I was driving home from the church yesterday afternoon and turned on the radio. The commentators were filling time... because at any moment the judge and jury would return to the courtroom and announce the verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin. At 5:05 pm the judge began reading. And I burst into tears. The waves of grief, relief, heartbreak and surprise washed over me. I struggled to drive through my tears as reporters described people outside the courthouse dropping to their knees, weeping, shouting with joy, praying with hands to the sky. The world was watching as we rejoiced at this sliver of justice, and as we wept for George Floyd... and for so many others.
A poem by Rev. angel Kyodo williams caught my eye that evening, which reads in part: "that justice not served rendered upon against one man when an entire system, a nation, a history raised him that way."
Her words reminded me that it is our culture that raised Derek Chauvin, our schools that educated him, our neighborhoods that grew him, our media that encouraged him. We have a much more complex challenge than some "bad apples." We have a culture that glorifies power, dominance, and violence, especially over people who are Black or Brown or Asian, gay or trans, or female. (We might also add immigrants, folks with disabilities, indigenous people, or really, anyone who does not live in a "normative" - read: white, straight, cisgender - body.)
As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote, "If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being."
As I celebrate the verdict in the murder of George Floyd, I am also called to see the systems, forces and culture that led to his death. This is why we follow Jesus: to name the sinful and death-dealing forces within which we live, to accept the joy of forgiveness, and to work fervently to bring about that new realm that he revealed to us. The last will be first! Blessed are the peacemakers! Welcome the stranger! Turn the other cheek! Love your neighbor! The kingdom is at hand! Thanks be to God for our community, and our calling.