WHAT’S THE ISSUE?
None of us will likely ever fully know the entire truth of what happened that August evening in Ferguson, Missouri. Interpretations of the events have been made along racial lines, political lines, socio-economic lines and more. I’m not trying to draw more lines or tell you which line is the more legitimate one. All “lines” have their fair share of both legitimacy and illegitimacy. We must avoid the fallacious presumption that to support the Brown family and the Black community is to be necessarily anti-law enforcement, or that supporting law-enforcement is to be anti-Black community.
The horrors of our past, the complexity of our society, and the Christian call to mercy is not as clear or as easy as simply picking a side. Yet, these events, like Watts and Trayvon before, confronts us with the reality that, beneath and beyond these individual events, systemic racial injustice and the abuse of power is very real in our country. People don’t protest a myth. They don’t burn down cities for an illusion. Langston Hughes’ words still resonate in the hearts and experiences of many today:
That Justice is a blind goddess
Is a thing to which we black are wise.
Her bandage hides two festering sores
That once perhaps were eyes.
No doubt, progress has been made. Fifty years ago, the notion that a black man would one day serve as President was unthinkable! Regardless of one’s political leanings, the significance of his election is one that cannot be overlooked. Yet, we are not, by any stretch of the imagination, living in a “post-racial” culture. Ferguson has made that abundantly clear. Yet many–mostly white people–assume that racial injustice and the abuse of power is something that previous generations dealt with. But not ours. After all, we have a black President, right? Everybody needs to stop tearing off old scabs and move on, right?
Racial injustice and the systemic abuse of power is very complex and very real and very much alive in our country. No matter how many Blacks or Hispanics or Asians get elected to office (and I pray more do!), it’ll persist. Racial injustice will continue and the systemic abuse of power will continue because sin is real. It runs deep. It’s not something “out there somewhere.” It’s woven into our very nature.
And because rebellion against God is woven into who we are as sin-cursed humans, it’s woven into the very structures and systems that emerge from our collective efforts. Our very best structures are, by nature, fallen. It’s not that great American utopian “experiment” of “liberty and justice for all” has failed, but that it could never have succeeded in the first place. The United States, for all God’s common graces to her (and there are many!), is a moral and systemic failure. And insofar as we are “in Adam,” we are all complicit in that failure. America has failed us. We have failed America. Such is the brutal cycle of sin all over the world, as far as the curse is found.
Therefore, those of us in the majority culture cannot pretend, from the comfort of our segregated, suburban lots, that the tensions beneath Ferguson are mere illusions. They’re not. They are real. The tears are real. The wounds are real. The shame and the hurt and the anger is real. Uttering presumptive, passive, dismissive, and compassionless statements like “They need to get over it already” and “This wouldn’t be a problem if they would stop making it an issue,” or “they wouldn’t be dead if they didn’t run or resist” might be every bit as sinful–perhaps even more so–than violent rioting. At least the latter is willing to acknowledge injustice and take action, even if their actions are dangerously illegitimate.
I admit that I’m lacking wisdom in this matter. I admit that I have personal biases of which I am blind and that undoubtedly prevent me from often seeing things they way that they really are. We all do. Humility demands we stop pretending that we are privileged enough to see the entire “elephant” at once. It demands that I often stop talking and listen (James 1:19). That I stop being the “teacher” and become a “learner.” I pray this would be true of us as the church. And while Christians can and should do much more than pray, we can certainly do no less!
I am praying that both our thoughts and our tongues would be “controlled by the love of Christ (2 Cor. 5)” who gave himself up for us. I’m praying that you speak redemptively and graciously around the “water cooler.” I’m asking that, for the sake of our Lord’s reputation, you would be wise on social media. Please refrain from posting contentious comments or sharing politically charged memes. Aim to have all of your speech reflect our Savior by seasoning it with grace and humility and compassion and righteousness. (*)
“COME, LET US REASON TOGETHER”
To this end, I am linking a number of posts, articles, and commentary that have been helpful to me this week. Please take time to suspend other readings or to turn Netflix off and read them. Read them and discuss them together. I’m not asking you to agree with everything here, but that you would suspend the notion that your presuppositions are the automatically the right ones or the biblical ones and that you’re not omniscient. You still have much to learn. The authors are not attempting to induce “white guilt” nor are they viewing “white privilege” inherently a bad thing. Only that its a real thing (and it is), and that sin can turn it (as it can anything) into an evil thing.
So I’m asking you to suspend your skepticism if you have any. No doubt, some of you may be made uncomfortable by what you read. Your presuppositions will be challenged. This is a good thing. God uses diversity to engender humility and grace among His people.
Finally, many of the authors I’ve included are black. This was on purpose. For many of us white Christians, our books on theology and politics, and our music, and our friends, and our sermon podcasts are predominately filled with white voices from privileged backgrounds and limited perspectives. Disciples are, by definition, “learners.” And learners are not afraid to diversify their libraries, playlists, communities, and podcasts with that which is “different” and “other.” In fact, the glorious “all nations” diversity of God’s kingdom demands our appreciation of the “other.”
Please know that these are men that I trust and with whom we find profound agreement in the gospel! I encourage you to read the italicized articles first. They were the most helpful, challenging, and edifying for me.
BLOG POSTS AND ARTICLES
- Facebook Post by Benjamin Watson (football player for New Orleans Saints)
- “What Marrying a Black Man Taught Me About Race and Why Ferguson Matters” by Dennae Pierre
- “The Ferguson Jury Has Given us Our Marching Orders” by Thabiti Anyabwile
- “Why I Believe The Grand Jury Got it Wrong and Injustice Triumphed” by Thabiti Anyabwile
- “Coming (Back) to America: My One Fear” by Thabiti Anyabwile
- “Is it ‘Goodbye Evangelicalism’ or ‘We Evangelicals Join You in Your Suffering'” by Thabiti Anyabwile
- “Thoughts on Ferguson” by Voddie Baucham
- “How Should You Respond to Ferguson” – Roundtable Discussion from The Journey Church
- “Ferguson and the Path to Peace” by Russ Moore
CHRISTIANITY TODAY ARTICLES TITLED “IT’S TIME TO LISTEN”:
- Part 1: It’s Time to Listen: “Feeling the Pain Despite the Facts,” by Bryan Loritts
- Part 2: It’s Time to Listen: “Will White Evangelicals Ever Acknowledge Systemic Injustice? (Part 1),” by Leonce Crump
- Part 3: It’s Time to Listen: “Will White Evangelicals Ever Acknowledge Systemic Injustice? (Part 2),” by Leonce Crump
- Part 4: It’s Time to Listen: “How We Can Learn From One Another,” by Philip Fletcher
- Part 5: It’s Time to Listen: “The Lie,” by Lisa Sharon Harper
- Part 6: It’s Time to Listen: “The Importance of Perspective,” by Stacy Hilliard
- Part 7: It’s Time to Listen: “Kingdom Cooperation,” by Brett Fuller