Did the dead really come to life at the touch of Elisha? I don’t know. But I know this. If my faith hung on whether these stories are facts, faith would not be faith. If these stories just had to be scientifically so, else I lose my trust in God, then my religion would be thin and brittle and ideological and small. We have these stories not because we know they happened but because, in their extremity of need, people said, Tell us that one again, master . . .
We are incarceration nation, apparently so full of hatred for certain people that, like crazed animals, we severely damage our whole tribe with this giant prison industry that fosters the very corrupt and violent behaviors it purports to control. Like a dragon waiting inside a cave to devour the next generation of young black and brown men, we do not see that our mouth-parts are fastened on our own body. Yet hardly any political leader of any stature or color, and hardly any religious leaders, are ever heard to say of our (very) criminal justice system that we have a problem—all of us . . .
Now, though the hour is night and many are deep in the sleeps of denial and cynicism, of fear and self-betrayal, know this: Beneath the last garment that covers our life with kindness and community; at the base of bereavement; in the basement beneath the broken beams of all a person built or dreamed, there yet a mystery awaits: Your being, your eye, You absolute: irreducible, precious without price: being.
Don’t you sometimes feel that religion, the way we do it, is no match for the way the world does wrong? Every day in this city, police stop and frisk–violate–two thousand mostly black and brown men doing nothing wrong–and what has church to say to that sorrow? A few weeks ago, an eighteen year old Bronx boy was shot and killed by a policeman in the bathroom of his own home. He was unarmed, scared, dumping something in the toilet bowl. What is old time religion for that boy, that family, for any citizen whose heart cries out at the dawning of another day of evil?
Every week or two for many years, I have spent a couple of hours in conversation and reflection with men in the prisons at Attica or Sing Sing. It has been my privilege to learn with men who are keen to think and feel their way through the possibility of changing their lives. In this, the men I know show more inner freedom than the average person on the outside . . .