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Response to Recent Police and Civilian Killings, Part Seven

August 12, 2016 by Herbert Daughtry

“Tension Among the Religionists: Understanding the Role of Contemporary Clergy in a Historical Context of the Priest and the Prophet” (continued) **

“Consider the prophet Amos. He heard God vehemently denounce those who oppress the righteous, take bribes, and deprive the poor of justice in the courts. ‘For I know your manifold transgressions and your mighty sins: they afflict the just, they take a bribe, and they turn aside the poor in the gate from their right’ (Amos 5:12).

“‘I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream! ‘Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings forty years in the wilderness, people of Israel? You have lifted up the shrine of your king, the pedestal of your idols, the star of your god— which you made for yourselves. Therefore, I will send you into exile beyond Damascus,’ says the Lord, whose name is God Almighty’ (Amos 5:21-24).

“Avaricious businesspeople, along with the high and mighty, were not exempt. Consider Jesus’ fury in the temple where he violently expelled licensed business people from the temple court. ‘Jesus returned to Jerusalem and went into the temple. He began to throw out those who were buying and selling things there. He overturned the tables that belonged to the men who were exchanging different kinds of money. And, he turned over the benches of the men who were selling doves'(Mark 11:15-17).

“The prophet unmasked the wicked. They identified the devil, educated people regarding their behavior, and did all they could to defeat them. Let it be clearly understood, that if the oppressors showed signs of honest repentance, and were prepared to make restitution, the prophet in the name of God, welcome them back to the fold of God and the fellowship of the righteous.

“The characteristics of priests and prophets overlapped. There were some priests in prophets, and some prophets in priests. Primarily, it was a matter of emphasis. That is where both were sincere servants of God, following their clearest light as to what God’s will was.

“Now we can better understand the religious leaders in the drama that is unfolding, almost daily in the aftermath of the Diallo killing. Cardinal O’Connor is the consummate priest. He wants to reconcile and heal. He wants to treat both sides equally. He strains to appear fair. He wants to bring all sides together. The voice of the priest is soft; his actions are passive; and, his whole decorum is non-threatening to anybody. Sometimes, it’s hard to say what, or who, he is against.

“Joining Cardinal O’Connor, in priestly functions was the Rev. H.W. Rev. H.W. marched his several hundred members across the Brooklyn Bridge to One Police Plaza on February 21st. They sang hymns, held up bibles, and prayed. Rev. H. W. is quoted as saying, “No Prayer, No Peace,” an obvious parody on the militant promise of the activists’ “No Justice, No Peace.” Rev. H. W., who had never been involved in any public protest against justice before, has not been heard from since, in spite of efforts to reach him to attend meetings to plan future actions.

“On the evening of the same day, Rev. D. P.S. invited officers from the 84th Precinct in Brooklyn to his church for an awards ceremony. Afterwards, in an interview on Channel 9, he said he wanted to bring healing and reconciliation. Rev. D.P.S., like Rev. H.W., had no prior involvement and has not been heard from since. Rev. D.P.S. was asked to attend a planning meeting regarding future activities related to Diallo, but failed to show up.

A pattern emerges in the priests’ behaviors. They desire to stand outside the battle. They avoid the gritty, grimy business that is the inevitable result in the struggle for social change. Fred Douglass said a long time ago, ‘Without struggle, there is no progress.’ It has also been said, ‘Never put your Sunday suit on and go to a revolution.’ And, yet another quote, ‘Nice people are always appalled at the way power changes hands.’ As a rule, the priest wants no part of this dirty business of social change. However, in the tension-packed times of the reform and revolution, the priests know they should do something. Caught between the demand for action and their unwillingness to involve themselves in anything that smacks of confrontation, they seek a middle ground. They want a place that allows them to appear gentle, kind, healing, and loving, but distant from the battle, while all the time, conveying the appearance of involvement. Unlike the prophets, who possess all of the positive qualities of the priest, but understand that love is sometimes challenging, confrontational, and painful.

Love for a bully who dehumanizes another child is not identical in expression. The victim needs to be hugged, healed, and empowered. The bully needs to be shown the evil of his behavior and criticized for that behavior and forced to change. Both are loved, but in different ways. Both need to be challenged: the victimizer to cease his evil, the victim to cease allowing the victimization. When both heed the challenge, a real reconciliation becomes a reality. Both become better human beings. Towards that end, sincere priests and prophets agree on the question, “How do we get there?”

… to be continued.