Photo credit HERE
BY JAKE DOCKTER, RYAN KENJI KURAMITSU, and MICKY JONES
These images, posted and popping up all over media, are both shocking and confusing. What are we to do with them?
How do we make sense of the senseless?
How do we talk about something we should never have to talk about?
In the death of Mike Brown, VonDerrit Myers, John Crawford, and others, and in the protests of Ferguson, MO, much has been brought to light.
Militarization of police.
The de-humanization of an entire community.
Ferguson is America at its worst.
Photo Credit HERE
I lift up my eyes to the mountains — where does my help come from?
Our pain is an impossible project, one that raises questions we cannot solve on our own. Why would a good God permit evil to exist in the world? What, if anything, can we make of these events ? Some kind of an answer only begins to take shape in community, among others who are suffering. Our answers will not emerge solely from the desks of detached academics, but from the streets, among weeping mothers and grieving sons.
As emptied of hope as things appear, Ferguson is also us at our best. We stand with others in their protest. We take to the streets and demand change. We come together in community and let our tears speak for themselves. We find the inspiration to stand with others while rifles are pointed at our children and ourselves.
Hundreds have taken to the streets to demand accountability, and thousands across the world have lent their support through other means. The vast majority of those on W. Florissant, and in solidarity in New York, Detroit, Atlanta, and countless other cities, are not genetically related to the Brown family. But we stand together in protest of their lost son.
Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” And he said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground.…
So we ask: how can we make sense of this?
How can we find the courage to march, to shout, to withstand tear gas?
From where does our strength come?
In many ways, the task is impossible. In the aftermath of Ferguson, we can’t and shouldn’t try to make any objective sense of it. There is no rational conclusion to be drawn here, no sense in this senseless act. Eleven shots taken. Six bullets in Mike Brown's body. A child dead in the street. No moral calculus adds up to anything valuable.
We must stay in these broken places until the people who have been broken are no longer oppressed. If we cannot make sense of this, how else can we move forward? Do we remain in this busted and broken place, or is this deep urge to act, to protest and move and scream and call out – is this something we should follow?
This is the tension of faith.
For those of us who claim this mantle, for those who call ourselves a people of faith, Ferguson is not just a civic problem. Nor is it merely a racial problem, an issue for those people to deal with. Ferguson has revealed the depth of our divisions, our human desire to segregate ourselves from the pain of others. Folks say:
“I am not in Missouri. That is their issue.”
“I am not black. That is not my problem.”
“We live on this side of town. The problems are over there.”
We can always find things that keep us apart. Things that encourage us to stay away, to avoid encountering each other at all costs. But faith of all forms teaches us to find connections. To bridge divides. Our shared humanity bumping against each other is a sacred act. In Christianity, we call this incarnation. We are called to see each other face to face. We are called to see the divinity in each other. To proclaim with confidence that systems of division are not of God.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
In the divine, we are all brought together with no division. So as we see lines drawn in the road, cloudy with teargas, and shotguns pointed at citizens…it is hard to see the kingdom of God.
There is precedent for this sort of thinking. The Christian scriptures themselves were not uniformly inscribed by a single person — rather, we see in the Bible a collection of community conversations and conversions, a plethora of perspectives and a people committed to gathering around mystery and pain and trying to find some way to move forward together.
We can attempt to make some sense of the senseless, or to at least to sit together in the midst of chilled silence at the murder of an innocent young man. We may not find an answer but that is not our call. We are not asked to make sense of it, but we are asked to try, to give voice, and to bear witness. We are not fixers but witnesses. We, as Christians, follow one like Mike Brown. Both sacrificed for an empire in which we live but do not claim allegiance.
Isn’t that what our faith is about anyways?
To read more about faith, race, Ferguson, racism, and Christian responses, visit Theology of Ferguson.