praying the police report

The weekly local paper
includes area crime logs
compiled from local police precincts.

What would it be like to implement the weekly practice
of praying through our neighborhood’s report?

And what would it be like specifically praying
prayers celebrating justice not just
as what happens to those who break the law,
but praying justice as a priority
potentially constitutive
of an anticipated alternative to our culture.

So praying, yes, for the victims—
and yes, for the perpetrators,
but praying also to consistently affirm a different story
than the one unfolded—reported.
Acknowledging the facts,
but not just in unquestioning acquiescence—
rather as the powerful shaping of aggressive prayer
for an alternative reality.

Such that incidents of vandalism
might prompt prayers
not just for the need for a greater respect
for the accomplishment and property of others,
but for a more pervasive and real sense
in which no one would feel accomplishment
lies outside their reach.

Such that reports of burglary might generate
more than an appropriate lament for loss,
and more than the angry naming of that sense of violation—
more than even admirable grateful prayers
for what is treasured and yet cannot be stolen,
but generate, as well, a story of sufficiency—
of enough for all—
not as in some utopian dream,
nor as in some socialist plot,
but as practical, beneficial goal.

Such that cases of assault and battery—
attempted murder, murder
might provoke prayers
naming not just the equality of every life—
and the dignity,
but also another reality—that alternative reality
that does not, in so many ways,
undermine such affirmations
of equality and dignity.

Such that cases of rape,
might require of us the
absolute rejection of objectification—
the utter dismissal of someone
in seeing them only as means to my ends,
but again and also, an absolute affirmation
of cultural norms that don’t compromise such rejection.

Such that violence
would lead to expressions of grief
and to its rejection as recourse,
but also to questions about its glorification in our media
and its justification when we believe it suits us.

For we live in times in which our great proclamations
of freedom and opportunity and rights
have to be measured
against those to whom
they remain meaningless and irrelevant—
in times in which affirmations are too often justified
by exceptions to the rule of percentages.

What would it affirm, reading the crime logs
week in and week out, to acknowledge,
“Yes, this is the news,’
but at the same time to proclaim unequivocally,
“But it’s not the good news.”
And then to affirm, in it though—
in the news that’s not good,
to affirm that we hear, if we try,
beyond the immediacy of circumstance and emotional reaction,
the challenge of the good news we need.


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