Five years ago I wrote about Sandra Bland, a 28-year old black woman who changed lanes in Waller County, Texas to allow an approaching patrol car to pass. Instead of passing, the patrolman pulled her over for failure to signal a lane change. The video of her arrest was haunting. Sandra was understandably upset. How many times have we all changed lanes without giving a signal? She was simply moving over to let the policeman by. It seemed like such a trivial stop.
She showed her irritation. The officer was insulted and grew angry, demanding she put out her cigarette. She refused. He threatened to “light her up” with his Taser, forced her from her car, manhandled her off to the side of the road, wrestled her to the ground, handcuffed her and carted her off to jail. Three days later, unable to post bond, Sandra Bland was found dead in her jail cell, victim of an apparent suicide. A graduate of Prairie View A&M, she had been a part of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The video was disturbing because of the injustice of it all, similar to the video of George Floyd. Both videos are disturbing because of repeated incidents of police brutality against black persons. They are disturbing because they represents our cultural drift from the values that make life work. Our politicians hurl insults at one another, calling names, seldom restrained by the truth. People scream at one another in movies and dramas, releasing unrestrained anger. We laugh at the snide remarks of comedians. The principles of courtesy, respect, patience, honesty and forgiveness seem to be slipping away.
Have we slipped our Christian moorings? Are we adrift in a sea of uncertainty that has no true North, no compass? Are the darker impulses of prejudice, fear and hatred leading us off a cliff?
We turned to science and technology believing they would pave the way to a brighter future. And, while science and technology have given us a higher standard of living with conveniences our forefathers never dreamed, they cannot provide the values necessary for living with each other.
The stones that pave the path for our future are the same stones that paved the pathway for our forefathers. They are found in the Commandments: “Do not murder. Do not commit adultery. Do not steal. Do not bear false witness. Do not covet.. Honor your father and mother.” (Mark 10:19)
They are found in the words of Jesus: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” “Love your neighbor as yourself.” “Be merciful as your father is merciful.” “Give and it shall be given to you, good measure, pressed down and running over.” They are found in the Lord’s Prayer.
The stones for our pathway forward are found in the fruits of the Spirit that overcome the flesh: “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, ... But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:19-23).
Faith that fosters forgiveness and respect for all people of all races is essential to our survival.