We're Responsible: An Open Letter To Dallas Residents

Dear Residents of Dallas: 

It has been a week since Micah Johnson killed five Dallas police officers while they stood guard against violence. It was an evil act by an angry and confused man. And now that the shock has worn off and the victims have been laid to rest, it is time for followers of Jesus in our city to make an announcement.  

We are responsible. 

Our faith teaches us that we are to bless our city and love our neighbors. We are to be agents of good, helping to rescue the oppressed and underprivileged. We are called to care for the weak, the sick, the imprisoned, the refugee, and the marginalized. And yes, the angry and violent. We are to nurture a city that reflects God’s good design of peace and flourishing. In another story about murder, the very first book of our sacred text teaches us that we are our brothers’ keepers.

We have failed. 

To whatever extent we had the opportunity to care for Micah Johnson, we missed it. To whatever degree we have worked to overcome racial divisions, it was not enough. If you, as a Dallasite, carried any measure of respect for the church as spiritual protector and advocate for our city, you have every right to lose that respect.  

This happened on our watch.  

Many of my fellow Christ-followers will refuse to take responsibility. They will draw clear lines of division. They will insist that Micah Johnson was not one of “us" — did not represent Christians, or people of faith, or military servicemen, or gun owners, or whatever “us” they most fervently support. But the truth is, he was one of us. He was our neighbor.  

The Apostle Paul, writing to a deeply divided culture in Ephesus, claimed that the Christian gospel should be strong enough to overcome racial and religious barriers.  

For [Jesus] himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

Dear neighbors, we Christ-followers confess that we have not preached peace, have not reconciled, have not set aside our flesh or our laws, have not destroyed the dividing wall of hostility that exists in our city. We are deeply sorry. And we pray that the deadliest incident for U.S. law enforcement since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, will be enough to wake us from our comfortable sleep; that Dallas churches will take seriously our God-given responsibility to our neighbors; and that this will never again happen on our watch, in our great city.