O daughter Babylon, you devastator!
Happy shall they be who pay you back
What you have done to us!
Happy shall they be who take your little ones
And dash them against the rock! -Psalm 137: 8-9
What anguish would prompt an expression of such joy at this picture of horrific violence being perpetrated against children?
Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock!
It is not a stretch to imagine the Psalmist once witnessed her own little ones being dashed against rocks.
You know, I was bullied in school. Weren’t most of us, at one point or another?
My pain was so raw, so real, I often wished my bullies could experience a little bullying themselves.
I wanted them to comprehend my anguish.
And so I marvel at the beauty of this and other Psalms of Lamentation; they give me full permission to feel grief and rage.
They give me a safe space to express a desire for vindication.
They also invite me, and all of us, to share communally in grief, and in rage.
They remind me that injustice is universal; no one has a corner on suffering. We will all, by the end of our lives, have gagged down a slice or two of that bitter pie.
One cannot help but imagine this Psalm of despair being sung often, recounting year after year: pain, rage, agony, bottomless-well-of-sorrow, pain, rage...
No one wants their murdered children to be forgotten.
Imagine, will you, being a descendant of the perpetrators of the original crime, a so-called “Babylonian”, and hearing this song being sung by a group of street musicians.
How would you react?
Maybe you would recoil in fear… “Wait, are they singing about what my ancestors did to their children?”
Were these Psalm-singers, these who were re-member-ing wrongful death, were they plotting to murder your children in return?
If so, you’d want to remind them, quick, that you yourself did not carry out this horrible crime against their children; it was your ancestors.
You might feel the urge to run home and gather your friends and relatives around you for support.
Maybe you’d all approach the Psalmist with, “That’s all in the past. You need to get over it.” Please.
Or maybe a better idea would be to remind them that you aren’t the only violent ones, “Look, you guys have lots of violent offenders living among you! Stop digging up the past and worry about the problems you’re having right now!”
With relief, you’d point to their worst cases of child abuse. See? You guys are just as bad...
Alternatively, upon wandering past the musicians cooing their mournful tune, you might pause and let the wind of grief wend its way into your soul.
You might shed a tear at the suffering children, the agonized screams of helpless parents still echoing across the centuries.
Has no one ever asked forgiveness, you might ask?
Your ancestors are no longer around to admit the mistakes, to acknowledge what they have done, how twisted and wrong it was, but you could.
You realize you never noticed the depth of this injustice before.
Why was that?
These people’s stories had been shared among your people, sure, but never their grief, and that grief, it was begging to be heard.
Right now, there is a great reckoning, a long remembering, of grief present and grief past, of heinous crimes committed against your Black brothers and sisters.
There’s research and stories and documentation showing how so many of the societal systems we white folks have put in place are still oppressing people.
And you know what?
You have permission to care.
You have permission to say Black lives matter without it having to mean you support any certain movement.
It doesn’t have to mean you support abortion.
It doesn’t have to mean you will vote straight Democrat next election.
It doesn’t have to mean you are a Marxist or that you have an agenda to somehow take over the world.
Guess what else?
You can do research.
You can read books and articles and studies, like this one: https://www.nber.org/papers/w26774?fbclid=IwAR3HY7Thb3VFYcp23oYjk5u7jmpZBASNqbAZrH-6KdBaFUHS35AtMyIxiZc.
And if, in researching, you discover that yes, systemic racism is a thing and no, history has not been on the side of Black Americans, you can acknowledge that.
And it doesn’t have to mean you are a socialist.
It doesn’t have to mean you don’t love your country.
It doesn’t have to mean you are promoting another civil war.
It doesn’t have to mean you stand in support of any sort of violent protest.
At the same time, if your son was killed and the killer wasn’t being brought to justice, wouldn’t you be pissed?!
Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock!
I was shocked the first time I acknowledged my own white privilege on Facebook.
I was shocked because I was told that in acknowledging certain things, like that I have a leg up when it comes to opportunities for bettering my life, I was somehow shaming white people.
Guys, I was told I needed to meet some "successful blacks" and listen to them instead of whoever the hell I was apparently listening to.
I was told I wasn’t reading the correct research, that I wasn’t being a critical thinker.
What I had to say, what I shared, was dismissed because I “had an agenda”, or at least, I was following a liberal agenda.
I was reminded of black-on-black crime, and asked, why? Why wasn’t I pissed about that?!
Maybe because that has nothing to do with the fact that police officers can kill my neighbors and then escape prosecution...
I was suddenly hit with an onslaught of memes and articles.
Some warned of impending...I don’t know how to define it...Marxism? Revolution? Nazzi-ism? Socialism?
“Statues coming down is where Revolutions start.”
“Hitler began by defunding the police.”
Then I was reminded, “Only criminals have anything to fear from cops”.
First of all, is a police officer supposed to be judge, jury and executioner?
If so, that’s terrifying, don’t you think?
Secondly, when you say, “only criminals have anything to fear” in response to the statistics and studies, then you are literally saying, “the victims deserved what happened to them.”
You are going against the very system you so love, the one that gives serial killers and rapists fair trials.
I have learned a new term: leftism.
Apparently, leftism is, “a religion of self-loathing. It teaches white people to hate their race, boys to hate their sex, women to hate their femininity, Americans to hate their country, westerners to hate their history. What a contemptible, toxic thing it is.”
I’m not sure who the leftists are, though.
I’ve yet to meet anyone who doesn’t care about history.
And what does “hating my history” mean?
When I look back at my history and see things my ancestors did that are horrific, I am grieved. I wonder, what can I do to offer reparation?
Being a citizen, that is the least I can do.
I also belong to a group of people who, proclaiming the name of Jesus, tortured and rampaged and burned “heretics” at the stake. I’m not proud of that heritage.
Knowing the mistakes my ancestor’s made, hearing the hurt they caused, makes me want to learn from past mistakes. It makes me want to start being more a part of the solution than the problem.
I’ve yet to meet a white person who hates his race.
So here’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve been watching, listening and reading.
I’ve seen calls for the police officers involved in the murders of black citizens to be prosecuted.
I’ve seen people pleading for others to simply see that there really is systemic racism.
What about all those Black people whose speeches you are using to declare, “In Jesus, we are all one. There is no color.” So shut up about systemic racism already.
Well, there can be many truths.
We are all humans, made in Imago Dei, are we not?
The fact remains that a black person living in this society has different experiences with law enforcement, with buying houses, with equitable pay, with discrimination-based-on-skin-color than you do.
If we are all humans, then don’t we all deserve to walk this great land free of fear in our daily encounters? Don’t we all deserve equal treatment?
Don’t you want that discrimination NOT to happen to the Black pastor whose sermon you are sharing, the one who is saying, “We are all made in God’s image. We are all God’s children.”
I hope your answer would be, “YES!”
And if you want that for the pastor with whom you agree, don’t you also want that for all your fellow citizens, your neighbors far and near?