WE MADE US A MICAH
So, the name of the shooter was Micah.
Micah was one of the Hebrew Testament prophets who warned against the greed and avarice of the leaders of the day, and who defended the poor and disenfranchised against the rich and powerful. The book of Micah both laments and prophesies coming doom, as well as predicts an era of peace under the leadership of a monarch in the Davidic line… (which Christians later understood to be Jesus Christ.)
Now, I haven’t heard anyone else make this connection, so I’m sure I’m going out on a theological limb here.
Let’s get one thing straight. I do not believe in a God who would engineer the killing of police officers by the hand of someone with a conveniently Biblical name to make a point. God, for me, is just not that detail-oriented.
However, I’m a Jungian, and I think the synchronicity here, and very possibly the sheer coincidence, is fascinating. And maybe I’m just being an English major/theologian who can’t resist a great extended metaphor.
But, unlike some of my colleagues, who wish they did not have to preach this Sunday, I would love to be with the people of God. Because anti-racism has been my calling since I entered ministry more than twenty years ago, this time in particular has become a time of passionate involvement for me, informed not only by my faith, but by all of my humanity: parent, child, woman, friend, student, writer, wanderer, and preacher.
Micah starts out with a rebuke to those who worship “false gods.” If I were preaching about that today, I’d have a lot to say, but let me start with Chapter 2:
Woe to those who plan iniquity
to those who plot evil on their beds
At morning’s light they carry it out because it is in their power to do it.
…They defraud a man of his home, a fellowman of his inheritance.
Therefore, the Lord says, I am planning disaster against this people
from which you cannot save yourselves.
There is more… lots more. Grab a Bible, and read Micah. It’s short. But essentially (leaving aside the ranting and railing against ‘pagans’) the prophets were full of these exhortations. Micah, in just a few pages, moves rapidly though the threats, channeling God, to the promise (almost identical to that made in Isaiah:
Come. Let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways so that we may walk in his paths…
(People of many nations) will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nor will they train for war anymore.
It is quite clear to me that Micah, the prophet, spoke wisdom that applies today. When leaders neglect the poor, the disenfranchised, those who have no voice, no agency, and do so for decades, for centuries, then what we are seeing now is what is wrought.
What surprises me is why this is news.
Why are we shocked?
These extrajudicial killings have gone on and will go on until policing is radically reformed. For me, policing should be abolished, along with prisons, but I realize that is a radical position that will cloud this argument. Having militarized, uniformed, guards patrolling our city streets, stopping and accosting citizens for what has been shown, again and again, to be without cause, and then refusing to use tactics to de-escalate, unless the citizens are white, can no longer be tolerated. African Americans have tolerated and bent to it for decades because they had no choice if they wanted to live. So, white people who chant “All Lives Matter” and “Blue Lives Matter” and refuse to listen to the cries of injustice no matter who issues them…you expect people of color to what? Be quiet and go back into submissiveness?
That won’t happen. And there is one reason it will not happen.
God is on the side of the oppressed. Christ is on the side of the oppressed.
James Cone, eminent Liberation theologian, writes: “The gospel is found wherever poor people struggle for justice, fighting for their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” (The Cross and the Lynching Tree)
“The Gospel of Liberation is bad news to all oppressors because they have defined their ‘freedom’ in terms of slavery of others.”
And more than that. Christ is Black. The cross is Blackness. Micah is advocating for people of Color.
James Cone: “The coming of Christ means a denial of what we thought we were. It means destroying the white devil in us. Reconciliation to God means that white people are prepared to deny themselves (whiteness)Take up the cross(blackness) and follow Christ (the Black ghetto.)
I daresay any number of white churches, most if not all, will honor those police officers who died last week. That’s understandable. My question: have they raised up the Black Lives and black bodies in the same way? The sad and ironic thing about the killings wrought by this present day Micah and his prophecy is that of all police departments, Dallas was one that was trying to “reform.” The officers had decided not to wear riot gear, which would have protected them. That’s tragic. Each one killed was not responsible for his death.
But the system is corrupt. Almost everyone understands, but will not acknowledge, the code of secrecy and silence kept by officers. It’s the circling of wagons and the denial and defensiveness against any suggestion of wrong doing that underlies the rage that simply boiled over in someone like Micah. Their tragic and lamentable deaths were wrought by more than that one person.
In Chapter One, besides ‘pagans,’ Micah goes on about ‘prostitutes.’ It’s synchronous again, because I’d not read that when I dreamed last night about police officers. I was in a tower and trying to get out. I kept trying to go up or down winding stairs and saw others going into a room, which I gradually became aware was a place that cops went to meet prostitutes who were kept there. I tried to break through a secret “door” in the wall, but each break uncovered more stone walls. I went into the lobby but saw many cops lounging around, all in street clothes. Of course, since I am Jungian, I have to understand this dream as one that is more about myself than about the police. I have to ask where I am policing myself, why am I trapped in this tower, what is being prostituted and why? Details to follow. But today I can’t help touching upon the surface, more literal meaning, not that I think cops are holding prostitutes in towers, (although I was told the frequenting of them and silencing around it is routine and well known in Atlantic City) but that I see actual police as somehow selling out or keeping me from being free. Is there something about this race/police issue that I can’t break through to? That I am trapped/imprisoned about? It was clear to me that I would not be kept amongst the prostitutes. I was too old. And yet… I couldn’t escape. There was no way out.
And, this: Micah was trained by our military. We made him a sniper. We, who have allowed, since 9/11, endless wars and militarization, and horrible (I have experienced this first hand with Veterans in my congregations) after care and mental illness care for Vets, and with the militarization of police departments in turn, a Micah to even be out there. No place to turn with his rage. No real help for his deep, deep distress. He, too, is a victim. And killed, by a militarized, robotic, bomb. I will not name him a monster.
As James Cone said, The truth about injustice always sounds outrageous.
Finally, I turned, this weekend, to another James: James Baldwin. “Jimmy,” as he was known to his many friends and colleagues, wrote so eloquently and poignantly of the state of being black in America, a state he could see with eyes that pierced through the illusions we mostly live by. He suffered for the truths he told, and ultimately left this country. He went to a beautiful, country estate in France, not far from Nice, where he could be what he could never be in America, a free, Black man.
I’ll let his words be the benediction:
In the private chambers of the soul, the guilty party is identified, and the accusing finger there is not legend, but consequence, not fantasy, but the truth. People pay for what they do, and still more, for what they have allowed themselves to become. And they pay for it simply: by the lives they lead.
What life will you lead? In the final analysis, you may have more freedom than you imagine.