Responding to Officer Yanez Trial

Imperfect Justice Following Philando Castile’s Death

Philando Castile; Photo Courtesy of Star Tribune

There is no earthly justice that will bring back the life of Philando CastilleThe world seeks justice as best it can, but even the world’s justice can’t turn back the clock and bring Castile back to life, or allow Officer Jeronimo Yanez to double check his instinctive reaction.

While perfect justice is unattainable on earth, there are real changes that Christians can be part of.

Be Compelled by Personal Stories of Injustice

Hear the stories of those personally affected by the preferential leanings of our criminal justice system. I appeal to my white evangelical colleagues to personally feel the weariness and discouragement of our African American brothers and sisters in Christ. It is only in hearing their stories that we will feel the need to defend and act for justice.

The detachment and disinterest historically seen in white Christians has long driven a wedge of separation in the body of Christ. Instead of offering a detached response of letting the justice system sort out the facts, we must engage the feelings of grief and sadness that another life has been lost.

Bear One Another’s Full Burdens

Scripture implores us to bear one another’s burdens. Mr. Castile’s girlfriend and his extended family are part of a church in St. Paul pastored by a friend of mine, Superintendent Celester Webb. I have witnessed Pastor Webb strive to carry the emotional, spiritual and physical burdens of these bereaved members in his flock.

As followers of Jesus, the call to help carry these burdens extends beyond grieving the death of Castile; we must work to end the perpetual sense of fear and suspicion under which our African American brothers and sisters constantly live. That burden is carried by fellow pastors and partners in ministry. It is a burden carried by colleagues, neighbors and friends who are African American.

In the unity of Christ we must enter into that burden with them. If you live in a community with very few people of color and have the luxury of feeling detached and unaffected, remind yourself that many who feel suspect and vulnerable are our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Gain an Understanding of Society’s Imperfect Structures

Officer Jeronimo Yanez; Photo Courtesy of Star Tribune

As Christians, the tragic death of Philando Castile must drive us to look deeply into the imperfect structures of our society. Rather than simply passing harsher laws that crack down on protests, we must ask questions and get close enough to understand the frustration and anger that causes people to rally in the streets.

In some ways the guilt for the death of Philando Castile is on all of us and our growing dependence on “law and order” – on policing powers and the use of deadly force. I fear for my friends and colleagues who are police officers. I honor their service and I want them to be safe. And yet, we must change the practices and expectations society has of law enforcement in order to spare the lives of future Philando Castiles, Michael Browns, and Freddie Grays.

Zechariah 7:9-10 This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.’

Raise Our Voices

Sankofa Group of 30 Twin Cities Pastors in Birmingham, AL

Last February I journeyed with 15 African American and 15 white Twin Cities pastors through civil rights and slavery landmarks in the South. This past Monday our group met again and talked at length about the racial overtones that surround the tragic death of Philando Castile and the trial of Officer Jeronimo Yanez.

Our African American brothers and sisters in ministry have implored me and other white Christians to raise our voices on their behalf.

Together, the Christian Church must use our prayers, our voices and our actions to better seek justice and work for the good of all of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

“Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed.” (Isaiah 1:17)

Carl Nelson is the President and CEO of Transform Minnesota, the evangelical network. Contact him here.

PDF of Statement Responding to Officer Yanez Verdict

May 3, 2017