Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Where Do We Go From Here? #Ferguson

I'll be upfront and honest. I have no answers, because I don't have all of the facts. Period.

But this I do know:  I have been, in turn, sad, angry, frustrated, and confused throughout the course of events that has taken place since August, when a young, black man was killed on his city streets. Did he deserve it? I serve a King who loves everyone and live in a country where I've been taught that we are all innocent until proven guilty, so my conclusion is No...he did not deserve to die the way he did, without a trial by a jury of his peers.

I readily admit that I don't know much about how the world works. My world is very small. I live in a mostly white, affluent suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio. I am not affluent, but most of the neighborhoods around me are. Because of my color, my gender and my geographic location, I do not know the shame of being followed by clerks when I enter a store. I do not know the pain of seeing a woman clutching her purse more tightly because I pass her on the sidewalk. I have not witnessed a family distressingly glancing over their shoulders because they wrongly found themselves in my neighborhood. I did not attend schools that were lucky to have one beat up computer in a classroom, had 30+ kids in each class, had dripping ceilings, textbooks falling apart, and chaos running rampant throughout its halls. So who am I to tell someone that they are wrong in their anger at how they have been treated by their fellow countrymen?

Is destruction and violence a justifiable reaction to the inequality and rampant racism that pervades every crevice of our society? Again, I turn to my King who says that when we're slapped, we should offer the other cheek as well. (see Matthew 5:39) This is not a "lie down and take it" mentality. It is a defiant grace that exudes confidence in a God who will fight my battles and seek vengeance on my enemies.

Then where do we go from here? 

Wow. Honestly, I don't know. I truly wish there was a formula, a 12-step program or a book to shed some light on how we right the wrong of racism.

Oh wait!...There is! And the Author told me that the two greatest things I could do are to love my God with absolutely every fiber of my being and the second is to love my neighbor in the exact same way that I would love myself. And I can study the lives of Jesus, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Ghandi for bigger-than-life sized examples of how to flesh this out. 

What does "loving my neighbor as myself" look like in this situation? Well, when I do something destructive or horrendously stupid, do I want to be written off as a lost cause? Do I want people to say there is no hope in my restoration? Do I want people to point fingers, call names, say/write hate-filled comments, or deduce that I deserve what I get? NO! Nor should I participate in any of those Kingdom-opposing activities.

So what does "loving my neighbor who has just destroyed their neighborhood because they are sick and tired of being treated like second-class neighbors as myself" look like? It looks like reading books about race and reconcilliation. It looks like following voices that cry out for justice (i.e. Pope Francis, Shane Claiborne, Jim Wallis, etc.) It looks like embracing people of various backgrounds as friends. It looks like my daughter and her teammates making pies all day long yesterday for their mostly African American neighbors. It looks like, on these days leading up to Thanksgiving, she and her teammates going into the local prison to pray with those that want to pray.It looks like volunteering in a school where you are the only ginger and the children can learn to love this sweet little lady that looks nothing like them. It looks like attending opportunities that help you Understand Poverty. It looks like Tent Days where a group of people are breaking down racial and economic barriers because weekly they share life with people in their community. It looks like supporting organizations such as  Mission Year and CityMerge who seek reconcillation and love for all people. And it looks like putting a halt on listening to the media voices that chronically tell us one set of people are "good" and another is "bad". 

Basically, "loving my neighbor as myself" means I must question and set aside every culturally-instilled notion I have about what my life and the lives around me should look like and instead embracing a Kingdom-ethic of loving absolutely everyone no matter their color, gender, economic status or the past sins of themselves or their ancestors. 

Isn't that how I want to be loved?