Friday, December 05, 2014

Rise up; it's time.

Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For in just a very little while,
'He who is coming will come and will not delay.
But my righteous one will live by faith.
And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.'
But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.

Hebrews 10:32-39

Up until now I haven't felt it was appropriate to write about Ferguson and the subsequent deaths of other black males at the hands of white police officers, because it was much more important to make space for black voices to be heard (some articles here: 1, 2, 3). However, as a person who is not black, I think it's time for me to write to speak to my fellow Christians who are also not black, but wondering what to do. What does it mean to stand "side by side" with our black brothers and sisters as they endure such aggravated trials and tribulation?

Before we begin to build a straw man, talking about whether Michael Brown or other men who have been killed were "innocent," I have to say up front that it's not about that. Michael Brown is dead. Eric Garner is dead. This notwithstanding at the hands of another fellow human being. This is not a time to be discussing the ethics and "necessity" of corporal punishment, and trying to "justify" police officers using physical violence against "criminals." These men are dead, and it's a big fucking deal. I'm not sure how I can emphasize this enough.

A week and a half ago I participated in a march organized by several local black pastors in partnership with the NAACP and Garfield High School. This was one day after the ruling on Darren Wilson (not to indict him for the shooting of Michael Brown). As we headed west along Union, a group of 200 people or so, I was ultra-aware of the fact that when we would chant "Hands up, Don't shoot," for the black males walking alongside me, this was a lived reality. And I started to cry. For these men, being in public, unarmed and vulnerable (literally with their hands raised in surrender) knowing their peers have been gunned down and choked to death by men wearing uniforms very similar to the ones donned by SPD officers 'escorting' and observing us along the way, was quite honestly, eerie.

When we arrived at the U.S. District Court, we stood on and around the steps of the building listening to several speakers from the black community who expressed extreme frustration, anger and at times, despondency. At one point, a pastor assumed the mic, saying, "I just want to first of all thank those of you who are not a part of the black community for showing up today and being a part of this." By this time our group had grown to probably 400 or more people, and I had noticed (with great relief) during the march that yes, there were indeed white hipsters and white older adults and mixed kids and male Latinos and young Asian Americans throughout the crowd. This is good, though I don't think the black community should necessarily have to thank us for being there.

It has been written of the Body of Christ: "If one part suffers, every part suffers with it" (1 Corinthians 12:26a). What does it mean to stand "side by side with those who were so treated"? Listen. Care. Pray. Show up. 

For it has also been written:
"Justice will dwell in the desert and righteousness live in the fertile field.
The fruit of righteousness will be peace;
     the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever. 
My people will live in peaceful dwelling places,
     in secure homes,
          in undisturbed places of rest" (Isaiah 32:16-17).
 May we cry out to God until this is fulfilled on earth for all his people.

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