Who Will Rob the Strong Man?

Is this how the prophets sounded? The Rev. Damon Lynch III is swaying as he sits in a pew at 11:20 p.m., a little more than 12 hours after the Sept. 26 verdict acquitting a Cincinnati cop who kil

Jymi Bolden

The Rev. Damon Lynch III addresses the media after leading a march.

Is this how the prophets sounded?

The Rev. Damon Lynch III is swaying as he sits in a pew at 11:20 p.m., a little more than 12 hours after the Sept. 26 verdict acquitting a Cincinnati cop who killed an unarmed African-American teen. The church fills with the refrain, "Jesus is the one who can set me free." Lynch is clapping his hands and pointing heavenward. He steps to the pulpit.

"How many believe we're going to make it through the night?" he asks. "It may seem dark, but we're going to make it. The devil believed he had a victory today, but our God has a way to turn things around. God is a just God, and justice will find its way."

Lynch is perspiring.

He has just led a nighttime march to the alley where Officer Stephen Roach shot and killed 19-year-old Timothy Thomas. In the past 12 hours he has addressed city council, given interviews to national networks and local reporters and spoken to residents by the score.

But it is here, as pastor of New Prospect Baptist Church, that Lynch is his most inspiring. He takes for his lesson a few obscure lines from the Gospel of Mark: "No man can enter a strong man's house and spoil his goods unless he bind the strong man. Then he will spoil his house."

The man who spoke those words, Lynch says, was no sissy.

"We've preached for too many years this nice Jesus, this soft Jesus, this easygoing Jesus," Lynch says, working himself into a roar. "He says, 'I didn't come to earth to be a milquetoast. I came to tear something up!' "

He talks about the need to seek God, to abstain from drugs and alcohol, to live without fear of the law.

"Don't you give them the authority to make you run," Lynch says. "Cops can't make me run. You going to shoot me? Shoot! You can't make me run. I'm a man. Ain't nobody chasing me!"

He preaches the importance of being productive, of putting away the "slave mentality" of self-hatred and dependency.

"We can't bind the enemy, because we ourselves are bound up," he says. "You've got to believe you are just as good as anyone else. Our point of view is poisoned by oppression."

That oppression takes several forms, including the crack pipe and the 40-ounce beer, according to Lynch. Then and only then does he move on to other forms of oppression, such as police violence and the verdict in Roach's trial.

"What happened today at 11 o'clock is just another sign that the enemy is comfortable in his house," Lynch says. "We have yet to go in his house and bind him and spoil his house. The enemy has been comfortable for too long."

Lynch's face is fixed hard, his eyes closed, as though the words come at a cost. He is shouting now. In the audience, two women are jumping in syncopation to the rhythm of his words. On the right side of the church, a man is gesticulating wildly, loudly repeating phrases from the sermon.

"How do you get in (Judge Ralph) Winkler's house?" Lynch says. "Winkler is an elected official. You've got to vote him out and vote in some true children of God. You got to have him wake up on Election Day, the same way our mayor is going to wake up on Election Day and find out somebody has broke into his house and bound him up."

If Lynch has his way, the verdict in the Roach case won't be the end point to a tragic bit of Cincinnati history. It's far too soon for endings, he says. It's time for anger.

"What Winkler did today and what Roach did in April and then lied about it, God is not pleased," Lynch says. "Piece by piece, brick by brick, God is going to tear that stuff down."

But setting fires is not the way, Lynch says.

"Be angry, and sin not," he says. "Be angry, and sin not."

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