Revolutionary Tears


Rev. Dr. DeWayne L. Davis



Unfortunately, the United States has never learned to listen to itself as if it were the enemy speaking”—Thomas M. Franck and Edward Weisband


May our tears swell into a revolution” —Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis


I am writing this reflection on the second anniversary of the day that police officers murdered George Floyd. The day after an 18-year-old armed with an automatic rifle walked into an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and killed 19 children and two teachers. The day after I shared with everyone in our weekly staff meeting that I have become accustomed to the flow of tears and the stubborn accompaniment of grief over the last couple of years. In my conceit, I assume that if I find the right words and sentences to write or preach, somehow I could convince our elected officials, our friends and neighbors, and our siblings of faith to show enough will and courage to do something about guns and racism. But in my anger, I don’t want to hear any more words at all, not even my own.


I hope no one assumes that our tears mean nothing can be done or imply that we are impotent to make a change. I was heartened when I saw the post from Rev. Jacqui Lewis on social media when she prayed, “May our tears swell into a revolution.” I also recall the prophet Jeremiah’s oracle about “Rachel weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more” (Jer. 31:15). Located as it is in the mouth of a prophet, Rachel’s weeping is not because her hopelessness cannot be turned into hope. Instead, I see her tears as a desperate prayer for healing and restoration arising out of the realization that nobody appears to be doing anything to stop the impending calamity of death from occurring. We grieve the losses from these acts of terror in our communities, yet we refuse to see that we are the enemy we fear. Our lack of a will to change means that we must brace ourselves for the next time a gunman goes into a school, church, mosque, synagogue, or subway and break our hearts again. But today’s tears are a call to action.


How will we answer the prayers lifted up in the inconsolable crying of too many families grieving the loss of their children? How will we answer the cries of “Black lives matter!”? Let the resources of our faith—the lament songs of the psalter and the suffering faithful, the prophetic oracles of God’s messengers, and the good news of God’s presence in our midst—move us into a proactive, prophetic response to hate and violence. Without knowing if or how the Spirit of God may use us, let’s be bold enough to step out in faith and risk everything we have to gain our humanity and allow God to reward our work. May it be so.