Again.

In the midst of life we are in death;
from whom can we seek help?
From you alone, O Lord,
who by our sins are justly angered.

Holy God, Holy and Mighty,
Holy and merciful Savior,
deliver us not into the bitterness of eternal death
.

Burial of the Dead, Rite II; Book of Common Prayer, p. 492

For years on Independence Day, I turn to Frederick Douglas’ speech, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”[1] as I continue to do the anti-racism work to which I am convicted. Douglas asks in his distinct style, what is this holiday but an ongoing reminder of the oppression and subjugation to the enslaved person? Over the last several years as systemic racism has begun to yield its grotesque fruit, this practice has taken on new textures, because what is July 4th to the black child who cannot wear a sweatshirt and eat skittles,[2] what is Independence Day to all the black folk who are targeted overtly or covertly with racism that’s tentacles run deeper than the Bermuda Grass I spent all day fighting? What is today to the family of Jayland Walker in light of hundreds of bullets being shot at his unarmed, lifeless body just days ago?

I was feeling particularly prickly today, after a week wherein which the United States Supreme Court made some rulings that are dubious, if not outright villainous. The only words that I’ve been able to come up with are, “I’m just so angry.” I’m angry that a person with a machine gun has more rights than a person with a uterus. I’m angry because of the outright disconnect from the reality of abortion as healthcare in a variety of situations. I’m angry because I’ve seen people celebrate as if they’ve personally defeated the devil because legal abortion is outlawed in many states.

I’m angry because as a Christian minister, I have complex feelings and opinions about abortion, but one thing that is so clear to me is that it should be safe and legal, and I don’t think I’m the outlier, but I know I am in my area of the country. But then again, in my area of the country, most people who claim the name Christian would not validate my ministry or work as a pastor, so what does it matter anyway. But more than that, I’m angry because I’ve seen how this ruling and the ways in which many Christians who are deeply aligned with politicians have driven folks further from the faith which, ironically, compels me to act in favor of Pro-Choice movements.

I had plans today to write about how for a lot of women, especially white women who have not had their black sons collectively call out for them as their life is snuffed out at the hands of the state,[3] this ruling is hitting deep because it’s not just about abortion access or the right of women to choose their care, it’s about all the times in which our bodies have never been our own to make decisions about. I wanted to write about how what is playing out is a grief that never got to breathe. Almost every woman I know has had an encounter with a physician or care provider who did not believe them about their pain or about their symptoms.  There is a grief that so many of our sisters of color have had to carry on their shoulders, forced to bear their pain in the eyes of a society that found their sons to be expendable. For a lot of women who look like me, there is an awakening to the ways in which that are going to be forced to do the same with their bodily autonomy. I’m angry, but not just about the overturning of Roe, it’s about the collective and deep sins that our country has perpetuated repeatedly, all while throwing a party doing our best to ignore the question that Frederick Douglas posed all those years ago.

But that anger that had a specific point imploded as the news from Chicago rolled out that there was an active shooter during a town’s parade, killing multiple people. I’m not angry, I’m enraged. What are we even doing cosplaying a show of freedom when lockdowns are second nature to our children who guided their families on what to do to try to stay safe? What are we even doing??

Over the last ten years I’ve developed a habit of praying the Burial Anthem from the Burial of the Dead Rite II in the Book of Common Prayer. It is the first verse and anthem that resonate in the wake of any shooting:

In the midst of life we are in death;
from whom can we seek help?
From you alone, O Lord,
who by our sins are justly angered.

Holy God, Holy and Mighty,
Holy and merciful Savior,
deliver us not into the bitterness of eternal death.

            From systemic racism, homophobia, rights to privacy being negated, and bodily autonomy removed, I didn’t think we could descend much further into the depths of hell, but this level of violence takes it to a level that I cannot comprehend. And honestly, I don’t know what else to pray in the wake of this week as the bitterness of death attempts to draw us closer and closer to despair other than, deliver us not into the bitterness of eternal death, O Lord, hear our prayer.


[1] What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?

[2] Trayvon Martin murdered February 26, 2012.

[3] George Floyd murdered May 25, 2020, but also Jesus.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s