On a somber Sunday, ‘One Nation Under God Examines Its Soul’

Source: The New York Times

The service at Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas on Sunday focused on prayers for the two black men and the police officers killed last week. CreditIlana Panich-Linsman for The New York Times

DALLAS — Fearful that the nation is locked in a spiral of violence and discord, many Americans took what refuge they could in church on Sunday. In tiny storefronts and suburban megachurches, worshipers mourned the deaths of five Dallas police officers at the hands of an African-American sniper who was aiming to kill white officers at a demonstration against police violence. They also grieved for two African-American men killed in shootings by the police in Baton Rouge, La., and Minnesota.

Some prayed for the souls of the men who pulled the triggers. Some thanked God for the sacrifices the police made daily to protect their cities. Some thanked God for the technology that allowed the world to see controversial acts of police violence toward African-Americans.

At St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan spoke of a country “worried, frustrated and fatigued over senseless violence.”

“From Minnesota to Louisiana and Texas, one nation under God examines its soul,” he said. “Sadness and heaviness is especially present in our African-American and law enforcement communities.”

The turbulence felt close, sometimes distressingly so, for many churchgoers. Protests had roiled the streets of San Francisco, Chicago, New York and Philadelphia, among other cities, hours before sunrise. In Dallas, drivers had to maneuver on Sunday morning around a 20-block crime scene that remained closed off in the heart of downtown, where Micah Johnson, a 25-year-old former Army reservist, used a semiautomatic weapon last week to kill the five officers and wound seven others, as well as two civilians, before the police killed him with a robot-delivered explosive device.

Photo

Pastor Frederick Douglass Haynes III of Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas. “The Bible says injustice is a sin,” he told congregants on Sunday. CreditIlana Panich-Linsman for The New York Times

A few blocks from the scene, Mayor Mike Rawlings of Dallas gave an interview on Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” posing questions about his city that many Americans, Christian and non-Christian alike, had begun asking about the nation as a whole.

“Can we, in a moment of crisis, when officers are fallen, forgive?” Mr. Rawlings said. “Can we disagree without demonizing? Can we see a better narrative, as opposed to just absurdity, that there’s redemption as we build this great city?”

Mr. Rawlings, who is white, also attended a service at the Potter’s House Church, the huge Dallas congregation led by the African-American televangelist T .D. Jakes. The service was more of a town hall event promising “tools on reconciling and moving forward.” The city’s police chief, David O. Brown, and other officers were in attendance. Among the panelists and call-in participants were relatives of Alton Sterling, the black man killed in Louisiana, and the girlfriend of Philando Castile, the black motorist shot to death in Minnesota.

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