On Ferguson…

I had someone ask me in person why I haven’t blogged on Ferguson.  That’s a bummer on a few levels…  In all honesty, it boils down to not wanting to say the wrong thing, not wanting to make snap decisions, and not wanting to accidentally misuse this blog in a way that could prove hurtful to a community that I deeply care about.  One that I could easily bike to, in nice weather.  One in which I served as a minister for several years…where I have friends…where family members of mine went to church…where we held the post-funeral dinners for several members of my family.  I would hate for anything I say as an opinion to misrepresent the City of Ferguson, or to pass judgment on it unfairly.

That same friend reminded me that “you’ve already been tweeting like an asshole–so why not write it?”

I…forget that people read my tweets.  I hope none of them have accomplished any of the things I just said I was trying to avoid.  I hope this post doesn’t either (although I hope that one particular paragraph lights a fire under some folks who are presently showing themselves to be lukewarm, but I digress).  I’m organizing a jumble of thoughts on the subject, and this post is probably very inadequate.  I’m all mixed up and I’ve barely slept for several days…I apologize in advance if I write anything unfortunate or unfair as a result.

So this is my blog with my thoughts on Ferguson.  I have DEEP ties to the City of Ferguson.  I am shocked.  I am hurt.  I am in mourning for a devastated family and a panicked, wounded city.  I am afraid of what people have the ability to do when they are mad or scared enough.  I hope that sanity and compassion will win out in the end.  I am embarrassed that so far there have been those on both sides of the divide who have chosen to wreak havoc.  I am saddened that I was not shocked to learn of the same.  I am quick to anger and fear–and I am slow to remember “In your anger, do not sin.”  I do not like that about myself and am making efforts to change.

I’ve purposely not told this story before today…  I feel like maybe I should.  A few weeks ago, I was at a QuikTrip (not the one that was torched in the looting this past week).  While there, I noticed an obviously-asking-for-money, homeless, African-American man.  I also noticed a police officer sitting in a cruiser, watching him. I walked over to the man and spoke to him, asking where he was staying.  He told me where–and as chance has it, he was staying off Chambers in Ferguson for the night, anyway.  I told him I didn’t have any cash (true), but I would like to stand there with him until the police officer moved along–I’m a white middle class man, and if an officer saw me standing there with a perceived friend, he might not hassle a man who just needed some change and was doing nothing illegal.  He agreed and we made some polite small-talk, the whole while looking like we’d known each other for years.  After a while, I asked the man if I could pray for him.  He agreed, and I put my arm around his shoulder and prayed for him.  He wept and hugged me.  The policeman had moved along by that time.  I wrote down the man’s name (which I won’t share here for his anonymity) so I would remember to pray for him again after that night.

It’s three or four weeks later.  I don’t know the exact truth of what happened to Michael Brown.  But I keep wondering how the situation would’ve been different if a white man had been standing by him.  Maybe the cop would’ve moved along?  And do I really distrust the police that much?  I sure did when I was at the QuikTrip…  It saddens and disgusts me to feel like I have to think that way.  No black man should NEED a white man just to get by.  …but what if white people stand by Ferguson?  …what if I stand by Ferguson?

My overall opinion of the situation has switched several times over the past couple of days.  I want answers.  I think this area deserves answers.  I think this area deserves the truth–even if it’s a bad truth–so that we can heal.  And mostly now, I think I’m just tired and sad…and I am devastated to have poured my heart into the City of Ferguson from a religious perspective for several years only to feel like in the past few days the devil HIMSELF has dug his heels in deep. 

On Monday morning, I wrote on Facebook: “I was a minister in Ferguson for several years. I used to constantly and publicly pray, “Lord, please bring change to this city in a way that when people hear the word Ferguson they think ‘That’s where the Christians are!'” It doesn’t look that way today. But it still COULD. Go do your job today, church. And today that doesn’t include sermon writing.” I stand by that.  I am embarrassed and furious that a couple of the churches I would have expected to step up have instead stayed silent.  The Gospel dies with you if you do nothing with it, church.  (You will note that I named no names.)

In closing…  Be kind.  Be accountable.  Be authentic.  Love your neighbor.  Love your enemies.  Love your God with all your heart.  Reach out and draw near.  Pray for peace in Ferguson.  Pray for peace in St. Louis.  Pray continually–in words and in actions.

I’m going to stop writing now…  But my prayers will not cease.  Let’s build toward a better tomorrow…because today sure sucks.