I can’t breathe: A meditation

Protesters gathered for the United We Stand rally at the Civic Plaza in downtown Elkhart, Indiana. The event, which took place on Friday, May 29, 2020, was organized by local resident Curbiee Coleman. (Credit: Nekeisha Alayna Alexis)

Protesters gathered for the United We Stand rally at the Civic Plaza in downtown Elkhart, Indiana. The event, which took place on Friday, May 29, 2020, was organized by local resident Curbiee Coleman. (Credit: Nekeisha Alayna Alexis)

By David Boshart, Ph.D., President

“I can’t breathe.” — the last words of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Words can hardly capture the tragic irony of the last words of George Floyd — “I can’t breathe” — in the week leading up to Pentecost, when God unleashed God’s Holy Breath into the world with boundless power. George Floyd, Eric Garner and a long line of Black human beings can no longer breathe because of White supremacy and antiblackness that have been a part of this nation since its beginnings. 

When the risen Jesus appeared to his disciples, he showed them his hands and his side. He breathed on them and said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you. Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:19-23). The Spirit, as God’s breath, moves in our world, disrupting the status quo, advocating for those on the margins of power and commissioning followers of Jesus to act as agents of God’s justice and radical transformation. 

As a theological institution, our mission is to educate followers of Jesus Christ to be leaders for God’s reconciling mission in the world — leaders who are prepared spiritually and practically for the hands-on work of transforming oppression. These days strengthen our resolve that we cannot fully participate in God's mission without a commitment to the work of undoing racism. The dismantling of systemic racism happens when we take seriously the rage, grief and pain of those who are protesting and commit ourselves to speak out against racial injustice and to act for change. 

Holy Spirit, renew us in hope that you are at work in the world. Empower us as your followers to name, unmask, confront and bind the powers of racism, White supremacy and antiblackness.