Today my heart and soul are crying out the familiar refrain of the psalmists; a refrain that echoes through the generations, "How long, O Lord? How long?" How long must we suffer? How long must we endure? How long must humans kill and brutalize others? How long must illness and death claim the lives of loved ones? How long until Jesus comes again in final victory over sin and death? How long?
This week, a beloved congregant passed away after a tough month of fighting against heart conditions that ultimately claimed her life. As I was going to meet with her family, I received another phone call that a sweet, older man had been rushed to the hospital by ambulance. I was able to spend some time with him yesterday. This morning, I received a call from his wife, letting me know that things had taken a turn for the worse, and he had been moved to the ICU. I popped in to pray with him and sit with the family, as I wondered, "How long will he have, Lord? How long will he suffer?"
As I left the hospital and got into my car, the music station interrupted the broadcast to inform listeners that a shooting had occurred at the Columbia Mall, about a half hour from the church. At that time, we knew that 3 people were dead. I began crying and lamenting, "How many more shootings, Lord? How many?" This is not what God intends for us. I had an overwhelming urge to hold my husband in my arms and to call my parents.
For the next several hours, I listened to the "continuing coverage" of the shooting. It included first-person accounts of what happened; live press conferences; news reporters; and more. My heart was breaking for the families of those who lost their lives today in a senseless act of violence that is only a reminder of what is happening across our country and our world. Three college campuses were on lock-down this week due to shooters. It makes me scared to go anywhere, and I know I'm not alone.
I began praying for our world, our country, our state, and our community. But then I became angry. I became outraged with what I'll term "righteous anger." I am greatly saddened by the deaths of the people in the mall today and the state of our society that allows people to even consider murder as a solution to any problem. And yet, I'm already tired of the media coverage of this event.
On my way into the hospital today, my favorite security guard was on duty at the main desk. We began chatting, and she shared with me that her 17-year-old cousin had just been put to rest after he was stabbed multiple times on his way to school 10 days ago. An honor-roll student, killed for no apparent reason.
This past summer, the 15 year-old niece of one of my parishioners was murdered in her own neighborhood. Another honor-roll student.
In Baltimore City, during the first 16 days of this year, 16 people were murdered on our streets.
And yet, none of these stories, or dozens like them, get "continual coverage" or a live press conference. None of these stories gets hours of news attention and preempting of regularly scheduled network TV. "Why?" you might ask? Because the teens I mentioned are black, and live in Baltimore. Murders on the streets of Baltimore is no longer "news." It is an expectation. It is "news" when we have a day without a murder. Columbia is a white community.
I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who will disagree with me, and that's fine. Others may argue that it isn't a race issue. And yet it is. Black people getting murdered in Baltimore isn't news. White people getting murdered in a mall is news. Why? Because one is common-place and the other isn't.
But it's time that we in the City of Baltimore stand up for our young people; stand up for our citizens. It's time that we say, "ENOUGH!" When the killing of innocent lives becomes so common-place that we ignore it, we have lost our way. We have denied our role as Christians to stand up for ALL of God's Children--everywhere.
I have righteous anger. I pastor a congregation in the only predominately white community in Baltimore. And I see the racial undertones in everything we do in our community and in our city. I hear it from all sides. And I'm angry. Life is valuable. You only get one life to live...how will you live it?
It's time that we as Christians start to walk our walk in Baltimore. It's time that we stop cowering in fear. There are more churches per square mile and per capita in the city than anywhere else. And yet, we have one of the highest murder rates, one of the highest illiteracy rates, and one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in America. What are we as Christians doing to better lives in the City of Baltimore? What are we doing to impact our neighborhoods? What are we doing to bring people together instead of tear them apart? What are we doing to preserve life? What are we doing to show people the way to life eternal?
I cannot sit idly by and watch the injustice any longer. Can you?
I invite you to join me in brainstorming and collaborating on ways that we can impact our City for good. I can't do it alone...neither can you. But together, little by little, we can reverse these trends. We can work together to prevent more tragedies from occurring. Together we can have righteous anger that is transformed into productive gain. Together.
How long, O Lord must we suffer? How long must we endure? How long until Christ comes in final victory over sin and death? How Long? O come, o come, Emmanuel.