The sight of a white police officer pressing his knee on George Floyd’s neck is horrific, and because it is so egregious, it is a teachable moment of why and how different people see things differently. Things like law enforcement. . . or the Bible . . . or the news. Black churches in America are likely to rejoice in biblical texts that white Christians avoid as too harsh, too “us v. them,” too black and white, so to speak.
This morning I’m hearing Psalm 70 as the voice George Floyd’s brother Philonise bearing testimony before a committee of the United Sates Congress 401 years after Jamestown.
Be pleased, O God, to deliver me; * O LORD, make haste to help me. Let those who seek my life be ashamed and altogether dismayed; * let those who take pleasure in my misfortune draw back and be disgraced. Let those who say to me "Aha!" and gloat over me turn back, * because they are ashamed. Let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; * let those who love your salvation say for ever, "Great is the LORD!" But as for me, I am poor and needy; * come to me speedily, O God. You are my helper and my deliverer; * O LORD, do not tarry. -- Psalm 70, Book of Common Prayer Daily Office Lectionary, p.970.
Seeing America from on Top or from Below the Knee
“My concern is to understand America biblically,” wrote street lawyer theologian William Stringfellow, “– not the other way around, not (to put it in an appropriately awkward way) to understand the Bible Americanly.” — William Stringfellow, An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land (Reprint, Wipf and Stock, 2004).
Be pleased, O God, to deliver me. I, a child of privilege, need help. Let me not be ashamed. O Lord, do not tarry.
Gordon C. Stewart, by the wetland, Minnesota, June 14, 2020.
I have been so White for so long that it’s almost impossible to see. Sometimes I hardly know where to begin; or where to begin again, even. And again, for that matter. Your antiphon to this psalm is just right, Gordon.
Thank you, Circumspecter. I agree. It is hard to know where to begin and what to do once we do! There is no clarity. We live within high walls that circumvallate us, yet looking up or out to the Encompassing, as in van Gogh’s Prisoners’ Round and the Psalms that give voice to what is deepest in us.
This is a lovely post.