The deaths of Philando Castile in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana have shocked the fabric of human community. I returned to my home last night to see and hear the news that one or more snipers have killed five police and injured another seven in Dallas, Texas. In the violence of the last two days, seven human beings will never go home. They will never embrace their family, friends, spouses, and children again.
We grieve with Diamond Reynolds for the senseless death of her boyfriend Philando Castile, with Cameron Sterling for the murder of his father Alton, and with the families of the police officers who were slaughtered while performing their duties. We grieve for ourselves, for our tolerance of and complicity in the growing racism and gun violence in our nation. We grieve for the divisive and immoral behavior that fosters such violent outbursts. We grieve for the refusal of our elected leaders to take reasonable steps to turn back the tide of terror that threatens to destroy us.
We are called upon to pray about this culture of racism and violence and for those who are the victims. And we must do that because our prayers matter. But let us pray, as we will this Sunday, that God will guide us to know and understand what we must do and then give us the grace and power to faithfully accomplish those things. We must seek and find ways to change things for neighbors like Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, five dead police officers, and their families. We must also change things for people who are our own neighbors, colleagues, family, and friends whom we cherish. We must be mindful that we are responsible for creating the culture that will be the legacy we bequeath to our children and the generations that follow.
The people of Denver and of Colorado know all too well that this is not just about Louisiana, Minnesota, and Texas. Liberation theologian Gustavo Gutiérrez writes, “All injustice is a breach with God.” This is about the injustice of violence and racism, sins that strip us of our humanity. We must repent, turn away, not only from our personal complicity, but from the systems of injustice that dehumanize our brothers and sisters.
So, let the message of peace and mutual respect, of liberty and justice for all, and for God’s peaceful reign to be established upon earth as it is in heaven be proclaimed from the Pulpit of this Cathedral and Pulpits across the land in the hope that those who hear that message, starting with ourselves, will act to change the social structures and all the influences that have allowed racism and violence to grow. May we become instruments of the answers to the prayers we pray.
O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us
through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole
human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which
infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us;
unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and
confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in
your good time, all nations and races may serve you in
harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ
our Lord. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, page 815)
The Very Reverend Ronald D. Pogue
Saint John’s Cathedral