The dignity of the human being is fundamental to a moral society. We often hear that human life is under attack from abortion or the police or violent criminals, but I say human dignity and human life are under attack from wrath and anger. Last night people joined together in a desire to see social change and others joined to support friends and the community. Sadly, the night ended with civil unrest turning to violence and destruction. The morning brought out two kinds of people, those that wanted to help the Delmar Loop recover and those that wanted to throw more stones – not the ones that break windows, but the stones that break hearts, spirits, and incite further wrath and anger. Those that come to help have engaged in the community with courage. Those that throw stones have let their fear and anger control them.
We are created as social beings. How we organize ourselves and how we create and enforce laws directly impacts human life and dignity. It is time for us all (young and old, rich and poor, religious and atheist, majority and minority, liberal and conservative) to consider how the labels we assign to ourselves blind us. We all have a duty to work for the common good and we must recognize that if we fail to protect human rights we are failing in our responsibility as members of a community.
It is not necessary, nor helpful, to stand with the police and against the protestors or with protestors and against the police. By doing so we are labeling them as one and not many. Just as there are police officers that fail in their duties there are citizens that break the trust of the community. Until we recognize and commit to fixing the breakdown in trust and the failure to be good citizens and good neighbors we can protest every day and not solve any problems. Our elected officials and police can shout from their bully pulpits about being tough on crime and not tolerate violence or property damage and will solve nothing. Indeed all that will occur is further division, further fear, and growing self-righteousness on all sides.
Broken windows are symbolic of our broken society that has lost its moral compass. We see it in the vitriolic posts on Facebook and Twitter that encourage people to hate and fear. There are far too few people willing to engage in a compassionate conversation where one is open to listening and willing to consider other perspectives. We also see it in politicians that forget that they serve the whole community and not just their base. They post things that are clearly intended to incite passions and pit groups against each other. Yet that would not work if we let go of our fears and anger.
Today, those that love St. Louis came together in peace and love and helped the community to heal. The message of love and support should inspire us all to do better and to be better. We can begin by embracing this message and work together in a productive manner to change the rules on the use of force and address crime within our community that invariably results in confrontations with law enforcement.
It is time to let go of wrath and anger and be a city of peace and love. If you participate in the die in today let your wrath and anger die there. If you are not participating take the time pray for peace and love. Let us commit to compassionate listening today and every day.
Wrath and anger are hateful things,
yet the sinner hugs them tight.
The vengeful will suffer the LORD’s vengeance,
for he remembers their sins in detail.
Forgive your neighbor’s injustice;
then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.
Could anyone nourish anger against another
and expect healing from the LORD?
Could anyone refuse mercy to another like himself,
can he seek pardon for his own sins?
If one who is but flesh cherishes wrath,
who will forgive his sins?
Remember your last days, set enmity aside;
remember death and decay, and cease from sin!
Think of the commandments, hate not your neighbor;
remember the Most High’s covenant, and overlook faults (Sir 27:30-28:7)