By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
2 There on the poplars
we hung our harps,
3 for there our captors asked us for songs,
our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
4 How can we sing the songs of the Lord
while in a foreign land?
5 If I forget you, Jerusalem,
may my right hand forget its skill.
6 May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
if I do not remember you,
if I do not consider Jerusalem
my highest joy.
7 Remember, Lord, what the Edomites did
on the day Jerusalem fell.
“Tear it down,” they cried,
“tear it down to its foundations!”
8 Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction,
happy is the one who repays you
according to what you have done to us.
9 Happy is the one who seizes your infants
and dashes them against the rocks.
Psalm 137 is the cry of an oppressed people. Taken from their homes and forced into a life of servitude. A demand was made of them by their captors, “Sing and play for us!” “Part of your obligation as a slave, is to also entertain us!” In essence what the captors were demanding was, “Appear to be happy and carefree!” An effort to appease their own condemning conscience and curtail fears of a deserved rebellion and retaliation for their collective sin.
But the oppressed people refused to sing. They hung up their harps and instead fantasied about bashing the heads of their captor’s children against rocks. We don’t like these portions of Scripture do we? It tends to make those of us who have enjoyed power and privilege uncomfortable. As it should. Scripture is perhaps the most transformative when it challenges me instead of just comforting me.
We find ourselves at a pivotal moment in history. We are in the midst of generational, political, and social change. It seems to me that history and Scripture point to the fact that God has a preference for the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized and hurting. To echo the words of Abraham Lincoln, perhaps now is not the time to consider whether or not God is on our side, but rather, if we are on His?
I appreciate the passion of those who may disagree, and believe it comes from the sincere place and desire for peace, for the most part. As does mine. Indeed, no one responsible would condone the destruction of property or further loss of life. The attempt here is not to condone, but to help people understand. And of course, all people need to come to repentance.
But when I call on white people to repent specifically for the sins of systemic racism, I’m drawing attention to the fact that, as white people, we continue to benefit from this system. So as beneficiaries we continue to perpetuate a system that helps us and harms others. That is not working in the “spirit of reconciliation” that God asked us to represent.
As far as the autopsy is concerned, no matter the cause of death, the point is that Floyd’s death would have been far less likely, if at all, if the Police officer hadn’t kept his knee on Floyd’s throat for 8 + minutes, or if the other officers would have intervened when so many people, including Floyd himself, were asking for help. All I would ask you to do is consider the point of view of those who have been victimized and marginalized for centuries, in the same way you continue to seek to understand the perspective of the cops involved. For some of you, going as far as to say that “Floyd may have not died from the knee to the throat.” This stretches the bounds of credulity.
Our own history as Americans is reflective of this, when a tyrannical government refused to listen to our concerns, the Founding fathers threw tea into the Boston harbor, resulting in the loss of property to the tune of one million dollars. There was a protracted war fought for independence and we waved flags that said, “Don’t tread on me.” We call that patriotism, but when others do it we call them “Thugs who riot.” I guess it depends on which side of power you find yourself?
Even Jesus destroyed property, turned tables over, and chased people out of the temple at the end of a whip, Why? Because religious leaders were taking advantage of the poor. Jesus did this twice. This is part of the reason they killed Him. He was a marginalized peasant preacher, and dark skinned at that, so I think if I want to “choose a side” I’m always going to identify with marginalized groups, because, honestly I think that is where Jesus would be.