(Heavy 3/3) - A River of Blood(s) Threatens to Drown Us All
Violence is a generational epidemic. It is widespread, extensive, global, and indiscriminate. Many attempt to avoid prosecution but every single one of us is guilty beyond reasonable doubt. Humans are by nature violent. Our hearts are turned in on themselves and the result is a violent disposition intent on preserving our preferences and pushing our systems of belief. Christians, Muslims, Jews, Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Syrians, Germans, French, you name it - guilty. Currently, the global community is stirred to hysteria stemming from the terror of ISIS and the “problem” of Syrian refugees. We are all jockeying for positions of judgment or mercy attempting to avoid the Hickory that is in our own eyes. Blood is flowing in the Middle East, Central Africa, and many other pockets of our shared 3rd rock from the sun.
In our local community a river of blood(s) threatens to drown us all.
Once again Chattanooga has faced a 4/4 situation and I’m not referring to third down conversions. No, we do not boast in a first down, but another week with four shootings in as many days, two of which went down in our neighborhood. Amidst the staccato of gunfire comes a disturbing calm - a heavy peace. Let me explain with four short stories...
The Execution of a Walker (not the Walking Dead kind)
We had some of our youth show up high to church a couple weeks ago. Obviously disappointed and clearly frustrated we sent them home, but guess who was waiting outside the front doors at the end of church? Yep, the sobered boys. Standing in the parking lot for almost two hours after church concluded we spoke some harsh truth to those boys. We questioned them, pleaded with them, opened up to them. No message was as impactful as when Mark shared the account of a young man who was recently executed over a naked walk home.
A young man, known to walk everywhere, was walking home from work when a car rolled up, put a gun to his head and stripped him naked. The Walker had to make the rest of the journey home as exposed as the day he was born. He knew who did it and his mom pressed charges with the authorities. The day before the court hearing, fearing the verdict, the same vehicle found the Walker knowing he would be walking on his usual route. The vehicle pulled up, pointed a gun at his head once again. No strip show this time. Instead, the Walker was taken to a concealed ridge and executed. Three bullets to the head. Look on his face like, “For real. You gonna do me like this…”. 16, 16, 17 — the ages of the executioners. Heavy.
Hit the Quan
I can’t dance and have little rhythm. I also have pride and didn’t want to lose whatever street cred I had over this fact. So when Hit the Quan came on I politely declined the invitation to dance. In light of the violence a block party was organized in an effort to settle the beef and stop the year end, tax-deductible homicides. I stood in the parking lot of the Bethlehem Center wrapping burgers and rolling hot dogs (no, that is not slang for blunts) with British. The event was hosted by the local blood set - the Rollin 20’s. I found myself in the center of a streaming river of bloods as they flowed past me grabbing food. I looked out over the crowd as the only caucasian and hoped the hospitality would hush the recent homicidal history. I guess it didn’t work… yet. I had hoped for more of an impact. My vinyl gloved hands were itching for peace. Instead, they were heavy with tin foil and stale buns.
A Chilly Night on Highland Ave
Sitting on the couch I scrolled through my Twitter feed and exclaimed to my wife that there was a shooting on Highland Ave. I texted one of my new neighbors from the block party, G, and asked what the word on the street was. “Dey say a lil girl got killed.” As my wife was coming down the stairs from putting our girls to sleep I told her I was headed over to Alton Park. Getting dressed I shared my fear that it would be a little girl I new. I drop a 5th grade girl off on Highland Ave.
I anxiously sped over to the AP and pulled up next to the police tape. Donning my newly minted CPD chaplain credential I approached a few officers to offer any assistance. The I saw a few dudes who I know and asked them what was up. For the next hour and a half I stood on the chilly corner of Highland and W. 38th Street — chilly because of the murder of a mother of three. The girl I was concerned for was safe. The three children of this unintentional victim are now orphaned because of an intentional drive by. Heavy.
Thanksgiving afternoon another body hit the pavement. A middle aged man was found by his family face down with multiple bullets in his chest. Instead of napping, pulling out pies for dessert, or offering thanks before getting stuffed fuller than the turkey this gathering found themselves mourning. As I read the news report I was discouraged by yet another senseless killing in the southside projects - especially on Thanksgiving Day! Then I got a text. I think it was ________. Damn. It was the only word I could respond with to describe the heaviness in my heart. The scenario lends itself to the heavy truth that someone very close to the BCC family was responsible for this murder. We’re trying to find out as you read this. We’re skeptically hopeful it wasn’t him but the unfortunate reality is that the text was most likely true.
“You know, it’s incredibly humbling that our efforts couldn’t stop this from happening,” Jenny said with heaviness in her eyes. We’ve been here 2 1/2 years and we’ve made some incredible progress. Yet we couldn’t stop someone who calls me pastor from succumbing to his violent humanity.
So what’s the point? Why not just give up? Why not resign ourselves to the ever-looming threat of failure? That we may never fully stop the violence in our community?
Why not? Because a river of blood threatens to drown us all… and I hope it does.
Sin came into the world through one person, and death came through sin. So death spread to everyone, because everyone sinned… Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. (Romans 5:12; 6:3-5)
The execution and resurrection of Jesus Christ is a river of blood that drowns the generational epidemic of violence. It is widespread, extensive, global, and indiscriminate. The point is that if Jesus can face violence and execution then we can too. We don’t give up because God did not give up on humanity but gave up his Son for our sake. We will not resign ourselves to the ever-looming threat of failure because it is precisely in our death and failure that Christ raises entire communities to new life. Honestly, we will never stop all of the violence in our community. Violence is a generational epidemic. It is widespread, extensive, global, and indiscriminate. But so is God’s mercy. His love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out.
May we all drown in the blood of Christ and find new life in His resurrection.