We Are Ferguson

I asked a local seminarian and active pastor this week what his thoughts were about all that is happening in Ferguson, MO right now. He responded:

“It’s not my issue to speak into as a white man.”

I’ve never experienced more apathy in regards to racial injustice than when I’m around white American [mainline or evangelical] pastors. I scoured the internet attempting to locate and find words or a call to action from an evangelical leader or institution on the issue of systemic racism, and institutionalized violence… Slim to nothing[1]. I found tweets coming from Shaun King, Christena Cleveland, Eugene Cho, Buzzfeed even. Intertwined between these, evangelical institutions tweeted pictures of kids at Christian camp, cliche pictures overlaid with cliche christian quotes [about nothing], 18 year olds contemplating buying a home with a basement [2]The thing is, when BUZZFEED is doing more on the issue of injustice than the white evangelical Church something is wrong!

To be clear, evangelicalism’s quietude is not a case of not knowing what to say, how to say it, or being too distant from the problem. It’s not merely a case of leaders and people staring into an isolated incident and needing to collect data before they act. It’s not a case of not having media outlets and channels of its own. No. In incident after incident—proving a pattern, a systemic problem that requires eyes-and-mouth-wide-open denouncement—the church has turned her head, closed her eyes, and pressed tight her lips. The problem dominates local and national news. But evangelicalism changes the channel and carries on with regularly scheduled programming. Even if the revolution is televised, evangelicalism ain’t even willing to watch much less join. – Thabiti Anyabwile

This issue of systemic racism is not solely a “black issue.” The issue in Ferguson is not “their” issue. The issue in Ferguson is collectively our issue. We are all human, therefore we must all suffer with and stand by Ferguson. Because we are ferguson. What I’m talking about right now is solidarity, unity, the body of Christ. Whether or not you’re white, or for this matter, black, African American, Asian, Hispanic, or any other POC [3], there is no reason for you to remain silent on what’s taking place, in not just Ferguson, but across our nation.  To remain silent because you’re white is to lend power to this socially fabricated construct we call “race” [4].

We Are Ferguson
Left, police officers detained a protester in Ferguson, Mo.; right, a police dog attacked a civil rights demonstrator in Birmingham, Ala., in May 1963. [Credit Left, Whitney Curtis for The New York Times; right, Bill Hudson, via Associated Press]
There are times to tell people what they want to hear, and there are times to tell people what they need to hear. In a Church inundated by a racist southern agenda it’s time to tell people what they need to here. I’m not asking a pastor to morph into a prophet, I’m requesting that the pastor choose to stand for her brother, his sister, and to, simply put, do justice. The goal is not to incite guilt or shame on those who are silent. To feel guilt and shame is to only feel for oneself, that would be unproductive. The hope is that you feel compassion, mercy, and out of that flows justice… 

But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. [Amos 5:24]

If Ferguson has not shown the nation that this idea of a “post-racial” society is just a figment of the privileged imagination, then nothing will. [Speaking particularly to the white Church] It seems that in the name of political correctness we’ve historically forsaken the name of Christ. We’ve been quicker to reach for the wealthy congregants money than to make an effort at acknowledging the POC ‘s humanity. I think Anyabwile says it best again: “[Evangelicalism] should also be the good Samaritan religion, a religion of justified people who demonstrate their justification in practical acts of compassion for its beaten, robbed and left-for-dead ethnic-other neighbors.”

We’ve seen the social experiments exposing racism. We’ve been exposed to elderly women, unarmed, beaten by police. My questions are:

How many more videos must we see of people with darker skin complexion dehumanized and brutalized by an unlawfully militarized police…

How many more unarmed civilian’s, Mike Brown’s, Trayvon Martin’s, Ezell Ford’s must die…

How many more videos of injustice have to be uploaded to YouTube…

How many more Fruitvale Station’s do they have to turn into movies…

…Until the conservative white Church speaks up, stands up, and acts on this injustice?

This is not a time to sit idly on the fence. How we as the Church choose to respond to Ferguson or how we choose to not respond to Ferguson will show which side we stand on. Silence in this matter directly implies compliance.

These injustices reveal the reality in which we live, that being a constructed social hierarchy that justifies the brutality of certain groups of people within humanity. “This has gone on too long, cost too much, and hurt too many innocent people.” Many of us remain silent, for the sake of niceness but now we must speak for the sake of justice. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

As we learned in Sunday School, “Red, yellow, black, or white we are precious in His sight…” Red, Yellow, Black, or White… we are all the Church and body of Christ. Again, this issue of systemic racism is not solely a “black issue.” The issue in Ferguson is not “their” issue. The issue in Ferguson is collectively our issue. We are all human, therefore we must all suffer with and stand by Ferguson. We are the Church, which means we are ferguson. Either do something, or please just stop calling yourself a Christian. 

On Friday I will be posting on “Practical Steps We Can Make In Light of Racism” – Until then, it’s simple – Speak up, say something, anything. If you can’t find your own words then share this post via Facebook or Twitter #WeAreFerguson

[1] Matt Chandler did a good job speaking on this issue.

[2] This is not to say that camps are bad, buying a home with a basement is wrong, or that pictures of your food are evil. I’ll tweet this stuff even, but I’m just asking that we occasionally tweet about things of deeper meaning and importance.

[3] POC = Person of Color

[4] To POC [not all, but many] the only thing more hurtful than white Christian’s standing by and watching racial injustice are POC/minorities standing by and watching racial injustice.

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  • Steve

    Love you brother, but it’s beginning to sound like that in your attempts to win the battle against mainstream “White American Christianity”, you’ve surrendered your judgement. Yes, you’re a rebel. An inconoclast. The voice of the struggle. We get it. But before you start down a road that seemingly seeks to justify looting and rioting, it might not be a bad idea to await the results of the investigation into what actually occurred. Fact is, there’s nothing noble about what’s made international news in Ferguson, Missouri. It’s a mess. A shameful, hot mess, and it’s only getting worse as the punditry brain trust carries us all further and further from what really happened. Sometimes your inner “Angry Young Man” blurs your judgement, Andy.

  • randy gill

    why are you such a hypocrite andy? you say you do not want to hear white men’s opinions on race yet you criticize them when they do not offer their opinion. Also white men will apologize for what they have done when everyone first thanks them for pulling everyone else kicking and screaming out of a backwards world. Everything you enjoy in terms of modern society are here because of white men. So get rid of your computer, your phone, your car, and 99% of the things that make your life easier on a daily basis if white men are so terrible.