“No One Is Free When Others Are Oppressed” (A Mustard Seed Musing)

Facebook makes me want to throw up sometimes. I’m not talking about other people’s taste in clothing, or food, or even sports teams. No, I’m considering the bile expounded upon by folks I know – and some I’ll never meet- about the death of Mike Brown and Eric Garner. While one may argue for self-defense in the first, the second is a near replication of Fruitvale Station’s real-life Oakland BART incident. Friends, this is getting ridiculous.

A long time ago, twenty-plus years at least, my mother sat me down and had me watch the PBS miniseries Eyes on the Prize. I remember wondering at first why Mom thought this was so important we’d skip cartoons or playing outside or whatever it was we were giving up. And then she explained how wars had been fought and people had struggled to make our country truly free. And free for everyone. And how the freedom was still being fought for. And how my sister and I should be fighting for the freedom of others.

I was fourteen.

“No man is above the law and no man is below it.”–Teddy Roosevelt

As an adult, I look around my corner of the world and it seems that we have made the law into something that protects those it wants to protect, but even in the case of death at the hands of the said law, justice can’t be had for others. I don’t have an argument for what happened in Ferguson or Queens: but when a person dies, our law (and our conscience, we hope) should beg for a serious investigation. Unfortunately, some are quick to dismiss these deaths as the end result of poor decisions on the part of the dead; I thank God I am not held guilty for my past mistakes. Some want to make this political but it’s not left or right or middle to be a human; when you’re dead, you are no longer registered with your party. You can debate the law (stealing cigarettes, selling them tax-free): I will not debate justice.

So, I find myself this day wondering what the world has come to when anyone can read about the death of a man and use that moment as an anthem for us versus them, or cheer the “way it was deserved”. I find myself wondering how we can understand the past (we don’t) and think that white people aren’t privileged in America (we are) or think that violence in our outrage will somehow make things better (it won’t) or that if the races of these individuals were switched, there would be trials (there would be). Okay, so of the first two I am sure, and of the last, I submit my humble opinion.

Yes, we shouldn’t steal, shouldn’t commit acts of violence, shouldn’t disobey the law. But when we assume justice instead of acting it out (“truth in action,” said Benjamin Disraeli), when we use violence to combat violence (“hate cannot drive out hate,” said MLK), when we sit in silence while others are persecuted (Abraham Lincoln called that cowardice), we fail to be a humanity that was made in the image of God.

I beg you to pray for the world we live in, and pray for our children who will reap what we sow.

I beg you to pray for the fallen on every side, and those who mourn them.

I beg you to pray for those who have taken lives, that God would bring peace to their hearts.

And I beg that you would pray for you and I, whether you agree with my words or not, that God would reshape our hearts and make us compassionate, and pure, and grace-filled.

I beg you to pray for love.

“What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of”–“What The World Needs Now”

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About Jacob Sahms

I'm searching for hope in the midst of the storms, raising a family, pastoring a church, writing on faith and film, rooting for the Red Sox, and sleeping occasionally. Find me at ChristianCinema.com, Cinapse.co, and the brand new ScreenFish.net.
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4 Responses to “No One Is Free When Others Are Oppressed” (A Mustard Seed Musing)

  1. Kevin says:

    You seem to be assuming that all violence is hate driven. It isn’t. Violent means are sometimes necessary to protect the innocent from aggression. You quote Abraham Lincoln a President who used violent means to correct an injustice and resulting in the bloodiest war in our nation’s history. Today he is revered as one of our greatest presidents. Violence does solve problems.

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    • Jacob Sahms says:

      Kevin- thanks for the comments. I agree that all violence is not hate driven. I don’t think this situation, or my post, really evaluates violence in general. But it does point out that the divide is great when it comes to race relations, and that people’s reactions to the verdicts show a certain kind of bloodlust that isn’t the kind of violence you’re referring to in Lincoln. Comparing individual deaths like Brown’s or Garner’s to the Civil War, with different motivations and principles, isn’t really on the same field at all. And for the record, I’m not sure the Civil War ‘solved a problem’ either.

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      • Kevin says:

        We clearly have a different view of what the Civil War did; Established the primacy of the Federal government, unified The United States (before then we were These United States), ended slavery and ushered in the industrial revolution. It would have taken at least another generation to eliminate slavery without the war. I digress.
        I do not think we should view the Ferguson situation the same way as the Queens situation. In one the officer was clearly attacked by a large young man used to bullying and throwing his weight around. It escalated rapidly into a situation where the officer had to make a life or death decision in a few seconds. Compare that with Garner where there was no threat to public safety or the officers’ safety. In my view the police in Queens way over reacted. That said we usually give the police the benefit of the doubt because they are out there risking their safety to maintain ours. Would the same grand jury decisions have come out if the races were reversed? I believe so.

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  2. Jacob Sahms says:

    Kevin- I agree that the two situations aren’t the same. I’m not sure we’re as far apart as it might seem on some of these issues. I just think we’re not at the same place about the racial divide that still exists in this country.

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