Monday, November 24, 2014

Thoughts on Ferguson

The decision came down and there will be no indictment of Darren Wilson for the shooting death of Michael Brown. I have some thoughts, not surprisingly.

What is lost in the muddle on social media is that there is more than one issue at play here. First there is the actual incident. I am not on the grand jury and I am pretty skeptical and often critical of the police and yet it sounds very much as though what happened was a tragic but ultimately justifiable shooting by a law enforcement officer. I would not and will not ever be in a position to have to act in a law enforcement capacity, entrusted with a deadly weapon and asked to respond to countless incidents each day, any one of which could escalate from a simple thuggish robbery to a violent confrontation as this one did. The grand jury process, reliant as it is on fallen humanity, is imperfect but far preferable to mob "justice". Second, there is the ongoing question of the very real sense among the black community that the lives of young black men are less valuable than the lives of other citizens. That question will not be advanced by the blatant attempts by some to use the Michael Brown shooting to fuel the flames of racial animus as a tool to advance their own political agenda. Nor will it be advanced by insensitive statements of disinterest toward the feelings of a population of our nation, and more importantly a population of image bearers of God Almighty, who fear the police. Third, the reaction to the protests and rioting in Ferguson by the police speaks to a much broader and more insidious problem of police militarization and the growing attitude of hostility, us-vs-them that too many in law enforcement and government in general seem to hold. Indictment or not the police response in Ferguson was dangerous, counter-productive, and against the spirit of America.

What I fear is that many people who almost certainly don't care about the death of Michael Brown, because they have nothing much to say when young black men kill other young black men due to the lack of political capital it brings, are going to use this to push more of the same laws that have created a system of generational poverty that institutionalizes a race base underclass. I also fear that many who don't fear their sons being killed by cops for whatever reason will brush this incident aside, shake their heads at the rioting captured by the media and move on until the next shooting. We in the church cannot ignore what is going on. We who advocate for liberty, smaller government, more freedom and personal responsibility cannot just shout "Don't commit crimes and you won't get shot!" to people who are hurt, angry and confused but must instead call for a different path toward racial reconciliation and healing in America that is not founded on perpetuation of racial distrust and the seizure of money from some to placate and bribe others. In a fallen world the only pathway to true reconciliation and peace is centered on the cross and the Lamb who was slain. The One who died to make peace between God and man can certainly use our lives and witness to make peace between men.

These are pretty inadequate thoughts for certain. I sincerely hope that these issues don't fade away into irrelevance in our short attention span culture or degenerate into cheap political rhetoric. Things are not getting better, they are getting worse and the church needs to not just exposit but model a better way, a different way, the way of the Gospel built on loving enemies, nonviolence and dying to self. 

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