On July 17, 2014, Jesus was standing on a corner. Officers confronted Jesus. After a brief conversation, Jesus was placed into a chokehold and slammed to the ground. The last words of Jesus were, "I can't breathe."
I don't believe that Eric Garner lived his life as Jesus. I don't believe any of us do. But based on the exhortation of Jesus to "the least of these" in Matthew 25, I do believe that Jesus inhabits the marginalized and oppressed more fully than anyone else. In this society, black bodies are under the constant assault of all manners of marginalizations and oppressions. In the passion of Eric Garner, I believe Jesus died.
In the graveyard, Jesus lies dead along with all of us. Our society died when it chose to believe that racism is a historical artifact. The church died when it stopped talking about the oppression of racism and pretended it was dead. We die every day when we don't do anything to stop the constant brutality that is perpetuated against black bodies. Everywhere I look in this nation, there are dead bones.
What good is a dead God lying with a bunch of dead people? I don't believe in death without resurrection. Faintly, I hear the questioning words of Jesus in the words of Ezekiel 37:3: "[C]an these bones live?" I don't know what to say. Racism is killing people at all levels of our society. I know I can't trust government to do better. I know that capitalism remains as prejudiced as ever. I look around and see only death. In desperation, I reply to Jesus, "I don't think so. I think we are too far gone. I don't think there is any hope. People are so racist, and racism is so ingrained in all that we do." Then Jesus replied to me in the words of Ezekiel 37:9, "Prophesy to the breath.... [B]reathe into these slain, that they may live." I remembered the last words of Eric Garner: "I can't breathe." Eric Garner died because our dead racist society choked the life out of him. I believe in resurrection. The resurrection of Eric Garner is our only hope. We must continue to breathe life into his story and case. We must use the details of the horrific tragedy of Eric Garner's death to shock life into the people of this nation. We must keep demanding justice. Do not ever stop telling the story of Eric Garner. Get out into the streets and breathe the breath of life into this dead, racist nation. Dead bones can live, and in their living is our only hope of salvation.