I echo the words and spirit of John Perkins when he was interviewed by Christianity Today.
“As Christians, we know that our problem always is sin. In the case of the shooting in Ferguson, I don’t know who is right because I don’t know who initiated this. But I know that the sin of racism, which goes back to the sin of enslavement, is what makes it escalate so quickly.” (I encourage you to read the rest of the piece, remains among the most helpful of the week).
After reading, I too wondered about the Christian response to the death of Michael Brown. After a few days of reflection, here’s where I am today: Lament – Pray – Listen to What the Lord Leads You to Do Next.
I lament the death of Michael Brown and all that it represents.
I lament what is meant by “… another unarmed black man …”
I lament for Officer Darren Wilson.
I lament for what will get lost in the moment.
I lament the sin of racism.
I lament all the pain that everyone in Ferguson is going through.
I lament that so many throughout our country and our world can relate to this scene.
I lament all the stories this connects us to: violence towards minorities, violence towards law enforcement, violence in between, blatant racism, abuses of authority, intentional criminal behavior and the carnage this leaves behind.
I lament that there is so much to lament.
When you start adding up all the laments, you find yourself a bit irrational. I am sure everyone, especially those involved, wish they could go back in time and somehow take action to avoid this tragic scene. Another loss of life, a lot of damage that is either nearly or completely irreparable. Some will say that we can learn from this so it never happens again but unfortunately, that’s part of the irrationality. Part of the pain of these laments goes beyond regret but also found in the mourning of a terrible reality that a similar scene will happen again.
Enter the hopelessness.
For some, this is where they like to insert the line that all hell is breaking loose, society is spiraling further out of control into moral decadence, and that these are the last days and Jesus is coming back. Well He might be, and obviously each day brings us closer, but let us also identify that these sentiments are a means of escapism from the hopelessness we feel. “It’s all going to get worse, hopefully Jesus will evacuate us before the violence comes my way.” I urge you to not listen to the doomsday prophets and to remember that God is with us now.
If we are serious about fighting the hopelessness, the first step is to pray. The first step is always prayer. We are well aware of the gravity of these moments and are mindful that we can not control what happens next. So we begin with prayer.
I pray for Michael Brown’s family, friends, and community.
I pray for the faithful officers and the many in the system who wake up each morning to protect, serve and uphold justice.
I pray for the leaders of the black community. Though often unrecognized from our a societal vantage point, they often are the balance whatever is in between greater bloodshed and peaceful restraint.
I pray the evil ones are identified and punished quickly and justly.
I pray that justice will prevail, specifically that any potential corruption be trumped by justice.
I pray for all in need of peace and healing today.
Lastly, I pray God will show us a better future and give us the strength to pursue it.
Listen to What the Lord Leads You to Do Next
Many of us become keenly aware of our status, and even our privilege. But with this, we also may discover how we can be bringers of shalom. Yes, you better believe the death of Michael Brown represents a social justice issue. For those who can, let us resist taking a side, at least until it’s time to take one as Dr. Perkins wisely alludes. Many are going to reduce this to the moment to whether or not Michael Brown charged Officer Darren Wilson. While this is likely the most significant factor of whether or not Wilson was justified in protecting himself, the issue and the resulting pain is larger than when these two men began heading down Canfield Drive.
It’s tempting to want to sit this one out, particularly in the majority culture. And it’s not fair to categorize it all as fear. Many do not want to jump on a bandwagon and risk adding to the sensationalism. There’s what’s going on in the streets of Ferguson and then on a different plane, there is what’s going in the “streets of the social media world.” In the past few days, have we not seen countless Facebook posts (some completely innocuous) get hijacked in the comments? The consistent presence of great ignorance is maddening. While it’s futile to address the trolls, it’s beneficial to contribute words of peace, hope, and truth carefully measured and always rooted in love.
As a result, we know among the things we say, despite our best measurement, will inevitably be perceived as lacking, incomplete or plain wrong. Some of it will be, some of it won’t. Still, I am prone to thinking that thoughtful participation is always better than sitting it out. May more good result in our pursuits of confronting/dismantling prejudices/stereotypes, seeking reconciliation, and contributing to a better society.
Therefore, let us be proponents of conviction. Let us ask ourselves what is God leading us to do next? It could be marching in the streets, it could be advocating in ways that only you can. It could be peace-making in a particular situation. It could be any number of things now and also the commitment to spending relational capital investing in the next decade of racial reconciliation.
There are many noble people at work in our society. Don’t let skin tone or badges fool you, nobility is found in the soul and honorable action follows. Indeed there are instigators on both sides of the line. May they be found, and appropriately punished. But there are also many amazing, peace-making, and yes, passionate people on all sides as well. May we considered to be among them, may goodness prevail and may God be with all of us.