Matthew 2:18 — In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not. (KJV)
As a pastor, I am faced daily with the realities of human tragedy. Recently in Indianapolis, a brutal and heinous crime took place, which resulted in the murders of two young mothers, both age 24, and their young babies, ages 23 months and 4 months respectively. All four victims were brutally gunned down in a house located in a known high crime/drug area.
All four victims were Black and all of the alleged perpetrators, who either surrendered or were captured after one of the most intensive five-day manhunts in the history of our city, were also Black.
In total, eight lives have been immediately destroyed, with countless others (family and friends) irreparably changed forever. And unfortunately, this type of atrocity repeats itself everyday in cities all across our nation.
Over the course of a week, the media inundated its listeners and readers with a blow-by-blow account of this tragedy, the subsequent burial of the victims, and the arrest of the alleged perpetrators.
This tragedy, like so many others, unfortunately personally touched my family. One of the mothers who was killed worked as the administrative assistant to my wife over a four year period prior to my wife’s departure from her previous place of employment.
While we cannot fathom the unquenchable pain and agony of the immediate families, we can certainly empathize with the complete shock felt through the community because of this tragic and senseless loss of life, particularly the loss of those babies.
But do you really want to know what the greatest tragedy of the Hovey Street murders is? Us killing us! Blacks killing blacks! This does not negate in any way the horrific reality of the murders of two young mothers and their babies.
And regardless of the circumstances which lead to the murders, it takes a black-hearted person to kill babies in the arms of their mothers (and the mothers), a child’s first and often last line of defense. But on a broader scale, we cannot overlook the tremendous amount of carnage this latest act of what Andrew Hacker calls “self inflicted genocide” has on us as a people.
Most days I am fiercely proud to be an African-American. But on days like the ones we just experienced over the past week, I can only pray and hang my head in shame and disgust for my people.
Frankly, I am beyond being “sick and tired” of violence and senseless killings. I am appalled. I cannot take this anymore. The plague associated with gangs, drugs, violence, murders, fatherless homes, out of wedlock pregnancies and low academic achievement rates in our community must come to an end.
Jan. 21, 2008, the same day we celebrated the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we also buried one of the mothers and her 4-month-old daughter. They shared the same casket, mother and daughter, two young lives cut short by an assassin’s bullets. On that day, as we honored Dr. King and remembered “The Dreamer” exhorting us to peace, hope, love and the “beloved community,” I wondered what Dr. King would have to say about the sad state of affairs in our community today?
Would he turn a deaf ear? Would he appeal to public opinion and look for some warped justification for tragedies like the Hovey Street murders? Would he seek public attention to further his own personal cause? Would he see this as another opportunity to be politically correct, posturing at the crimes scenes and funerals, only to leave it all behind and go back to the safety and comfort of his own surroundings?
How would Dr. King respond?
Dr. Rufus Burrow Jr., professor of Theological Social Ethics at Christian Theological Seminary notes that “King was both convinced and convicted that there is something about how the universe itself is constructed that mandates obedience to moral laws, and that the consequences for disobeying these may be devastating at times.”
First, the fact that there is an objective moral order in existence denounces the perpetuation of injustice of any type to include the injustices of racism, economic exploitation, and militarism that King fought against in his day, as well as the perpetuation of Black on Black violence that we must all fight against today. This is a fascinating premise because many African-Americans, including myself and many of those who are residents of what Manning Marable calls the “ghetto class,” are prone to look at the enemy without (racism and systematic oppression) and not so much the enemy within (self-genocide and self-destruction).
Secondly, if indeed “the consequences for disobeying these (moral laws) may be devastating at times,” could this be a more accurate reason that Black on Black violence and death is occurring in our community at an alarming rate? In essence, as a people if we were more in obedience to the moral laws that exist and drive our universe, would the consequences that we face today be greatly decreased or even eradicated? How much of what is happening to our community have we brought on ourselves?
In closing, it is important to remember that human beings can make the choice to do right or we can make the choice to do wrong. As Dr. Tom Benjamin Jr., senior pastor of Light of the World Christian Church often states, “There are no bad people (kids), just bad choices.” If someone decides to take the life of another, as in the Hovey Street murders, he/she knows it is wrong, he/she made the choice and therefore must also suffer the consequences of his/her choice. Beyond criminal and civil law, there is moral law, which also has its consequences. And moral law cannot be escaped.
But King does not leave us without hope. For even though the objective moral order and moral law principles shed an intriguing light on the plight of the Black community, they also vividly remind us as King notes, that we “always have a constant cosmic companion in the struggle for survival-liberation-empowerment.” That “cosmic companion,” according to King, is the Creator-God who loves us, sees us as inherently precious, and works on our behalf to sustain us.
Please continue to pray for the families of the victims, the perpetrators, our city, and our nation. We need God’s healing hand to move as only God can move. As you pray, may you also receive all that God has for you.
Dr. Preston T. Adams III is executive pastor of Light of the World Christian Church.