Rev. Charles Drew is pastor of Emmanuel Presbyterian Church in New York City, an evangelical church serving Morningside Heights, New York, with a particular focus on Columbia Univeristy, other nearby schools, and the local poor. He is the author of The Ancient Love Song: Finding Christ in the Old Testament, A Journey Worth Taking: Finding Your Purpose in This World, and Body Broken: Can Republicans and Democrats Sit in the Same Pew?, as well as a member of the Center for Christian Civics advisory board.
I heard yesterday morning that one of the officers killed in Dallas was a transit cop. At this moment I know nothing more about him—whether he was good at what he did or not, whether he had racist tendencies or not. But this one distinctive is enough. It is a particularity, a reminder that not all officers are the same, that not all people are the same, even if they look similar. It reminds me of a story from 9/11: A child said of the terrorists, “Mommy, if they had just known the names of the people in the towers they wouldn’t have hurt them.” The sniper in Dallas, like the officer in Minnesota, didn’t know the name of the person he killed. Otherwise, he might well have not pulled the trigger.
The recent killings of police and by police call for some sort of response from those of us who identify with Jesus. There are any number of things we might do, but there is one thing we certainly ought to do. Happily, it is also something that we can do: We can choose to “know the names of” those we disagree with, starting in the church. We can refuse to pigeon-hole the opposition. We can choose to embrace the fact that the believer who plans to vote for Mr. Trump (like the believer who plans to vote for Secretary Clinton) is much more than just their vote. She has a human name, a family, particular needs and struggles and gifts.
And of the many things that make our voting sisters and brothers so much more than just voters, the most important is this: They are the heirs to a deep grace, a grace that will carry us through all things, including sin, blindness, weakness and death. Your brothers and sisters will outlast politics as we know it. They will outlast the racism and the polarization in which we find ourselves immersed. They each have a name written on a white stone, known to Jesus and one day known to them (Revelation 2:17). For this reason above all, we will honor them and listen to them and love them. Even if we disagree with them deeply over politics. Even if they denigrates us.
Here it seems to me is where those of us who identify with Jesus can and must begin to address the heart-break and the fear of the previous week. We begin by renouncing our complicity in the stereotyping and polarization of our day, a complicity made all the more heinous because it happens within the church—the family to which God gave new life through the death of his Son, the family for whose unity Jesus earnestly prays.
Of course, there will be more to do than this. But this is where we must begin, because it is where we live. If we are to believe the Bible, the church is our true home. More than that, it is our neighbors’ only hope for a true home, the place where the honor, respect, and love that they seek ought pre-eminently to be found.
Center for Christian Civics offers a number of resources for those who want to work out what their faith in Christ means for the way they think about politics and government. Our first Bible study guide, Light to the World: Making Politics Safe for Christian Community, is available now.
Source photo by Nathan Keirn.