Dear Siblings in Christ:
This week's lectionary reading is the story of The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). It is a story many of us know well. It is the story of someone left for dead in a ditch after being robbed. It is the story of all those good people who passed him by while he lay there groaning and suffering. It is the story of a Samaritan - one of those most abused and despised by the people of that time and place - stopping to help and care for the man others had left in the ditch to die. It's a story that calls us to pay attention to the suffering of others and to care for them. It is also a story that challenges us not to be resigned to accept as inevitable the death of another human being.
This morning, many of are waking up to the news of another person of color losing their life in a police shooting. People of color, those who live with mental illness and those with developmental challenges are at the greatest risk of dying this way. Racism and prejudice are at the root of this reality but, in Washington State, part of the problem is also the law.
Washington State law makes it almost impossible to hold a police officer responsible for killing another person regardless of the circumstances. We ask police officers to protect us and entrust them with weapons that we hope will never be needed. The problem is that the legal expectations we give them around the use of these weapons in very low. By some accounts, it's the lowest set of expectations in the country. It is nearly impossible to hold a police officer accountable for a shooting that every other state in the country could consider as a criminal offense.
So, let's go back to the story of the Good Samaritan for a moment. The fact that this person helped a fellow human being by the side of the road is beautiful and good. What if we had the opportunity to prevent the circumstances that lead to the person being in the ditch in the first place?
I'm attaching to this note a petition to get I-873 on the ballot. Here is the link:
873 would give police officers clearer and more substantial guidelines about how and under what conditions the use of deadly force would be considered justified by Washington State law. I encourage you to educate yourself, pray, print this up, take it to church this Sunday and invite people to sign on.
Just as a reminder for those of you who might be concerned, churches are allowed to take positions on issues such as this but are not allowed to endorse any particular candidate. Inviting signatures on this petition does not violate a church's tax exempt status.
This Sunday we reflect on the goodness of the Good Samaritan. May we accept that calling as our own. May we not just care for those left to die and mourn by the side of the road but work to put systems in place that will help prevent these deaths in the first place.