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Presidents Obama and Bush speak at Interfaith Service

Credit: Eric Gay via APOn Tuesday, President Obama and former President Bush came together in Dallas for an Interfaith Service to honor the lives of the five police officers who were gunned down last week. Thousands of dignitaries, police officers, and other officials gathered in the Meyerson Symphony Center to pay their respects and hear words from their leaders.

Despite the memorial not being open to the public, hundreds of people flocked to the Meyerson just to catch a glimpse of the former and current President. Some even gathered at a local park in order to watch a live stream. Former President Bush spoke of how "too often we judge other groups by their worst examples, while judging ourselves by our best intentions."

President Obama took the stage and provided sympathetic context. He acknowledge how there is "evil in the world. That's why we need police departments." He added that, "those who advocate violence against police do a disservice to the very cause of justice they seek to promote."

President Obama also echoed Dallas police chief Brown when he said that we ask too much of our police and too little of ourselves. "Race relations have improved dramatically in my life time. Those who deny that are dishonoring those who achieved it."

Their words stirred those in attendance, but words often can't do justice to the tragedy of the situation, which in and of itself is tragically ironic. For years, police officers used words to enforce the law and keep the peace. But increasingly, their words are being judged and second-guessed. Many see them as a problem and not problem solvers. They are seen as the enemy by some, that is, until their assistance is required.

We live in a time when the racial tension is palpable in the air. The pent-up, justified energies on display in rallies and protests have drawn their power from the all-too-recent tragedies. These tragedies have created a suffocating sense that something needs to be done. But this is accompanied by a hesitant fear of what might be done. The line that separates reacting appropriately and overreacting detrimentally is far smaller than desired and usually exceeded because of desire. 

So what are we to do?

Be quiet. Instead of trying to get to the bottom of the problem, mourn with those who have been victimized by the problem. Quiet yourself next to someone that looks differently than you and sympathize with them. You may not have the words to say, but that presumes that words need to said. They often don't (John 11:35).

Refrain from truth. Truth is beautiful. Some believe that the truth sets you free, brings hope to your spirits, and healing to your hurts. But to a certain extent, Jack Nicholson was right: sometimes you can't handle the truth.

A doctor knows far more than me, which brings me both comfort and curiosity. But she doesn't tell me everything I can know in the moment. Instead, she gives me only what I need to know. If she told me everything, it would be devastating and send me into a cynical oblivion of hopelessness. We must be like doctors. And right now, truth would be more of a bludgeon than a band-aid.

Act out. The Dallas tragedy reveals that lawlessness is increasingly being seen as a viable option. Lawlessness is an overindulgent view of your remarkableness, stepping on the backs of those who are sworn to uphold the law to their detriment and your selfish desires. The laws have been put in place in order to restrain and identify wrongdoing. The officers of the law work to enforce the laws, keep the peace, and punish those who do wrong. Make their job easier. Instead of doing wrong, seek to be an agent that does good and righteous acts.

Acts of service are signs of grace in times of tragedy.

Words may fail us in times like these, but our actions will reveal us. Actions do, after all, speak louder than words.

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