Called into question

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?

About Rosalind C Hughes

Rosalind C Hughes is a priest and author living near the shores of Lake Erie. After growing up in England and Wales, and living briefly in Singapore, she is now settled in Ohio. She serves an Episcopal church just outside Cleveland. Rosalind is the author of A Family Like Mine: Biblical Stories of Love, Loss, and Longing , and Whom Shall I Fear? Urgent Questions for Christians in an Age of Violence, both from Upper Room Books. She loves the lake, misses the ocean, and is finally coming to terms with snow.
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