We need to talk about race in America.
Our clergy group is writing a series for the Lenten Season in 2017 titled “RACE: Sacred Conversations.”
Today, I hear racist talk that I have not heard since the 1950s – not to mention overt hostility with a racist bent. I assumed progress in our language and civility since the 1960s.
I see that we still have a long way to go.
Among the “hard conversations” needed about race is about police brutality, mainly toward people of color. Please hold on before you throw this paper in the trash.
Every profession needs to have mechanisms by which they self-regulate.
Among all clergy, protestant and catholic, there is an estimated 3% of abusive people that should not be in ministry. When the Catholic church was exposed to the child abuse scandal, I needed to remind my Protestant brothers and sisters that the percentage of clergy doing these things was equal among Catholic and Protestants.
I remember a priest friend who, for a while, would not wear his clerical collar because of the hostility he received when he did. All churches need clergy to self-regulate.
I imagine that the same number of people who should not be in ministry is the same percentage that should not be on a police force. The bottom line on policing, then and now, is this: the only way policing works is if there is a deep cooperation between the police and the people in the community they serve.
Today, we are seeing incredible examples moving the direction of cooperation rather than occupation. Los Angeles, New York and Dallas are among the great examples of great improvement, with room to go. At the same time, we are seeing incredible abuses by a small percentage of police today as in the past. That must stop.
I have ridden with police both on the highway and in tough parts of towns. I’m here to tell you as a “ride along” guy, it was sweaty palms all the way. I have deep respect for those who enter a profession for no other reason than “to help other people” be they teachers, police, clergy, social workers, doctors, nurses or public servants or the nice people at Seven Eleven who want you to “have a good day.”
To the degree that all of these professions keep alert to those who should not be in their ranks, is to the degree they can indeed “help people.”
Among the great gifts we can give ourselves and our society in the New Year is a sacred conversation about all of these things.