I am currently enjoying the last series of West Wing. A recent episode has stayed with me, as a strong challenge as I approach the next year. In it Latino Congressman Santos finds himself speaking at an African American church as part of his campaign for president, just twenty four hours after the fatal shooting of an unarmed African American young man by a Latino policeman. It’s been a tense 24 hours, and as he takes the podium you could cut the atmosphere with a knife.
As I look back over the last few years, there are events that have taken place, the consequences and ramifications of which are still unfolding. It is so easy to point the finger and apportion blame, to find endless means of justifying one’s opinion and claim the moral high ground. Some blame one person, others that one, still others these set of circumstances, others the system. The rolling snowball grows; feelings, judgments, opinions, prejudices cascade on. And so we carry on each of us posturing and none of us resolving.
After a day of angry wrestling with himself and the dilemma, Santos takes the podium and speaks. What comes is not some rational expose or political pandering. But in humility he shares from his core, the wrestle to find someone or something to blame, the weariness from the daily reality of racial violence, and the absence of answers. The wrestle of the day has seen him face his own questions and in that place of reality, he is able to meet others in their pain, confusion and questioning… not with answers but with a resolve and call out to compassion. ‘ I have realized that blame doesn’t change things, it never has. What we need is compassion. We need to stand together, reach out to one another with compassion, and perhaps we’ll find a way forward together.’
We Christians should be leading the way with this stuff. But truth is, life comes at us from point blank range and as we take the punches, all the theories, Christianese and church jargon evaporate and we are left with what we actually, truly believe in our hearts and are willing to choose by… me, as I stand, alone, with no one to hide behind, in this situation requiring a response from… me…
Do I believe there can be no justice without mercy, and no mercy with out justice and that compassion is the only motivation that will bring life to everyone – not just myself? Or in reality do I think that’s a load of idealistic codswallop? Am I willing to live as if its true? in this situation? Will I stake my reputation on the cross, do I actually believe that forgiveness is possible or do I live in fear that it’s all a big lie? When I say I forgive them, what do I actually mean?
When you say those words, what do you mean?
Blame is not an option. It is only as I walk humbly with my God that compassion becomes even a vague possibility, but it is the only hope if I am to love mercy and act justly in this life in which I find myself.
Happy New Year!!