On a street corner in downtown Dallas, a white guy, maybe in his 40s, with a protruding brow, thick biceps, a trim physique, and a mic and speaker, was preaching.
At least four people supported him, a white man in his late teens or early 20s, a black man about the same age, a Hispanic teenager, and a bearded man who looked to be in his mid-30s.
Their presence disoriented me; this protest was not about God or Christianity or Jesus.
The young white man shoved pamphlets with something about God on the cover at the protesters.
The bearded man and the teenager nodded at the preacher’s statements, looking like stage props.
The black man argued with a young black woman with a protest sign that read, “You’ve failed the last generation #BlackLivesMatter.”
Like several groups on the streets of Dallas, these men had a cooler full of water bottles resting under a sign letting us know the liquid was free.
(The sun blazed enough for one speaker at a rally before the march to call it a “hot-ass day” in her address.)
Water, a peace offering. Or, more accurately, a lure.
A black woman, one of thousands of peaceful protesters in Dallas Saturday, walked by and casually snapped up a water bottle without giving the preacher half a look. No one else touched it.
The preacher didn’t mind. The water was there, but much like the disproportionate murder of black people by police and the frequent exoneration of their killers, it was incidental to his message.
He was there to save everyone from the bondage of flesh.
He was there “to call my brothers and sisters out from the fire.”
He wanted to impart some whataboutism.
“Fear not when the world hates you because it hated Me first.”
He was unburdened by the notion that modern police forces were crafted after slavery to keep black people in line through brute violence because he was there to “preach everlasting life to the black community.”
He had the protesters know “the same Spirit that resurrected Jesus Christ from the grave was the same Spirit that the Lord God Almighty will give you when you call upon his Holy Name.”
He was there to tell them “there is no man who suffered police brutality like the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The Christians were ill-received by the protesters.
The white man in his 20s tried to peddle me a trifold, pushing it into my space, getting my attention.
“Would you like to learn about God?”
I screwed my face up, said no, started taking footage. Everyone else gestured him away, too. They rolled their eyes and made duck mouths at him.
I wonder where the man went after the protest. I wonder how hard he prayed for my salvation. I wonder how many of his people he asked to pray for everyone who rejected his literature.
The black protester kept arguing with the black Christian. I couldn’t hear her words over the white preacher’s loudspeaker, but there was a distinct note of sadness underneath the woman’s visible anger.
Like she was heartbroken a black man would align himself with the preacher’s message.
There was a simultaneous bit of hope, like she felt her words would have an affect on him, him, because he was equally likely as George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, Philando Castile, Meagan Hockaday, Freddie Gray, Chad Robertson, Stephon Clark, Tyisha Miller, Sean Bell, Jordan Davis, Renisha McBride, Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford, Jr., Amadou Diallo, Korryn Gaines, Iretha Lilly, Sandra Bland, Natasha McKenna, Julius Graves, Michelle Cusseaux, Dominique Clayton, Walter Scott, Akai Gurley, Atatiana Jefferson, Calvin Toney, Jamar Clark, Herbert Gilbert, Alonzo Smith, Darell Richards, Layleen Polanco, Anthony Ford, Botham Jean, Kimani Gray, Isaiah Lewis, Antone G. Black, Jr., Sabin Marcus Jones, and uncounted others* to be snuffed out by police or white supremacists.
As it became obvious they weren’t wanted, the Christians started working harder, with heightened desperation, like a frat boy whose conquest over a drunk freshman woman is at risk of being scuttled.
There was something about “us being evil in our nature” and that’s why things are so awful.
There was freedom in his message, he said, determined to convince everyone how little our somatic lives mean.
“Emancipate yourselves from the slavery of your culture,” he emanated.
After a few moments, the march moved on, but several protesters lingered in disbelief over what was being said. I didn’t record their names or the Christians’. The names seemed unimportant.
Someone called us back to the march, and I walked away. I stopped about 30 yards up. I turned around.
The young man was still trying to insinuate trifolds into everyone’s hands.
For a small moment, I considered asking him to ask himself if every person at that protest accepted the Lord, would police brutality stop. Because it seemed to me that’s what the protest was about.
But that wouldn’t have mattered. You can’t argue with this sort of Christian nihilism, whose core is the idea that this world doesn’t matter.
It doesn’t matter that some humans who didn’t ask for it are defunded, segregated, and policed out of existence, while others amass wealth proportional to their deficit of melanin.
Because when we accept Jesus, we’ll all sing paeans to a different authoritarian who has conveniently left the racial discrimination to earthly humans.
The preacher was saying all these things. But what he was really saying was that, in Christianity, police brutality is okay.
And not okay in the sense that the act of police brutality is righteous in itself — that would be a bridge too far — but okay in the sense that the physical world we currently inhabit is temporary.
We’ll go on to a different world when we die, and we should prepare to go to the good one.
Because no matter how kind a life you live in this world, no matter how much you’re oppressed by the police, God is indifferent to worldly human virtue and physical human suffering.
The good Lord these preachers follow could give a fuck whether George Floyd was slowly asphyxiated in broad daylight in the view of running cameras, but that wouldn’t fit with His agenda.
Which is an agenda wherein He is glorified and that’s all that matters. Black lives certainly don’t matter because they exist in the physical world.
The police brutality inflicted on George Floyd’s body is incidental to the state of George Floyd’s everlasting soul. If George Floyd made no mistakes his entire life and expired under the state’s heavy hand, that had no bearing on whether George Floyd would get to Heaven.
So instead of marching to demand police stop disproportionately extracting the breath of black women and men, everyone should stop and repent.
The scene with the Christians lasted four or five minutes.
The protest was overwhelmingly peaceful. Most wore masks. Some didn’t keep 6 feet from each other. Activists demanded defunding of the Dallas Police Department, which had tear gassed and arrested hundreds of protesters Monday night after trapping them on the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. They demanded justice for black lives.
People in cars blocked by the march honked and waved signs out their windows in support. A black motorist stopped on a highway off ramp stood atop his car and held a young boy, maybe his son, maybe 6 or 7, high so he could see the moment.
But the Christian men on the corner weren’t alone; one white woman waved a sign out her car window that read, “Jesus matters.”
*These names, some of which may have belonged to black Christians, were taken from a protest sign at the march, and I confirmed them in news accounts.