All Is Not Well: A Time for Prophetic Grief

Influential faith leaders mourn following the decision not to indict the officer who killed Tamir Rice.

“Twelve seconds. One-fifth of a minute. Produces a lifetime of pain for a family and now eternal shame for America.”

— Rev. Dr. William Barber II, Forward Together, founder of the Moral Monday Movement, North Carolina


“Two thousand years ago the Rabbis of the Talmud warned: one must not eat and drink and say “All’s well with me!” when the community is in pain. When a 12-year-old child holding a toy gun is shot to death and no one is held accountable, all is not well — and not only for our black and brown brothers and sisters. Our nation is in pain. Our human community is in pain. Until there is justice, we are not well. #propheticgrief”

— Rabbi Sharon Brous, founding rabbi of IKAR, Los Angeles


“In biblical times the prophets warned the rulers of certain judgment because the very people called to define and execute justice were using their power to serve themselves. In the wake of the constant drumbeat of hashtags and the constant rattle of the snare that declares “no bill,” behold, America! The prophets are speaking!”

— Lisa Sharon Harper, Chief Church Engagement Officer of Sojourners, Washington, D.C. 


“It is time to wail. It is time to lament. It is time to cry, “Violence!” It is time to grieve.

“But we must grieve a #PropheticGrief, an unrelenting grief. A grief that tells the truth. A grief that unmasks the powers, the forces, the systems. A grief that calls us all to a reckoning with our conscience — both individual and collective.

“May we grieve like the mothers, prophets, and poets of old. May we grieve like Rizpah and Habakkuk, like Maya and James.

“May we write the vision and make it plain to all the generations running this race. May we continue in the struggle for liberation, right relationship, and beloved community — until it comes.”

— Rev. Michael-Ray Mathews, leader of PICO National Network and the Prophetic Voices Initiative, Oakland


“There is a strange comfortability with black death. Even grief is subjugated by an imagination birthed by race where victims are always culpable for their own demise. Black tears are of no consequence because they come from bodies deemed defective by the myths of racialized thinking.  Until all hearts begin to break and mothers of privilege join the funeral procession only then will sorrow cease to be our song.”

— Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, senior pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ, Chicago


“Black life doesn’t matter. We keep sending this message over and over again. No matter what we do, the systems are not set up for a world where Black Lives Matter. So we can love all we want, but the children need protection. They are being murdered in the streets, in the parks at their grandma’s house, in the churches. No place is sacred.

“I am not surprised, but I am outraged and will continue to be outraged. I find myself in a perpetual state of outrage. This has been our past and our present, America. It is our responsibility to make sure it’s not our future. It will take all of us.”

— Linda Sarsour, Muslim community activist and executive director of the Arab American Association of New York


“When 12-year-old Tamir Rice bled to death in a park holding a toy gun last November, I was a few days away from giving birth to a son. I could not bear to read past the headline. Today a grand jury decided not to indict the officer who killed him, and once again I want to look away. But my little boy just turned one, and he has Tamir’s face — bright eyes, brown skin, eager smile. My son has started to walk and hug and say “bird” and “ball.” He played in a park today. Tamir learned how to walk and talk and play, too, but that day in the park, an officer didn’t wait long enough to look and think before pulling the trigger.

“I want to look away. But that’s the point of #BlackLivesMatter. It asks you to look at a little boy bleeding in a park as your son, a man choked to death as your father, a body left to bleed in the open street as your brother. It requires honoring good police officers enough to hold accountable those who abuse their power. Because love in public looks like justice. So that’s why this brown Sikh mother is demanding justice for a black boy today. Love is thicker than blood. #MySikhAmericanLife #TamirRice #RevolutionaryLove”

— Valarie Kaur, leading Sikh activist, lawyer, filmmaker, and founder of the Groundswell Movement, Los Angeles


“I am outraged that in the United States in 2015, police officers can kill young black people like Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, and so many others, and suffer no consequences. I am heartbroken that our nation with its long history of racism still remains in denial about its racist past, and I am ashamed about how deeply racism still remains rooted in American institutions. My heart grieves that too many faith leaders, especially white, Christian leaders, remain silent bystanders to this violence and therefore complicit in the status quo. May outrage and grief lead to repentance, change, and action!”

— Brian McLaren, author, speaker, activist, and innovative Christian leader, Florida


“Almost 1,000 people have lost their lives this year at the hands of the police. My heart is wrung dry of tears and cynicism rises up in me, of course there are no consequences for police officers who allegedly act in our name. But such lethargy is an impermissible luxury.

“Pope Francis challenges us in Laudato Si ‘to become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering, and thus to discover what each of us can do about it.’

“We are all connected. Cynicism is not a faithful response to violence toward our family. This violence and our paralysis must stop. We need to move towards each other. That is the Christmas act of hope. Please help me take the next step.”

— Sr. Simone Campbell, NETWORK and “Nuns on the Bus”, Washington, D.C.


“The blood of Tamir Rice is on our hands and cries out to us from the ground, not for revenge but for justice. The prophet Isaiah teaches us that the very act of doing justice brings us closer to God. Every time we act as if black lives don’t matter we move farther from God. As people of faith and moral courage, we are crying out from the rooftops to wake up, repent, and act to transform hearts, minds, and systems because lives and the very soul of this country hang in the balance.”

— The Rev. Dr. Katharine Rhodes Henderson, President, Auburn Seminary, New York


“Tamir was Samaria’s 12-year-old boy. I imagine how empty are her arms without her boy, how silent is the space where his laughter once was. Samaria’s boy is dead. That is criminal.  What is also criminal is how little Black Lives Matter. You can shoot a black body to death and not even go to trial.

“Unacceptable!

“I stand with Samaria. I weep for Tamir. He was our boy, a child of our village. A child of these United States, no matter his race or ours. Someone must be held accountable. I echo his mom’s demands that the Department of Justice investigate, and that the two officers be fired. Because #BlackLivesMatter.

“His life mattered.”

— Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis, Senior Pastor Middle Collegiate Church, New York


About Auburn Senior Fellows: Auburn Seminary convenes and equips bold and resilient leaders who can bridge religious divides, build community, pursue justice, and heal the world.

Image courtesy of a katz / Shutterstock.com.