our cries of anguish?
My God, We cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but we find no rest.
Do not be far from us,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.
Many bulls surround us;
strong bulls of Bashan encircle us.
Roaring lions that tear their prey
open their mouths wide against us.
We are poured out like water,
and all our bones are out of joint.
Our hearts have turned to wax;
it has melted within us.
Our mouths are dried up like potsherds,
and our tongues stick to the roofs of our mouths;
you lay us in the dust of death.
I am angry that systemic racism has penetrated to the depths of society. Angry that those who are sworn to protect spend 17 seconds judging a black man and think that's enough to justify ending his life. Angry that black lives are treated as dispensable.
I am devastated that a brother, a friend, a child of God was murdered and left on the road to bleed out and die while officers stood by watching. Devastated for his family and friends who must somehow continue to live in the midst of tragedy.
I am terrified for the lives of my friends and classmates. As I looked around at chapel, I saw the faces of the black men in the room and was overwhelmed at the thought, "what if he's next?" There's no guarantee, no way of knowing that they won't be the next hashtag, the next life taken without sense or justice. I am terrified for my classmate who commutes long distance everyday. What if his car breaks down? Will that be all that it takes for him to be killed? That fear that I feel today is the terror that lives in black communities day in and day out. It's a privilege to choose to feel that fear, not be inundated with it.
I am poured out like water. I don't even know what these words mean, to be perfectly honest. All I know is that they describe how I feel today. Maybe that's what grief is- feeling as if you don't even have bones to carry you anymore. I am overwhelmed by tragedy. Overwhelmed even more as I remember that in the last 22 days, 67 people have been shot and killed by the police. This system is broken, racist, and dangerous.
I have no words of comfort or exhortation quite yet. The psalmist of Psalm 22 is able to declare praise to God, but I am still stuck at verse 18. I will stay there for as long as it takes, because the lament is necessary. I am not ready to praise God yet.
Terrence Crutcher, your life mattered. Your death matters. Your legacy will matter.