It has been a while since I have written anything. For the one or two of you who read this, I apologize, I have been pretty busy walking through the joy of the ordination and commissioning of my co-worker and assistant pastor to another church; along with trying to make up for the lack of his presence in the church. Not to mention, this time of year always seems pretty busy.
Politicized issues frustrate me and I rarely write my thoughts about them. This is mostly due to the emotionally charged nature of politics today. Don’t get me wrong, I have strong opinions, but it seems like our emotionally driven culture is far to quick to open its mouth while closing its ears and mind and we have lost the discipline of civil discourse on difficult topics. So I have been watching and reading the events and multiple perspectives about what has been happening in Ferguson, Missouri with interest and concern for some time, but have not wanted to step into the internet drama. Yet when I read this now highly viral post by Benjamin Watson expressing his emotive thoughts, I couldn’t stay silent any longer. And I wanted to shout, “Here it is, he’s got it! Amen!” So this is my version of shouting. It really doesn’t matter that Ben Watson is an African-American professional football player, this should not provide any more weight to his words; these words ought to stand powerfully as the simple truth they are. But it is striking, because it is unique that, in my opinion, here is one man who is writing from the head and the heart, and not just choosing a side that would benefit his career and even future. Here is what he wrote if you have not already read it.
At some point while I was playing or preparing to play Monday Night Football, the news broke about the Ferguson Decision. After trying to figure out how I felt, I decided to write it down. Here are my thoughts:
I’M ANGRY because the stories of injustice that have been passed down for generations seem to be continuing before our very eyes.
I’M FRUSTRATED, because pop culture, music and movies glorify these types of police citizen altercations and promote an invincible attitude that continues to get young men killed in real life, away from safety movie sets and music studios.
I’M FEARFUL because in the back of my mind I know that although I’m a law abiding citizen I could still be looked upon as a “threat” to those who don’t know me. So I will continue to have to go the extra mile to earn the benefit of the doubt.
I’M EMBARRASSED because the looting, violent protests, and law breaking only confirm, and in the minds of many, validate, the stereotypes and thus the inferior treatment.
I’M SAD, because another young life was lost from his family, the racial divide has widened, a community is in shambles, accusations, insensitivity hurt and hatred are boiling over, and we may never know the truth about what happened that day.
I’M SYMPATHETIC, because I wasn’t there so I don’t know exactly what happened. Maybe Darren Wilson acted within his rights and duty as an officer of the law and killed Michael Brown in self defense like any of us would in the circumstance. Now he has to fear the backlash against himself and his loved ones when he was only doing his job. What a horrible thing to endure. OR maybe he provoked Michael and ignited the series of events that led to him eventually murdering the young man to prove a point.
I’M OFFENDED, because of the insulting comments I’ve seen that are not only insensitive but dismissive to the painful experiences of others.
I’M CONFUSED, because I don’t know why it’s so hard to obey a policeman. You will not win!!! And I don’t know why some policeman abuse their power. Power is a responsibility, not a weapon to brandish and lord over the populace.
I’M INTROSPECTIVE, because sometimes I want to take “our” side without looking at the facts in situations like these. Sometimes I feel like it’s us against them. Sometimes I’m just as prejudiced as people I point fingers at. And that’s not right. How can I look at white skin and make assumptions but not want assumptions made about me? That’s not right.
I’M HOPELESS, because I’ve lived long enough to expect things like this to continue to happen. I’m not surprised and at some point my little children are going to inherit the weight of being a minority and all that it entails.
I’M HOPEFUL, because I know that while we still have race issues in America, we enjoy a much different normal than those of our parents and grandparents. I see it in my personal relationships with teammates, friends and mentors. And it’s a beautiful thing.
I’M ENCOURAGED, because ultimately the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem. SIN is the reason we rebel against authority. SIN is the reason we abuse our authority. SIN is the reason we are racist, prejudiced and lie to cover for our own. SIN is the reason we riot, loot and burn. BUT I’M ENCOURAGED because God has provided a solution for sin through the his son Jesus and with it, a transformed heart and mind. One that’s capable of looking past the outward and seeing what’s truly important in every human being. The cure for the Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner tragedies is not education or exposure. It’s the Gospel. So, finally, I’M ENCOURAGED because the Gospel gives mankind hope. -Ben Watson
That last paragraph captures the essence of the issue succinctly and poignantly. I have many personal thoughts on the whole issue of what happened in Ferguson with Michael Brown and Darren Wilson, with the protests that followed, with the 24/7 news media curse that afflicts this country, with all the politicians and political “wannabes” capitalizing on a young man’s death, a families grief, a police officers trauma, and a city’s sorrow, with the evangelical bandwagoners for either side. Yet there is nothing I could say that hasn’t been said and re-said. I can give no new thought or idea. I am always late to the blogging game on current events, and I am okay with that. Often it is the better part of wisdom to hold one’s peace and think himself empty before speaking on highly charged issues. Yet, I am encouraged because of what Mr. Watson has written. I am encouraged because it is simple and sincere and most importantly, theologically accurate. And so I write to my church family, my brothers and sisters. It is not our Biblical responsibility to decide whether or not the grand jury “got it right.” It is not our responsibility to defend Michael Brown or defend Darren Wilson. Certainly we can have opinions, but really, most everyone jumping into the fray of debate was not present for any of the proceedings from that fateful day when Michael Brown lost his life, through the investigative process, even until now while watching the clash of ideas as pained, scared, confused, worried people on both sides of the street live this out (through a highly selective national media no less). So why are we so quick to make assumptions about what we have not personally observed? No, it is not that we have no responsibility. We are to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves, and the proclamation of the Gospel of Grace is unique in that in one fell swoop, it allows us to do both concurrently. If you are concerned for our various policing agencies, love them by praying for them and preaching the gospel. If you are concerned about prejudice and racism in this nation, love your God and your neighbors through prayer and the preaching of the Gospel. For if, as Mr. Watson purports, this all is “not a skin problem, but a sin problem,” and only the Gospel of Jesus can solve man’s sin problem, then that is the duty we must be seriously concerned with. Thank you Ben Watson for preaching the gospel, you have done more for the cause of Christ than this world, and even the evangelical community will ever be willing to recognize. I am so delighted to call you my brother as a co-laborer with Jesus Christ.