We are called to repair the world, and in recent weeks the world has felt particularly broken. This week, 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot by a police officer in Ferguson, MO—another unarmed young black man killed. The image of outrage coming from Ferguson, of nonviolent protests and policemen armed to the teeth remind us that violence and racism are, sadly, still realities for us and for our children. Since Michael Brown’s death mere days ago, Ezell Ford, 25, was likewise unarmed when police killed him. These deaths are senseless tragedies, the result of entrenched systems of privilege and power. Yet I believe in a God of liberation who called Israel out of slavery and to a land flowing with milk and honey, and I follow Jesus, who resisted violence and stepped between an angry mob and the woman they planned to stone to death. Our tradition is a foundation on which we can stand as we seek to stand in solidarity with the city of Ferguson and people of color who face racism and violence in our own city on a daily basis. Still I find myself echoing the Psalmist: “How long, O God?” How long until no more families grieve the deaths of their children or fear for their children’s safety? And how I can be one who contributes to the repair of the world in the face of such seemingly insurmountable challenges?
I thank God that we are a learning congregation, learning ways to be community across race, class, gender, sexuality, and all the ways we claim our space in the world. We are learning to find the heart of God by speaking the truths of our own hearts, by noticing and naming power dynamics and systems of oppression, by following Christ’s example of nonviolent resistance and truth-telling in hopes that our work will prevent another person’s divine light from being extinguished. One of the things we can do is name those who have been victims of violence; we can learn the stories that humanize them. We mourn, we pray, and we heed President Obama’s call to continue to be in conversation in ways that contribute to healing.
There is an impulse, I think, as a white person, to notice and be sad and sorry, maybe even to feel guilty or complicit, but then to move on. That’s something I’ve noticed in my own life—that issues move me, and then I move onto the next emotionally charged thing. Because I don’t have to worry about walking down the street and being killed for the color of my skin, if I am to be an ally, I must be vigilant in a different way. I must be vigilant about my words and actions, vigilant about stepping back, listening harder, and learning how to not continue to be complicit in racist systems that lead to violence against unarmed men of color. In these days and weeks, I think part of our job is to keep noticing, to keep learning, and to keep naming the injustices we see until they exist no more. What I hope for us is that we will find ways to act, to repair, to be the change we most long to see, to be builders of the beloved community.
Laura Ruth has written a blog about Michael Brown’s death; it’s a beautiful piece. Please click here to have a look at it. If you need anything or want to talk further, please be in touch. I pray peace for you, beloved ones.