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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

#Jesus and #Ferguson

Let me begin with the biggest disclaimer ever written:  I am not a sociologist.  I am not a theologian.  I am not a political expert, or judicial expert, an expert on church history, or race relations, or anything of the sort.  I am no kind of expert at any kind of thing.

But that is a good thing.  Because I have no other motivation left in me that might taint my view of the current state of America.

The only motivation I have, the only lens with which to filter what is happening right now, is Jesus.  I am watching what has happened, what is happening, and I am trying to spread it all out next to what I know about Jesus and see it all.  I just look at it, then I look at Jesus.  Then I look back at it, then I look at Jesus some more.  And I just dig deep, deep down in my heart, to the place where there is nothing but the stirring of the Holy Spirit, to try to find the way forward, as the Body of Christ.

Fellow believers in Christ, we have to find a way forward.

Let me tell you what this isn't:  this isn't me picking a 'side.'  Honestly, there are no winning sides here.  Everyone lost. America lost.  You know why?  Because from this incident, hate, and despair, and hopelessness and indifference have been sown in the hearts of Americans.  And that is a tragedy too.  And really, that is what I want to talk about:  not the specific events that took place in Ferguson, but the larger reality.

Ferguson has opened my eyes to something.  I have read twitter feeds and news articles and opinion articles and I saw something that I hadn't seen before.  It's the despair that many black Americans feel today toward our society.  And it really knocked the wind out of me.
I don't know if I never noticed it before because I've lived a somewhat sheltered life, or because I just didn't want to see it.

White friends, listen to me.  I know that when you hear about racism in today's society, or oppression of the black race, you get that twinge in your heart.  I have gotten it.  I didn't want to acknowledge at times that there is still a disparity between whites and minorities because it felt like undeserved persecution to me.  It's that twinge that says, "Well I don't oppress black people.  I didn't do it.  Why should I take responsibility for something that I didn't, and would never do?"

And that is true.  I have never oppressed or tried to be racist toward someone of another race.

But this is the thing--we can't go on acting like there isn't disparity.  There is.  We cannot continue ignoring the pain and the suffering because we feel like we didn't do it.  I KNOW it is uncomfortable to try to come face to face with this thing and figure it out.  But we have to.  Jesus has called us to.  I am not called to try to insert love into the situation because I am the great-great-great-great-granddaughter of someone who could've owned a slave.  I am called to insert love into this situation because I AM A FOLLOWER OF CHRIST.  That is it and that it all.

I could quote you a thousand statistics that talk about the income disparity between whites and blacks, the disparity between black and white people in prisons, in foster care, and in who holds college degrees, but statistics are not really the heart of what I am saying.  A statistic can't tell you the story of a young black girl I met in prison once.  Abused since she could remember, on the streets by eleven, raped and beaten and eventually in a gang.  She lost her baby in a drive-by shooting.  Statistics can't tell you that story, can they?  Yet her story is not unique.

I am not ignoring personal responsibility, friends.  Of course, of course, each and everyone of us makes our own decisions, good and evil.  It's just that many of us have no idea what it's like to make a decision from a place of such hopelessness and hardship.  I sure don't.

What I am saying, friends, is something is broken.  And even if we, ourselves, didn't break it, it IS our responsibility to fix it.  It just is, ya'll.  Do you love Jesus?  Then it is your responsibility.  I love Jesus.  So it is my responsibility.

Being American means that we have more rights and freedoms than probably any other country in the world.  But much of the time, I think our preoccupation with our rights obscures the commands that we have received from Jesus.  We have the right to air our political and social opinions, whether or not those opinions show love.  We have the right to be indifferent.  And OH do we have the right to be offended, always offended.  But friends, when we became Christians, we laid down all our rights, just like Jesus did.  We don't have those rights anymore.  Our only right is to be of the same opinion as Jesus.

This is my point:   That there is still work to be done.  There is social injustice in America.  There is need and there is inequality, and a large portion of it lies within the black community.  Our friends who find themselves in the minority are feeling angry, helpless and oppressed.  What would Jesus ask us to do at this point?

Friends of every color, language and tribe:  The answer is love.  And compassion.  And mercy.  If Christians were truly known for our love there would be a revolution.  If we actually put the well-being of our neighbor ahead of our own, if we made it a point, to always, always extend love and grace--especially to those of a different ethnicity, political party, socio-economic level, whatever?   If we break down barriers, form real community, and be the hands and feet of Christ to everyone?  Every last one?  That is our goal: every, last, one.

If every tweet, every facebook post, every interaction at work, or the grocery store, or wherever was first purified and refined by love and mercy, we could start healing this side of heaven.  No, we won't finish, but we could start.

Let's start.

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