Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Death of MarShawn McCarrel

It was no accident.  It was a suicide by gun.  He knew he was going to do it.  He regretted his action, but he could do nothing to stop it.  His suicide note on social media read, “My demons won today.  I’m sorry.”

His suicide was a political action.  He was a Black Lives Matter activist. He participated in many protests at the Columbus Statehouse in Ohio.  He rapped, shouting his poetry about oppression and freedom to those who would listen.  After his compulsion drove him to commit suicide, he decided to perform this act at the Statehouse.   No one saw him shoot himself.  He was found that night.

His suicide was a result of oppression.  Maybe oppression he experienced himself.  Maybe the oppression that his brothers and sisters experience every day.  Certainly his action is a result of mental illness.  His suicide isn’t the best response to oppression.  His note admits this.  That it was a result of compulsion, not the best choice he could make.   So he apologizes.

But sometimes, sometimes death feels like the best response to oppression. To obtain rest.  To no longer have to watch the ones you love suffer anymore.  To no longer be harassed.  Sometimes death feels like an answer. 

Death felt like an answer to Elijah.

His people, the worshipers of Yahweh, were being oppressed and their people were illegal.  Elijah was chased around the country again and again with a death threat on him.  But he remained faithful and spoke and created opportunities for the government to end the oppression.  All to no avail.

Finally, he cried out to the Lord, “Kill me!  I’m done!  Haven’t I done everything you wanted me to?  Haven’t I suffered enough?  Kill me now.”

He experienced a hurricane.  But the Lord wasn’t in the hurricane.
Then he experienced an earthquake.  But the Lord wasn’t in the earthquake.
Then a fire raged before him.  But the Lord wasn’t in the fire.

Then a small, quiet wind whispered to him , “Elijah, why are you here?  What do you want?”

Elijah repeated his complaint.

And the Lord said, “Just do three more tasks for me.  They are big, but once you have finished these, then I’ll take you.”

After Elijah finished those three actions, the Lord didn’t have him go by a shameful suicide.  Rather, the Lord sent a heavenly vehicle to pick Elijah up and take him away.

When we face oppression every day, either through our own experience or through the experience of others, it takes a toll.  Eventually, we cannot endure life anymore.  We want out.  Maybe we contemplate suicide.  Maybe we just wish we could have a stroke or go into a coma.  We just want the world to go away, for the suffering to end.

There is an out.

Perhaps it will be a world-wide out.  That’s what we all hope for.  For oppression to end and peace and justice to reign.  But that seems so far from our experience, it’s tough to hope for.  But God promises us exactly that.  In his time.  By his power.

Perhaps it will be a personal out.  Maybe there are more chariots of fire reserved for those who suffer and work every day to bring justice.  Maybe there will be a rash of them, delivering many to rest.  Or maybe God will provide a respite, a retreat, a deliverance from the experience, even for a time.

But until then, we still have work to do.  It would be great if God gave us just three more tasks, something clear, numbered and once we are done, we are done.   But as long as we live, we must still work to change the world.  We must keep saving lives.  We must keep shouting. 

So that when we do achieve our rest, we know that we will have done all we could. 

This post is part of the MennoNerds February Synchroblog: Perspectives on Black Lives Matter. Please visit the synchroblog page for links to more insightful posts on this topic.

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