There is a chapter in Whom Shall I Fear? that asks questions about the relationship between the church and the police. It is evident already that it has made some of my early readers uncomfortable. I understand that: it makes me uncomfortable, too.
But not as “uncomfortable” as a mother whose son is shot to death by a police officer who says she couldn’t tell her gun from her taser.
Not as “uncomfortable” as the man with a knee on his neck.
I will not go on. It is too much, there are too many, and their names deserve better than a list.
We have a pretty good relationship with our local police. That makes the discussion more awkward, in a way. We have used police reports to back up our insurance claims after accident and incident, and they helped us with a no-trespass order when a repeat sex offender targeted a church member. I was grateful to the officers who helped me when somebody died in our basement apartment.
And still, the uncomfortable questions need to be asked:
- Who is in control of the mission when police are invited to attend ministry functions? Will they leave their weapons behind if we ask them to?
- Who feels less safe when the police are present? And do they matter to us?
- What message does the police car in the parking lot send to the neighbourhood? And is it gospel?
And what will we do with the answers?
I confess, I have shied away in the past from having this conversation wholeheartedly within my own church leadership. The last time I brought it up the consensus we reached remained uneasy.
It is uncomfortable. But not as uncomfortable as a trumped-up arrest and crucifixion. It is our cross to bear.
If we do not ask the awkward questions, who will answer them for us? And will they look like Jesus?