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By Rev. Justin Smoot, for Wausau Pilot & Review
As a religious leader, as one to whom others look for religious inspiration and spiritual guidance, there is a temptation to speak more than I should. There is the weight to have a religious framework, or a spiritual insight, to help people find their way through challenging and difficult times.
This is a temptation that is felt in the wake of the Derek Chauvin trial. It was a blessing when my struggles with whether to write about this and what to write about, because it gave me some more time. Time to think, time to revise, so that quick words would not just fill the silence with noise. And there is a lot that can be said in the wake of the April 20 verdict.
Many people will provide response, commentary, analysis and opinion, but I am not sure that I am a person who can say anything.
In the wake of the verdict, I looked to my colleagues, to pastors who were watching and praying. Faith filled siblings in Christ who know the deep, daily struggles of Black and Brown Americans, because they are part of those communities. The story of this verdict is their story, not mine.
What I heard when I listened were powerful statements of newness. This newness was celebrated, not as the downfall of Derek Chauvin, but as the justice system upholding the value of Black lives. This verdict was new because a line has been drawn, a potential precedent set, in the interactions between law enforcement and the Black and Brown communities. This newness was welcomed as the turning of a page in the story of Black and Brown Americans in this country that has been more tragedy than triumph.
Yet, the response to the verdict also echoed that this was not the end of the struggle for justice. This reality was punctuated by the police shooting of Ma’Khia Bryant, which happened the same day that the Derek Chauvin verdict was read.
If I say anything about the verdict, it is to echo the words and the sentiment of my colleagues who understand the impact of the case, the verdict, and the impact. Sometimes that is what is required of Christians, to silence our voices to make space for the pain of the world to be spoken and for the joy of newness to be sung.
When we ponder the incarnation of Jesus, the Word of God made flesh, born of Mary, who was bodily resurrected, there is a powerful presence with us that we are called to emulate in our service to the world. A presence that hears the cries of those who suffer and does not put words in their mouth. Like Jesus with the man born blind (John 9) the suffering and injustice of the world are not punishments for moral laxity or sin, but occasions for the God’s work to be carried out and for God’s kingdom to come.
If we but still our voices, abide in Christ, and listen.
Rev. Justin Smoot
Rev. Justin Smoot is one of the pastors at Saint Andrew Lutheran Church in Rib Mountain. He is always on the lookout for how God’s story turns our lives upside down and draws us closer together.