Posted on September 25th, 2011 | Filed under Challenges, Community, News, Popular Culture, Topic of the Week
Tagged with community, Death, disghust, Emptiness, Execution, leadership, mourning, Pain, pastoral care, politics, racism, Reflection, Religion, sacrifice, Troy Davis, Wholeness
Disgust. Shock. Outrage. Our country is in mourning. Our nation is truly lost. We are in a whirlwind of emotional upheaval, a roller-coaster of spiritual destruction. The lead up to the execution of Troy Davis has awakened this country to the thriving injustices and deep systemic issues of racism that are alive and well in the U.S. today. Tuesday and Wednesday have been particularly emotional, as more and more Americans began to realize the validity and personal impact of the statement “I am Troy Davis.” Whether people cared about the death penalty or not prior to the last few days, weeks, months, or years, starting Thursday morning, this country woke up to a new world, one of pain, confusion, and a greater need for healing than in recent years.
As I was sitting in my Pastoral Care and Counseling course at Chicago Theological Seminary, Tuesday night, I was tormented by the mixed feelings of pain, anger, confusion, and helplessness that were racing through my head and heart. I brought it up to the class, asking, “how do we as future pastoral caregivers grapple with this layering of emotions not just as they affect an individual or family, but also a community, nation, or the entire world? How can we be effective faith leaders in times of pain and grief when we’re confronted with cases as complex as that of Troy Davis?” We grappled with these questions for nearly an hour, with times of silence and utter-speechlessness scattered throughout the difficult reflection.
After years of justice being denied, of peoples’ hopes and prayers being thwarted by the silence of governmental officials, I think it is imperative that we respond in the aftermath of Troy Davis’ execution with a time for healing and reflection. Yes, we must act. Yes, we must not have Troy die in vain. However, we must heal, as well. We must find that path towards greater spiritual wholeness.
But, how? How do we find love and hope at this time when the overwhelming feelings of disgust, shock, and outrage rule our hearts and minds? It begins by embracing and authenticating these feelings: they are a part of the healing process, they are true and valid and must be lifted up. In these times where national politics collide with seemingly unbearable pain, we all become pastoral caregivers, we must; we must become the comforters and the healers, even as each of us need comfort and to find healing, ourselves.
In these times, regardless of one’s religious affiliation, we are forced to ask a question of the nature of God and humanity (or in the case of Atheist, Agnostics, and the non-religious, just the nature of humanity). What kind of world do we live in when a God/humanity can allow something so horrible to happen? This oftentimes can lead to a theological/existential crisis for individuals who are going through these reflections. A crisis of spirit mirrors the crisis of a people.
What I hope to express in this reflection is what my Pastoral Care and Counseling professors, Dr. Lee Butler said, which was that “a crisis is a time of increased vulnerability and heightened possibility.” This time of grief and pain in the days following the execution of Troy Davis will be seemingly unbearable for some, but the possibility for healing, for greater wholeness, and for a renewed spirit of justice is immeasurable. We are truly on the precipice of real change regarding the death penalty in this country. Hundreds of thousands of people are united to immediately replace this pain and anger we feel with peace and justice. It will take time, but I hope we can take just a little more time to step back, breathe, reflect, come together with loved ones, and start to ask the hard questions about the nature of the world we live in, and find some sense of healing and wholeness.
The death of Troy Davis has awakened us to a possibility. I hope, among many things, that this possibility grants us the will to come together as one people, united by our shared longing for peace in this world, as we begin finding peace in our own hearts and working outwards from there. Troy Davis has passed on, but his spirit lives on in our actions in the coming days. I pray that they may be of spiritual resolve, compassion, and grace.
Hello! My name is Nicolas Cable and this fall I will enter my second year of he Master of Divinity program at Chicago Theological Seminary. I am a Unitarian Universalist, interfaith leader, and socially engaged citizen. I seek ordination as a congregational ministry and hope my ministry can be a progressive light of justice and peace in the world.