Day Sixteen

Visceral. Psalm 42:3–4

Our featured artist today is Lenny Duncan, a Philly native who attends the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. He is an M.Div. co-op student and a candidate for the office of Word and Sacrament in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). He is formerly incarcerated, formerly homeless, and formerly “unchurched.” He is of African descent and brings a black perspective to Martin Luther’s Theology of the Cross. He is also evangelist for — and an early adopter and organizer in — the #decolonizeLutheranism movement.

My tears have been my food
 day and night,
 while people say to me continually,
 “Where is your God?”

As I sit to write this it’s been one day since #slagertrial mistrial. 1,241 days since Zimmerman heard the word “not guilty” read aloud by a foreman. 215,708 hours since all the officers were acquitted in the assault on Rodney King. That as I sit and write this. By the time you read this, those figures will go up.

My tears have been my food
 day and night,

I have nothing left but tears. It’s the one thing you can’t beat out of me. It’s the one thing I won’t let you take. The salty lines that track my already weary face and frame me. Define me. I live on tears.

378 months since I watched the Philadelphia police drop a bomb on my neighborhood.

All you have given me are tears for food.

You take our hope, our leaders, our brightest voices and you have decided to cut them down. To strike out the strange fingers of light that had ripped through the constant systemic veil of racism that is shrouded over the beloved community.

I cry out , you strangle me until I scream #Icantbreathe. As my chest starts to give out, my heart pumps just a few times more. As my family prepares stuff animals, pictures, candles, and hopefully my boy will throw up a mural, I hear you.

You are saying it with your actions. Your post. Your sneering comments. Your false intellectual strongholds of neoliberalism or conservative values as I am caught between your tantrums, like the last one we just had. Your faux-shock at how readily your peers looked past racism, misogyny, and xenophobia for some false belief that we had suddenly become a manufacturer society. As if the industrial revolution would happen again.

You don’t get a pass either, progressive Christian telling me about safe space — when I have never had safe space. Ever.

I don’t need you to lecture me. I need freedom. The consequences of this last democratic foray into constitutional revolution had me so concerned that I voted for the queen of the prison industrial complex. At 10pm, while you were shocked, I knew America was just shooting its casual regular.

As your willful blindness ties the noose around my neck, and you sling the rope over the tree you forced my ancestors to plant I hear you say it.

“Where is your God?”

My God was riding in the back of police van in Baltimore and his back was broken. My God is a black momma whose stomach is in knots every time her son steps out the door. My God was armed with ice tea and skittles when you took him before Pilate to be scourged. My God is writing the word resist on a wall right now in a part of the city you haven’t gentrified yet. My God just got released and has 28 days to do the one thing he hasn’t been able to do since you threw him into this world with nothing to eat but his tears. Be a citizen of the empire. My God has spent 400 years bleeding, being whipped, raped, separated from his family, losing her children, lynched, hunted, singing songs of freedom.

Harriet Tubman leading a freedom march on the Underground Railroad. Photo taken at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church, Baltimore, Maryland.

You are a Jericho and the march around your walls starts. You are a crewman on the Amistad and I just stepped out of the hold. You are J Edgar in your fear as you read this, and my wife doesn’t care about the tapes you are sending us.

My God has never ignored the cries of the oppressed.

God’s people are not on the margins, they are the center of God’s own heart — which flees empire and you. The paradigm is flipped because I have been reading scripture up at power my whole life. As you put me in the back of the squad car. As you shut another door in my face. As you smile and hand me empty platitudes like, “I am in this with you, let’s lean into this together.”

Just remember this is my life, this is in my DNA. Liberation is a response to death, and you haven’t killed me yet. So as you ask “Where is your God?”, Michael Brown looks you eye. He smiles.

He says, “Fuck. This. Shit.”