Monday, December 1, 2014

Addressing the Topic of Ferguson, Missouri

It's been a week since the grand jury declined to indict Darren Wilson for shooting Michael Brown.  Some people believe that this was the most just outcome because they believe that Michael Brown was the aggressor during the encounter.  Others believe that Darren Wilson is getting away with murdering Michael Brown because they believe that Michael Brown was surrendering when he was shot.

While the case is now complete (pending action by the federal government's Department of Justice), the topic will not go away that easily.  The case has become a rallying cry for activists who want healthy responses and changes within society and a flashpoint for those who will use any excuse to instigate destructive practices such as vandalism and arson.  The violent acts now overshadow the constructive discussions which we could have after this event.

The question becomes: what do we do now?  What changes do we make in response to the shooting and the grand jury investigation?

I do not know.  The answers lie beyond a quick fix and a change in police training.  To fully address the issue in communities around the country, we need to study our society and look at ourselves with a good dose of honesty.  What will it take to heal the breach between law enforcement and communities that distrust law enforcement?  What elements of our culture do we need to change over the next several years, and how do we start the process?

I have witnessed a healthy relationship between a community and its local police force.  I sat in on a neighborhood association meeting.  A member of the local police force serves as a liaison between the association and the police force.  This officer briefed the association on how the police force was responding to and investigating incidents within the neighborhood, then listened to the concerns of the neighborhood association's members.  While this meeting included only a small portion of the local neighborhood, discussions such as these could begin to cut the tensions between communities and police departments.

Where can the Church be involved?  It can offer to host meetings like the one above.  The Church can also host, participate in, and guide discussions concerning our nation's economy, the racial divides within our culture, and other tough conversations which we as a society need to have.  These conversations will be difficult and contentious, but it is only through such (holy?) conversations that we will move beyond quick-fix ideas and into permanent changes that truly address the issues in our communities.

In this season of Advent, the Church can also pray, "Come, Lord Jesus."  Healing these divisions will be the work of the Lord.  I am confident that the Church will be called to participate in this healing in some form or fashion, but the Church will be called to carry out God's actions, not its own actions.  The Church will pray for the Lord's Kingdom to come and the Lord's will to be done while it discerns how the Lord may act through the Church to do these things.

We can choose to debate whether Darren Wilson should be charged with a crime.  A better choice would be to choose to discuss the larger issues within our society, our culture, and our communities.  We can choose to start the process of addressing these issues now or we can see how long until another incident ignites a heated debate.  May the Spirit call us into difficult yet necessary conversations and may the Lord's Kingdom break into our society.

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