For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice. – Hosea 6:6a (NRSV)
Before, during and after the trail of Officer Derek Chauvin, George Floyd’s murderer, it wasn’t uncommon to hear things like, “George Floyd was the wakeup call we needed.”
George Floyd was the wakeup call we needed? Really? Who is “we” in that sentence? A now-famous Black Lives Matter protest sign addresses the issue squarely: “George Floyd isn’t a wakeup call. The same alarm has been ringing since 1619. Y’all just keep hitting snooze.”
Instead of hitting snooze, let’s interrogate how white culture habitually turns a tragedy into an opportunity for “us.” Let’s see whose body we crucify for “our” benefit. Let’s also acknowledge how some elements of Christian theology inform this self-serving pattern.
Many Christians see the sacrifice of Christ as necessary for the remission of human sins. I don’t. I see the crucifixion as a massive injustice and human failure. It never should have happened. Sadly, that historic bloody lynching has been turned into a transactional requirement for salvation. That is tragedy upon tragedy.
For me, Jesus’ murder exposed the depth of human evil while revealing the depth of God’s love, but it was not needed, nor was it good. George Floyd’s murder, and the conviction of his murderer, is an important moment, but it shouldn’t have to be.
In short, progress and salvation should not require human sacrifice. We really need to get out of that rut, theologically and socially. God requires love, not sacrifice.
Only One, Friend and Defender of the Oppressed,
whose Child was pierced with metal by militarized police,
we know that wherever there is a broken body,
wherever there are tears, you are there.
–from A Booklet of Uncommon Prayers: Collects for the #BlackLivesMatter Movement and Beyond, by Kenji Kuramitsu
Matt Laney is the Senior Pastor of Virginia Highland Church UCC in Atlanta, GA and the author of Pride Wars, a fantasy series published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for Young Readers. The first two books, The Spinner Prince and The Four Guardians are available now.