As the events surrounding the August 9th shooting of Michael Brown unfolded in Ferguson and around the country, my heart breaks because a clear ‘winner’ will never arise from this scenario. No matter the grand jury’s conclusion, the Browns still buried a son, Darren Wilson’s life is likely in shambles, and the racial undercurrents of our nation were agitated once again into a tsunami that polarized our country.
For over a week, both traditional and social media outlets have buzzed with experts who emphatically contradict each other with dogged confidence in their claims. The media also chronicled the cocktail of reactions to the grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Wilson which included impassioned demonstrators convinced of the system’s failure to deliver justice, the disinterested onlooker who has unwavering confidence in the legal system, and the unsettled bystander who desires change but feels helpless in the currents of the day.
The complexity of this drama is paralyzing for those willing to grapple with all the dynamics at play, but many avoid the struggle for understanding by flattening its layers and ending up on an extreme where tensions are easily resolved. I’m convinced that if our nation cannot emerge from our self-affirming huddles of consensus and stop lobbing verbal attacks at each other, then the stories of Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, and others will be too often reenacted in the days ahead.
In light of the polarized state of the dialogue, the rules of engagement must be redefined if we have any hope of having a conversation that results in genuine and sustained progress in our country.
Where do we go from here? I’m convinced that the resources to move forward are in the gospel of Jesus Christ. As a Christian, I’m confident that every person is blinded by their sinfulness and is unable to see everything with omniscient clarity. In fact, our inability to see rightly can only be healed by the one who is without blinders, limitation, and sin – Jesus Christ.
The good news of Christ not only brings salvation and life, but it is also fertile ground for instruction. In the gospel story, Christ, the Redeemer, demonstrated unparalleled humility that the Christian is called to embody. In fact, the journey of the Christian life begins with a humble cry for mercy at the foot of the cross; a posture that must be sustained throughout our lives.
I’m convinced that too many Christians have long forgotten the humility of Christ demonstrated in the gospel and its inherent role in our lives. In addition to the Word of God, God has given us the Word, Christ, and one another to help us overcome our often truncated understanding of his world. It’s only by imitating the humility of Christ that we can “consider others as better than ourselves” (Phil. 2:3) and therefore lessen the division in our country.
In this cultural moment, the barrage of verbal epithets and violence must come to an end and dialogues laced with Christ-like humility must take its place. Environments need to be cultivated where individuals can be heard on their own terms, without their lived experience being invalidated by another’s. Finally, after each of us has given an honest and sustained effort to stand in one another’s shoes, as Christ modeled in the incarnation, we as a society can begin to work together to address the individual and systemic issues that trouble us as a nation.
In subsequent posts, I hope to begin to untangle the web of issues that muddy the Ferguson developments. I’ll start by exploring how the collective memory of people groups alter their perspective which results in a plethora of conclusions in matters like the non-indictment of Officer Wilson. Following that post, I’ll engage other pertinent issues including systemic racism, racial conditioning and profiling, privilege, etc. I look forward to the dialogue.