Faith Matters: America Can’t Breathe

The death of George Floyd revealed yet again the grave injustice that plagues what should be one of the more trustworthy institutions in our land. Of course, the immediate argument to a statement like that the institution is not the problem, just a few individuals. And let me say from the start that I understand that sentiment. I know, work, and am friends with many in the law enforcement community. I honor their service and their sacrifice, and I know that for many of them the murder of George Floyd is beyond troubling and undermines their work protecting their communities. That said, how many black men and women must suffer or die before we are allowed to connect to the dots?

The criminal justice system is not particularly endowed with racism. It’s equally endowed. Racial inequality and injustice are as American as baseball and apple pie. Economically, we see the injustice from slavery through indentured servitude to the current cycles of systemic poverty. Regarding health and wellness, COVID is revealing yet again the disparity in health issues for minority communities. Regarding justice, black men and women are detained and murdered by the neighborhood watch, treated as criminals for pointing out an infraction in their white counterpart (see Central Park last week), and killed for loose cigarettes and fake twenty dollar bills.

As the people of God, who believe that all people are created in God’s image and who are called throughout scripture to work for justice and peace and to particularly work on behalf of the marginalized, we must begin to see and speak of this injustice as irreconcilable to our faith. And repent.

As Americans, who believe that all men are created equal and that we are one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all, we are called to heal the racial divide that has plagues our communities and to stop denying it. We are called to remember that all means all.

I am keenly aware as I write this that protests are now taking place in many American cities, and that at least one has resulted in unfathomable violence and destruction. For many, the results of the anger will disqualify the reasons for it. My fear is that if that is where the conversation goes, it is only a matter of time before we find ourselves back here all over again.

So my prayer this Pentecost (May 31, 2020) season is that a holier fire would consume our nation. The fires in Minneapolis are indeed destructive and divisive. But the day of Pentecost begins with fire as well. Only this fire spreads, but does not destroy or consume. And, perhaps most notably of all during this time, is that this fire unites. As tongues of fire rested on the tops of the disciples’ heads, they began to speak in every language and people from every tribe and place were able to hear the good news.

May that same Holy Spirit blow across our nation setting our hearts and our minds on God and one another, and helping us to speak one another’s language, listen and understand. Perhaps then we can more fully live into the Christian and American ideals we hold so dear.

For more inspiration and insights from Pastor Scott and Pastor Shawn’s past columns, please visit and click on the Faith Matters page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.

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Pastor Shawn Hannon
Pastor Shawn is a 2010 graduate of the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina, and he began his call at Hope Lutheran Church, Arcade NY that summer. While he spent four years learning and serving churches in South and North Carolina, as a Jamestown, NY native, Western New York has always been home. He is glad to be here. Pastor Shawn and his wife Carol Hannon met while attending SUNY Geneseo in the mid-2000s. They have enjoyed making their home together in Arcade with their daughters Quinn and Perry.   Pastor Shawn has a background in youth and outdoor ministry. He is a former camper and staff person at Lake Chautauqua Lutheran Center in Bemus Point, NY. He has also served camps in urban settings and oversees in Madagascar. In seminary he was recognized for gifts in Greek and New Testament, and in his senior year was recognized with awards in both Preaching and Biblical Studies. Pastor Shawn continues to emphasize the youth in his ministry, but not simply because they are the future church, but because they are the church of today.  He also enjoys working on service projects, and takes the role of planning meaningful and engaging worship seriously.  He loves helping people find ways to put their passion and energy to work making their community and other people’s worlds a better place. When he is not working at church, Shawn enjoys remodeling and construction projects around his family’s home.  But as busy as he gets, PS always has time for a quick nine (okay, 18) on the golf course. He enjoys playing sports of all kinds and fiddling with his guitar.