(I write as a privileged, middle class, white female mainline protestant citizen of the USA....and, today, primarily to those people who occupy a similar space to mine.)
We use the word "our" to describe people all the time. They're our people--people with whom we share ideals. They're our kids--kids who live nearby, go to neighborhood schools, sit in the same pews we do. They're our troops--who put their lives on the line to "protect our freedom."
But for some reason we neglect to use the word our when we talk about children killed by police at the playground. We don't say that Trayvon or Tamir or Michael are our kids. We also neglect to use it when we talk about people who commit acts of violence. Dylann Roof isn't one of ours.
If one member of the Body suffers, all suffer together with it.
How is it, again, that we, of all people, THE CHURCH, are capable of using the word "they"??
And if we want to leave aside the faith part and just think on a civitas/polis scale: how can we deny that Rev. Pinckney, Coach Coleman, Librarian Hurd, Sexton Ethel, new college graduate Sanders, Mrs. Thompson, Rev. Dr. Simmons, Freddie, Pearlie, May, Eric, Aura, Renisha, Lavall, Antonio, Nicholas, Oscar, Sean, Kevin, Akai, Walter, Jordan, Rekia, Aiyana, and countless more, are ours? How can we deny that Timothy, Dylann, and all the terrorists in between are ours?
They are us. And just as they are ours, we are theirs. That's what it means to be part of one nation under God, or the Body of Christ.
Think about what we mean when we talk about people as "ours." We mean that they are part of our family or community, that somehow we identify with them. We also often mean that they mean something to us, and that we have some part to play in their lives. We have a commitment to the kids of our church, the teachers at our neighborhood schools, our cousin's sister-in-law's brother, our local librarians and auto mechanics, our local graduates who join the military, etc. We think of ourselves as having something to do with them. Maybe even some small responsibility to hold them accountable, just as much as we love and care for them--even if we've never actually met them in person. When a kid from the cross country team was hit by a car in the neighborhood of the church, the news was about "our kids." (Interestingly, when an autistic 5 year old was hit by a car just a few blocks away..."you really have to watch.")
When it's our kids, our people, our troops, we care, and we see some level of responsibility, and we mobilize when things happen--good or bad.
What would happen if we thought of each one of those people at last night's Bible Study at Emanuel AME Church as "ours"? What would happen if we thought of Mike Brown as "ours"? What would happen if we thought of Tamir Rice as "ours"? What would happen if we thought of Eric Garner as "ours"?
And what would happen if we thought of Dylann Roof as "ours"? What would happen if we thought of the police officers of the McKinney TX police department as "ours"? What would happen if we thought of Adam Lanza as "ours"?
Because here's the thing: they are ours. These beloved children of God, made in God's image, simultaneously sinner and justified, are our kids, our neighbors, our troops, our brothers and sisters, our responsibility.
Which means that when one suffers, we all suffer. When one dies, we all die. When one hurts, we all hurt. When one does harm, we all bear some of that guilt and pain. When one celebrates, we all celebrate. After all, we celebrate when one of our kids graduates. We grieve when one of our neighbors dies. We groan alongside our friends who are ill. We would be outraged if one of our Bible Studies were the scene of terrorism. And we would wonder what happened and how we could have done something differently if the shooter were one of ours.
Time to celebrate, and grieve, and groan, and be outraged, and think about how we could have done something differently. We are just as much a part of creating and maintaining this culture as anyone else. How about we make it better for everyone, not just the people who look/think/act/speak like us?
There are many members but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable. Now y'all are the Body of Christ, and individually members of it.
It's time to start acting like it.