Don’t Pick Sides When You Pray

Yesterday I wrote about division. I wrote about the Blue Lives and Black Lives, and how both must matter. Both should be loved and supported, in prayer and in action.

I favor unity in all cases. I don’t think a sense of unity is created when we choose to pray for only police officers. We can support both the men in blue as well as the black men in hoodies, perhaps with a different set of prayers, but with loving intent all the same.

Here’s what I wrote yesterday . . .


 I saw a sign in a local church today:

Pray for the Men in Blue

And certainly I’ll pray for them. I’ll pray that they use discernment when they see black men in hoodies. I’ll pray that they receive the support and training they need when they try to sort out their threat matrix. I’ll pray that they enforce the peace with love and tolerance in their hearts. I’ll pray that they, as well as the black men in hoodies, make it home safe to their families tonight.

Of course I’ll pray. But I’ll pray my ass off for the black men in hoodies too. I’ll pray for all humanity as we try to forge a straight path in these dark days; I’ll pray that we walk with love and in the light no matter how difficult the two may be to grasp hold of and live with; I’ll pray for all sinners that they may live more like saints. Always, I’ll pray—for all of us.


Someone very close to me read this and asked me to clarify my thoughts on cops. “Don’t you think most cops are good?” he asked.Pray_meninblue

And of course I think most cops are good. Most cops wake up every morning and put on their blue or brown uniform and go out with the intention to “protect and serve.” Most cops have good intention throughout their day . . . and the same principle applies to most civilians. When a black student at a university, say a football player, grabs his collegiate sweats and takes a walk, he’s just trying to live his life. He doesn’t deserve to get stopped and frisked at gunpoint just because a black man (bearing a completely different physical description aside from skin color) in the same city has robbed a bank. Or when a black father gets into his car and drives through town to get an errand done, he’s just trying to take care of his family. He doesn’t deserve to be harassed and treated as if he’s a criminal during a routine traffic stop.

In other words, the vast majority of black Americans and the vast majority of cops begin their day, they don’t wish to hurt anyone. They are doing their jobs and living their lives. They are not looking to hurt the innocent or commit a crime.

But at times things go awry. The black American who shot the cops in Dallas was motivated not so much by a misguided desire to achieve reform, so much as hatred. What that man (and I won’t say his name because I think this encourages those who seek fame through their bad acts) did was wrong. It was evil.

We should all be motivated by love. Buddha said in the Dhammapada:

Hatred can never put an end to hatred; love alone can. This is an unalterable law. Dhammapada 1:5.

Jesus said something similar:

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12: 28-31.

No matter what we do for a living, we should love our neighbors as we love ourselves and we should be motivated by love rather than hatred.

When police officers go out in the field, or in the line of duty, they should not merely be looking to serve and protect. They should be looking to love, serve and protect. If love is at the fount of their service, then the police officers will be able to better see and understand the people they are serving. They will be motivated less by fear and more by a willingness to disregard triggers that lead to undisciplined and paranoid reactions to innocent black Americans.

I have watched videos of cops killing civilians, and in the worst of the videos, I’ve seen malfeasance and hateful intent, but with the help of a retired military cop, I have learned to watch these videos with greater discernment. For example, I have watched the killing of a Navajo woman by a cop in Winslow, Arizona (which is shared below).

As I watched the video, the retired military cop explained to me all the mistakes the frightened cop was making (that led to what was later ruled a justified shooting). “He’s too close to her right here. He’s not approaching her with sufficient distance, he’s not giving her clear voice commands. He’s escalating the situation. He should have waited for backup. He should not have laid a hand on her here, he should have used a baton, not his hands here . . . and now, he should not have pointed his gun in the same direction as his partner. He’s not controlling the situation . . . and now she’s got a weapon in her hand. He has no choice now. It’s kill or be killed, but all of this could’ve been avoided if he had approached the situation better,” explained the retired military cop. “Approach determines response,” he concluded. “And his approach was all wrong.”

I have also discussed the issue of cop training with a gun instructor. As this instructor explained to me, “Too few cops are training properly on the use of firearms. They are going to the shooting range, but they’re not training with live people, they’re not training on close combat, they’re not learning how to handle the very difficult scenarios that cops may or may not have to face. But when a difficult situation does arise, you must have trained on it in order to be able to handle it correctly,” the instructor said to me.

With all of those caveats in mind, when I pray for the men in blue, I pray that they get the training that they need to handle difficult situations. I also pray that they approach all civilians in a manner that is fair and just. I pray that cops treat a black child wearing a hoodie or a black dad driving in his SUV with the same love and protectiveness as the cops treat any white child or white dad.

When love informs how we see the world, we’re better able to see that every soul is precious. When love provides the filler for the fuzzy spaces within our hearts, we are better able to identify the innocent as not posing a threat. When love alone is what motivates us, we’re not as likely to think that someone is a threat to us just because their skin is darker than ours. Indeed, if we view all other humans as being our brothers and sisters, part of the same Body of Christ or as descendants from the same Maker (the Father), then we treat all the people we encounter as deserving of our love.

Division arises from a bad choice. We choose to see others as different, and as a threat to our way or to our identity or to our sense of comfort. Cops fall into the same bad habits as the rest of us do. We identify ourselves by our colors, whether they’re drawn on the uniforms of sports teams we follow or patched onto the sleeves of uniforms we don when we go to work or dabbed onto our very skin.

We choose our colors and we choose to think that one color makes us superior . . . and yet beneath the skin we wear, we are all the same color. Our souls all shine white, lit by a brilliant light. The lamp that is our soul looks the same as any one else’s soul, for it emerged from the same One Light that created us all.

I pray that we all remember that One Light guides us all. I pray that love wins, and love alone rules us all.

 



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