A Few Thoughts on Ferguson
-by Pastor Mike Middaugh
Leading up to this Sunday’s message my wife, Sandi, asked if I was going to say anything about the events taking place in Ferguson, Missouri. I said “no, not directly” and she said “why not?”
That got me thinking, why have I shied away (whether consciously or unconsciously) from saying anything on this topic so far? I think the answer is twofold.
The first part of the answer is simple – over the past week anyone who has watched TV, scrolled through social media, or read a newspaper has been inundated with both facts and opinions about the events in Ferguson. I guess I wonder at times if anyone wants to hear anything more about current events when we are so saturated by coverage of these topics.
The second part of the answer is far more complex, and one that I confess in love and vulnerability. I, and I believe a lot of other white pastors, leaders, and writers, tend to convince ourselves that it is not our place to talk about racial issues. For me, I think this is because I know what I don’t know. I know that I don’t know what if feels like to grow up in a black community, and because of privilege, I grew up unaware of racial disparity even as it existed in my community. I know that I don’t know what it feels like to be a minority or to be racially profiled by others. And I know that I don’t know what it feels like to be a black young man growing up with odds stacked against me because of my skin color, or what it is like to be a black father who has to sit his boys down to have that other “talk.”
But now let me pick apart my own two reasons for being silent.
When we remain silent about an injustice for long enough, we may even convince ourselves that it doesn’t exist. Over the past few years some public voices have even gone so far as to say that we live in a post-racial America. But we have to remember that even if we don’t personally see or feel racism, it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. If anything, this is certainly what the recent video footage of tear gas and rubber bullets, protest signs and prayer vigils should teach us — that racism and disunity, in all their many forms, are certainly not gone. The need for reconciliation continues to be great.
So what if we say nothing because we think it has all been said? One thing that makes having this conversation in the church an imperative is the Gospel. If there is any one place that racism, anger, distrust, and our own inner weaknesses should be discussed, it is Christian community. News anchors will continue to report, bloggers will write, and experts will be called forth to give commentary, but what’s missing from all of these sources is vulnerability, accountability, and community around the Gospel.
Christianity community, the Church, should be the safe place where these topics can be discussed. It should be the place where we seek to be made into better people, more whole, and more empathetic to each other’s various heartaches, because as part of the church we know one another and we are known. And while community and personal connectedness are vital for being made into better, more compassionate neighbors, it is really the Gospel that is our greatest hope for overcoming discrimination and our own shortcomings in loving one another.
So, may we endeavor to have these conversations with one another in the best, most forgiving, and loving ways possible. And together as the church, may we pray, as people under the cross, seeking the Lord for racial reconciliation.