Tag Archives: Ferguson and reconciliation

Come, Jesus, Come

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Come, Jesus, come

We are waiting on peace.

Come, Jesus, come

We are waiting on truth.

Come, Jesus, come

We are waiting on justice.

Come, Jesus, come

We are waiting on You.

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Come, Jesus, come

We are waiting on hope.

Come, Jesus, come

We are waiting on love.

Come, Jesus, come

We are waiting on joy.

Come, Jesus, come

to earth from heaven above.

Ferguson: Hugs will heal us

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“The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child will lead them.”

~ Isaiah 11.6

The Old Testament prophet Isaiah is writing about the peaceful kingdom wherein historical and sworn enemies share the same habitat, the same sleeping arrangement.  They lie down together and they are led to this position by a little child.  Perhaps, it is to the children that we should look for leadership when it comes to guiding us, wolves and lambs, amidst the tensions surrounding the tragedy in Ferguson, Missouri.

The leadership of one little child named Devonte Hart, an appropriate last name for a boy who clearly has a lot of it, has warmed mine.  He’s twelve years old and he decided to hold a sign offering hugs during a protest in Portland, Oregon in support of Ferguson this past week.  And someone took him up on it, a police officer: Sgt. Bret Barnum.

I need a hug right now.

Before & After Ferguson

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Persons who are protesting the shooting of unarmed teenager, Mr. Michael Brown, Jr., are saying, “I can’t believe we’re here again, that we’re doing this again.”  Some are angry and even disappointed that they are seeing the same old seemingly race- based, race- driven stories and they are responding the same way, using the same words that they did the last time something like this happened.  They almost mumble, “I thought we had come farther along than this.  I thought that we were past this.”

Why does this scene keep replaying itself?  Why the same characters: police officer or one who wants to be one and unarmed African American male teenager?  Why aren’t things changing?  We witnessed.  We reported.  We protested.  We were jailed.  We asked for a charge and a conviction.  We did all of the things that we normally do and still no change.  Could it be that we might want to change our response to such tragedies before they even happen?

C. S. Lewis believed, “If conversion makes no improvements in a man’s outward actions, then I think his (and her) conversion was largely imaginary.”  As Christians, we are not being transformed in order to see people and situations the same way or respond as we always have.  If we are, in fact, new creatures, then we should have new thoughts on race and new perspectives on its power and presence in America, namely ridding ourselves of it and not allowing it to determine who we form relationships with (cf. Second Corinthians 5.17).

One obvious piece of evidence that points to our allegiance to race is the absence of the word: all.  We are all God’s children and all in Christ and yet, Christians are still employing the unclear and divisive language of “us” and “them.”  We may pack our boxes neatly and indiscriminately but the results are the same.  Still, there are no sides in God’s house but there are in race’s “house of bondage” as described by James Baldwin.

The fact is, people whose God is the Word should not be afraid of talking about any word, especially race.  We should always be talking about race as it is a very present injustice, one of the cruelest of crimes against all of humanity, that is to assert that our value is external, physical and depreciating and not intrinsic, given by God and unable to be lost or taken away.

We should be talking about race until we reach a mutual understanding, grounded not in our wounds but Christ’s stripes (cf. Isaiah 53.5).  But, too often, we talk to support our comfortable prejudices and be affirmed of our hopeless conclusions concerning potential relationships with persons of other cultures.  Our language has not been converted, our necks are stiffened by prejudice and our hearts hardened by stereotypes.  We dig our heals into our experience and what we believe to be the right way to see things, singing, “We shall not be moved.” Again and again and again.  Then, wonder how did we get here?

We should have been talking about race before the death of Mr. Brown in Ferguson and we should not end the conversation abruptly when the trial is over, less we return to the blame game and playing of “the race card.”  And while I am certain that we will talk about race in our safe, affirming and agreeable circles, it is my hope that we would say something new, that we might consider loving those we have been taught to see as “the enemy,” that we forgive persons for what they have done and/or what we thought they might do to us.

I find it saddening and strange that God calls us friends but that we, His children, are not able to say that of each other, that we have grown rather comfortable as a disconnected, disjointed Body (John 15.15).  Before and after times like these, we should seek reconciliation and not re-injury.  We should talk until it hurts us– not others.  We should be transparent, reveal our wounds but then allow them to be healed.  And we have to acknowledge and address the suffering of others.  Race victimizes us all; there are no heroes here.

We cannot afford to simply care for those in our circles or those belonging to our culture.  We must not withhold our tears, our mourning, our sadness because he and she did not “look like” me.  Instead, we must assert that violence against any body is violence against every body.  When any human being dies, something of ourselves also passes with them.

And we must know this before and after anything else like Ferguson happens as it may prevent it one day from happening… again.

Ferguson: Given Our History

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“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.