Race-less Gospel

A race-less life is a Christ- filled life.

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Ferguson: Given Our History


“We are trapped in history and history is trapped in us,” James Baldwin said.  Perhaps, it is time to remove the snare, to be free to live in the moment.  To receive the present as a gift of newness.

While I am certainly one who loves history, reflection and meditating on words of old, I do believe that there is a time for history and that history has its place.  It is to be respected but not necessarily repeated, especially not for the purpose of wounding. As it relates to race and more specifically, the tragedy that happened and is happening in Ferguson, repetition can pick at a wound  rather than (re-)examine it.  Repetition in word or in deed not only reopens the wound but can begin the healing process all over again.  It can increase our recovery time so we must be careful what we say in terms of race.

There is a purpose for history that is often lost on days like this one when cities like Ferguson may remind us of days long ago.  Too often, more time is spent focusing on the pain of history and not the progress of time.  America has overcome a great deal and while the fact is that Mr. Michael Brown, Jr. and Officer Darren Wilson are viewed through the social construct of race, making them socially colored black and white respectively and fitting them neatly into the racial narrative, their story is not the same.  Too quickly and rather to simply, we reduce the death to ‘white’ against ‘black,’ another casualty in the often unspoken but assumed ‘race war.’  But, death is much more complicated than this.

The date and time, the characters, the setting, the circumstances are all different.  Mr. Brown is not Mr. Trayvon Martin and Mr. Martin is not Mr. Emmett Till or any other African American killed in recent or past days, months or even years.  And Officer Darren Wilson is not Mr. George Zimmerman and Mr. Zimmerman is not Mr. Roy Bryant or Mr. J.W. Milam.  These are all different people at different times whose actions must not be grouped together and made to represent one impossible, endless present.

We can look back on our history but we must not step back into it.  We are better than we were and we can be better than we have been.  These deaths though grievous should not stereotype all of America’s relations with each other.  All over the country, many persons have formed friendships and are choosing to form familial relationships with persons of other cultures.  This is something that would not have existed or happened in the past in public or on a large scale and says very clearly that we are not as hateful, stereotypical, prejudiced or segregated as we once were.

And given our history, we should want to progress.  Given our history, we should want to change the time that we live in now.  Given our history, we should know what works and what doesn’t.  Given our history, we should stop repeating it and choose today, to be fully present to listen, accept, apologize, forgive and reconcile for what is happening now… not allowing any more time to pass.

History should not be a burden, an old and bitter person spewing hatred, resentment and unforgiveness.  History and all of time really is a blessing, providing perspective, clarity and understanding with a spirit of peace, gentleness and humility.  If not, then history has no lesson for us, having not learned from its time and neither will we.

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Ferguson: An Unnecessary Repetition


I have heard persons say that we have seen this before, that we have heard these police accounts and witness statements before, that we have heard the President, politicians and news personalities make these same arguments before.

Again.  It is a troubling word when used in sentences involving the untimely death of a teenager.  An unarmed teenager has been killed again.

Summer is supposed to be celebrated with family picnics, trips to amusement parks and vacations to exotic islands or relatives’ homes.  Instead, the summer’s end is introduced by another teenager killed by a police officer.  Children should not be killed by anyone, any where and at any time, whether in their homes at the hands of parents, in the streets of Chicago, Ferguson or Washington, D.C. at the hands of neighbors or in their bedrooms at their own hands.  Children are simply not supposed to die but they do… again and again.

The tragic and unfortunate shooting of Mr. Michael Brown, Jr. has people talking.  We are talking about the issues: race and its role, power and its abuse, the suspected brutality of police officers and the assumed criminality of persons socially colored black, the laws that need to change and the people that need to be held accountable for their actions.

We are talking about it again.  But, are we saying anything different?  Has we informed our response and change it since the last shooting?  Or, are we repeating more of the same?

I propose that we continue talking about race but not to enter the dialogue as usual.  Here’s how:

First, leave your neighborhood.  If we are not leaving our socially constructed racial circles, then we are not saying much and we are not making any progress.  Be bold enough to cross the ‘color line’ and speak respectfully to persons of other cultures about race.

Secondly, leave your pre- recorded race speech at home.  We must enter the conversation with our ‘hands up’ in surrender, willing to believe and trust that we will not be attacked.  We must believe that we do not pose a threat to one another, that we can and will speak peacefully to each other.

Thirdly, break the routine of race: Forgive.  Forgive before all of the facts come in.  Forgive before the verdict comes in.  Every time that you are reminded of the hurt, forgive.  Forgive again and again and again.

Finally, seek every opportunity to reconcile and pursue reconciliation.  Make friends, real friends, with persons of other cultures.  We are human beings; we have everything that is important in common.  We must come together again and avoid these unnecessary repetitions.



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Ferguson: Healing the Wounded Now


“Hands up; don’t shoot!”  It is the rallying cry of persons whose eyes are on and hearts are with the family of Mr. Michael Brown, Jr.  and the people of Ferguson.  It is an instruction given to police officers, reminding them of the universal sign of surrender and the appropriate action when it is given.  But, their words also remind us that the conversation is only beginning.

Many persons in Ferguson are talking about police brutality and rightly so as the details surrounding Mr. Brown’s death are still being collected.  They and others around the nation want to know what led up to the death of an unarmed teenager.  How did he die in his own neighborhood at the hands of someone who answers the call to ‘protect and serve?’  Was the amount of force justified if he had no weapon?  Is stealing punishable by death?  These are all good and necessary questions.  Unfortunately, for some, these answers are not coming fast enough.

So, how do we deal with the wound of now?  What should we be saying right now while we wait for the truth to come to light?  There are at least two sides to every story and while the results of an autopsy requested by the family has been released, telling part of the story according to Mr. Brown’s body (and this is not his full story), we have yet to hear from Officer Darren Wilson.  No matter our conclusions or the reputation of American history, we must assume that he, too, is innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

Everyone involved is hurting and expressing pain over a wound that reminds them of something old (i.e. poor ‘race relations’ involving police officers or persons playing the ‘race card’ in cases involving criminal acts).  Playing the blame game never produces a winner; instead, both persons lose.  And we have all lost if we sit at this table.

Instead, let us pray together to the God of all of Ferguson, who loves both police officers and protesters, both Officer Darren Wilson and Mr. Michael Brown, Jr.  Let’s stop talking about the problem and give our attention to the Solution.  Timothy Keller once said that “the question is not ‘What would Jesus do?’ but ‘What has Jesus done?'”

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53.5, NIV).


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Ferguson: The Healing Process

images-1I have heard throughout this ordeal involving the death of Mr. Michael Brown and resultant protests, looting and rioting of the “old wounds” that have been reopened.  Apparently, “race relations” in the city have been bad for decades and Mr. Brown’s death is the straw that broke the community’s back.  His dead body lying on the street uncovered and with questions as to the circumstances leading up to his death still unanswered was more than they could take.  They were simply “sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

It is not  a new sentiment as I have witnessed with the death of Mr. Trayvon Martin and sadly, others, a sort of record- keeping of the wounds that their deaths had reopened.  The death of Mr. Trayvon Martin was compared to the death of fourteen year old Mr. Emmett Till, who was murdered in Money, Mississippi in 1955.  The unfortunate death of Mr. Brown was added to the list of those who had also lost their lives at the hands of police officers.  It is a troubling tally.

images-2And the images of Ferguson reminded some persons of the old wounds inflicted by Mr. Bull Connor and the excessive force that was used in the 1960s against demonstrators.  The wounds are old and numerous.  And it seems that they have only been counted and while there may be quite some time before we discover a cure, what of healing, of addressing the wound, of recovering and rehabilitating relationships?

Mr. Ron Johnson, the highway patrol captain assigned to keep the peace in Ferguson after the police there drew criticism for their use of tear gas and rubber bullets, during his press conference addressed the mention of old wounds saying, “It’s time to stop talking about old wounds and close them up for good.”  Well, what say we to this?  Do we want to close the old wounds so that we can address the new ones with fresh eyes and renewed strength or do we want to continue to limp along in this painful relationship?

If we choose the latter, then I believe that the old wounds of race can be closed with the stitches of conversation, the ointment of forgiveness and the bandage of grace.  We have a lot to talk about as we have not dealt adequately with race.  Ferguson reminds us of what we have forgotten or were to fearful to say.

Our healing process will begin in our mouths and with our words.  Choose them carefully and remember their purpose.

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A Prayer for Ferguson


Last night, I sat in front of my television until after midnight.  I watched with a mixture of disbelief and disgust the unbelievable story of Ferguson.  There have been conflicting reports as to who initiated last night’s confusion whether with molotov cocktails from the protesters or tear gas from the police officers.  At this point, I don’t care who started it.  It just needs to stop.

Someone needs to be a hero and/or heroine.  As members of the community, we are responsible to obey the laws and as police officers who “serve and protect” these communities, we are called to maintain order according to the same agreed upon laws.  I concur with Governor Jay Nixon who spoke today of the “fear to hear.”  I think everyone is afraid to hear the truth, that Michael Brown is guilty of some punishable crime (though not by death) or that the still unidentified police officer is guilty of the unthinkable, raising himself above the law and killing an innocent an unarmed teenager.

Right now, it seems that protestors and police can only come face to face as a sort of stand off, that we can stand our ground but not bow our heads together.  But, I agree with the President who suggested in a speech made this afternoon that we “take a step back.”   I think that when we don’t know what to say to each other– as cocktails and rubber bullets are not effective communicators or mediators– that prayer is essential.

I’ll be an intercessor and I know that I do not stand alone.  There are many who are praying for the peace of Ferguson but for those of us who decided to make it a “day of rage,” take the road less traveled: submit to the Highest Authority and bow your heads with me:

Dear Lord,

We call upon Your name because it is above all others, unable to be corrupted or co-opted.  You are Justice and we appeal to You to “renew the right spirit within us” (Psalm 51.10).  Remind us that while we are made in Your image, You are not defined by our actions or inactions.  But, You are God alone and besides You, there is no other (First Samuel 2.2).

Quiet our souls within us and settle our thoughts on Your unconditional love and ultimate will.  Remind us that “all power belongs to You” (Psalm 62.11).  Say again to us that the earth is Yours, that Ferguson is yours (Psalm 24.1).  Remind us that Your truth prevails, that You are not beholden to statistical data nor the American history of race relations.  You are God alone, incorruptible and incontestable.

Let the truth be the narrator.  Don’t allow our desire for position or power, our emotions or our history to talk over what needs to be said.  We confess the case is already solved and that Your justice is already done through Your Son, Jesus Christ, that You are the Word, the first and final say, the Alpha and Omega.

Speak to our hearts through Your holy and sacred Word and to the hearts of those impacted by the infectious life and untimely death of Mr. Michael Brown.  In Jesus’ name, we pray.  Amen.


Ten things you won’t hear in a conversation about the Ferguson shooting

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment. But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, “Raca” is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, “You fool!” will be in dangers of the fire of hell.”

~ Matthew 5: 21,22

“Non- violence is the strongest approach. … It is not limited to any locality and should apply to every situation.”

~ Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

It seems that persons have taken the recent death of the unarmed teenager Mr. Michael Brown at the hands of a Ferguson police officer as license to support sin and all manner of cruel speech.  The recent riots, looting and vandalism of residents in response to the death of Mr. Brown have not been met with much criticism from Christian leaders (as far as I can hear).  There are words that have been missing or noticeably absent from the dialogue.  Instead, in social media circles, I have noticed a wellspring of support and understanding for the rioters.  But, speculation is not information; consequently, their actions are misinformed in my opinion.

I think that Jesus would say to the looters, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone” (John 8.7).  We need to put down the rocks and talk.

Without official reports from investigators, the release of the autopsy report or charges filed against the police officer or Mr. Brown, we have drawn conclusions of the officer’s guilt and presumed Mr. Brown’s innocence.  If we are fully persuaded of what happened, then wait for the report.  If you “know how the story goes,” then let the facts speak.

So recent is the unfortunate incident that the Ferguson police department just released a statement acknowledging his death and extending condolences to his family.  Mr. Brown has not even been buried or his death fully mourned.  Perhaps, the crowd is moving a bit too fast, rushing to judgment and getting ahead of the grieving as well as the legal process.  I would add that if you don’t believe in the justice system, then become a lawyer or a judge– not a criminal.  Stop looting.

I am also perplexed as it seems as if race somehow gives us occasions and excuses for not practicing our faith, for failing to speak up when challenged to repeat and live out the tough words of Jesus.  Race makes us think that we can excuse our Christian convictions and ask our faith to leave the room so that we can have a real conversation.  We behave as if Christ is naive when it comes to race, oppression and suffering.  We forget about his cross and despite its present work in us, it is treated as a historical artifact.  But, a faith that can be asked to leave was never invited in– into our hearts or our lives (cf. Luke 6.46).  

We speak of Christianity as if the religion is childish and immature, as if it does not understand when it does not agree with our crowd- pleasing conclusions.  Or, we try to find Scriptures that would provide a means to our preconceived end and shy away from those that conflict with it.  But, if we are fully persuaded of what happened, then wait for the report.  If you “know how the story goes,” then let the witnesses tell it.

I am surprised not by the crowd but by Christian leaders who have taken to social media in support of the riots, looting and violence.  Of all the words that are being said, there are some that are not.  Here are ten that I took note of:

1.  “Weep with those who weep” (Romans 12.15).

2.  “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your wrath” (Ephesians 4.26).

3.  “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23.34).

4.  “Be reconciled to one another” (Ephesians 2.14-16).

5.  “Watch and pray” (Matthew 26.41).

6.  “Your will be done” (Matthew 6.10).

7.  “Love never fails” (First Corinthians 13.8).

8.  “Put your hope in God” (Psalm 42.5).

9.  “Bless those that curse you” (Luke 6.28).

10.  “Pray for your enemies” (Matthew 5.44).

Clearly, persons have taken to the streets to obey the commandments of race but what have we gained?  So, what could you lose in trying to follow the commandments of Christ?  I guess you’ll have to say these things in order to find out.

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No Justice; No Peace?

Police Shooting MissouriThere have been peaceful protests during the day and rioting and looting at night in response to the death of a Ferguson, Missouri teen, Mr. Mike Brown.  While the details that led to his untimely death are unclear, the immediate response from the community and persons around the country due to the parties involved has been.  Mr. Brown was shot by a police officer.  His “race” is unknown and his name has not been released for fear of his personal safety.  Still, some say that the “race” of the police officer and the victim does matter as it would point to a troubling history of police- involved shootings of unarmed African American males (This reality has been described as “BMW: Black Man Walking” by an NAACP leader.).  While others feel that it is a matter of power and the abuse of it by those who are paid to “serve and protect.”

Mr. Brown died on Saturday, August 9 and while his autopsy has been completed, the findings of this examination have not been released.  A friend, who claims to have been walking with Mr. Brown during the time of the altercation, has also not been interviewed by the local or federal authorities.  Nevertheless, an attorney has been hired by the family of the late Mr. Brown.  Benjamin Crump will provide legal counsel; he is the same lawyer employed by the parents of the late Mr. Trayvon Martin, a teenager who was also killed though unarmed.

Twitter has been abuzz and images of the Civil Rights Movement and its most notable leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. have been called upon to make sense of what is happening.  Dr. King has been called upon as a contemporary commentator, quoted as saying, “A riot is the language of the unheard.”  But, what we have not heard is the full account.  We have not heard both sides of the story: the body of Mr. Brown will speak and the police officer who caused the death of Mr. Brown should also be allowed to defend his actions.

No charges have been brought yet a trial has ensued.  The police officer has been presumed guilty and the crowd’s chant of “no justice; no peace” informs us of their verdict.  It suggests that if their ruling is not upheld that there will be no peace in the streets.  The father of Mr. Brown said recently in an interview, “If he doesn’t get justice, we won’t get peace.”  These responses highlight the assumption of injustice in matters involving both the social construct of race and law enforcement.  These persons feel bullied by law enforcement and the chant is an expression of their ability to become a bully.  “Do what we want or else.”

However, as Christians, we serve Jesus Christ who is the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9.6).  We live under God’s jurisdiction or at least we should.  We do not have the privilege or the right to respond as our society does because we have submitted our will to God’s: “Your will be done” (Matthew 6.10).  Consequently, I would question the allegiance of Christian leaders, whether to race or to God, who would justify this crime for a crime response.

We know Justice and we know Peace.  Pray for all the persons involved and slide out of the Judge’s seat.




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