I have been asked by many my opinion and comments on the Ferguson situation as a father, husband and minister. So I respond filled with humility, honestly and no authority whatsoever. As a father, mentor, and role model to my son my honest reaction is simple. The lesson to be learned here is that if you hit anyone in the face that has a gun, the probability of getting shot is high. (get your “Guns don’t kill people. People with guns who get hit in the face kill people” T-shirts now while my supply lasts.) In all seriousness the genuine lesson is be involved in your child’s life. All children are gifts from God. We all can do a better job of being involved daily in cherishing, nurturing and protecting that gift. Not just when it’s easy or convenient. The true tragedy is no parent should have to bury their child especially if the circumstances surrounding their death could be avoided. The true tragedy is that a person who took an oath to serve and protect was responsible for taking another person’s life. What will never be revealed in the facts is the content of his heart. We will never know if he was a racist or not. We will never know if he acted out of anger or survival. Regardless of the outcome, I believe one day he will have to be accountable for his actions not in this world but in the next.
As a minister, I have been solicited by the president of my denomination to stand behind the protesters because we are a “church” or as they say a “movement for wholeness in a fragmented world.” They have boxed it as either we are with the “hands up, don’t shot” club because that is what Jesus would do or we stand with the prejudice “pants up, don’t loot” Jesus hating crowd. Is it possible to stand for justice but not support revenge? As people of faith shouldn’t we become the mediators, the movers towards reconciliation, and speak kindness, compassion, and unity. Or do we just jump on the side that is most popular. It seems the church has moved away from the teachings of Jesus and more towards social acceptance because we want to be liked by the popular kids. As a denomination we want to sit at the cool lunch table when in reality the people we are trying to impress aren’t even listening. So we breed alienation even within our own faith community. The leader of our nation has also taken sides. It seems both are fueling division and I haven’t figured out why. Maybe it’s just good for business, egos, or self-piety. The only ones that seem to be profiting are the media outlets and extremist groups.
I know to well what revenge looks like but what about justice. What is justice and what does that look like in the context of our faith. While I am for justice, it appears to me that the Ferguson situation is not about justice but about anger, revenge, and looting. I think there has to be a better way to say “I’m sorry” or “we need change” than stealing a 55in flat screen or running out of a Quickie Mart with a case of cold brews. Maybe justice is turning a tragedy into triumph by refraining from organized systematic violence. Maybe it’s listening instead of shouting. Maybe it is voicing our concerns in a civil effective protest. I don’t know maybe justice is allowing people to make up their own opinions instead of being forced upon us by people in leadership positions and authority. Maybe justice is not creating an atmosphere of hostility, anger, and violence but one of compassion, empathy, and understanding. There is enough violence in the world, we in America don’t have to participate we have a choice and opportunity to rise above it.
In summation: I strongly feel this is a terrible, incomprehensible tragedy. I cannot imagine the pain of losing a child to a violent death when it could have been avoided by both parties. I do not know Michael Brown or the true content of his character but I do know the color of his skin. I do know that not all black guys are criminals but some of them are. I do not know Officer Wilson or the content of his character but I do know the color of his skin. I do know not all cops are racist but some of them are. I believe that everyone should have the opportunity to express their feelings, frustrations and anger but there also needs to be a time we all stop and listen to each other. It’s not in the looting, violence, and destruction of the innocent that brings about change. That just brings about more violence, division, and anger on both sides. Justice is found in compassion, empathy and unity. So being a minster and father I pray. I pray for peace. I pray for understanding. I pray that no one else will be hurt or injured. I pray for more two way dialogue and less shouting. I pray for all our children and that we treat them as the precious gift they are. I pray for the world we are creating for them. I pray we can constructively look at the problems that face our children everywhere. I pray for our leaders that they will realize change can be found in unity not division. I pray we can turn this pent up hostility into positive actions that help those that are truly in need. I pray we can turn our energy off Ferguson and onto keep Christ in Christmas. To keep Christ is Christmas is doing what Christ instructed us to do: feed the hungry, clothe the naked, forgive the guilty, welcome the unwelcome, love your enemies, and treat people the way you want to be treated. That is how we keep Christ in Christmas. But many times rioting and looting a flat screen seems a whole lot easier. Then again I may just be another jaded, uncool, old fat preacher man..