Ferguson and Repenting of our Missional Silence

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(UPDATE: The article below was originally written on August 19th, 10 days after Mike Brown was killed.

Yesterday, a grand jury chose not to indict the police officer responsible for his death. My heart is broken for Mike Brown’s family, for Ferguson and for the brokenness throughout our society.

Our desire is not to focus on the verdict. Many better things have been or will be written on the verdict. Our desire is to focus on where we need to go as a society and the role of the church in moving our culture there.

In our sadness, we mourn with those who mourn and we look forward to Heaven when mourning will end. As we look forward, we offer simply an article to provoke thought, invite repentance, and offer thoughts on a better way forward. We can’t change the verdict or Mike Brown’s death, but we can let it change us.

We have chosen to update & re-post this article for a few reasons.

1) We are tired of this happening. There must be a shift in our culture, a change so another family doesn’t lose their child, and injustice is not allowed to continue.

2) Change only comes by repentance. Daniel repented of his people’s sins, offering us an example of being broken over and associating ourselves with sins we may not have committed, but have caused great pain.

3) We are anxious for God to heal. May God hear our cries of repentance and may He heal the brokenness of our society. May the church model, promote, pray for, and create the change we long to see.

Martin Luther King Jr. said “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” God’s justice is greater than man’s justice, but may we, the church, be found fighting with God to end injustice everywhere that His justice in Christ may be found there.)

The shooting death of teenager Mike Brown and the resulting aftermath of protests and inordinate police response have dominated the news cycle. The scene looked more like the Gaza strip than a suburb outside of St. Louis, MO. These things continue to happen and reveal that it is more than an isolated event, but actually endemic of a larger cultural issue.

What has happened in Ferguson and to Mike Brown is unacceptable on so many levels, but we must recognize how we are all a part of the cause. The church at large, and especially the majority white church in America, must consider how we must repent of our silence in areas where we have the opportunity to make a difference.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said,

“We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.”

That was 50 years ago, but now it’s time for our repentance. It’s time for us to repent of our silence, of our lack of actions, and of buying into the wrong cultural norms and not being appropriately counter-cultural for the good of all people.

Silence has become a white privilege. We only have to speak up when we want to, instead of speaking up long before we have to. We want to be missional, but we become missionally silent when it’s time to engage.

The ways of Jesus beckon us to seek His Kingdom here on earth, His will here on Earth as we will one day experience in Heaven, but we’ve bought into the wrong kingdom.

Share this: Silence has become a white privilege.

America: The Culture of Fear, of Death, and of Separatism

America has become a culture of fear, death, and separatism. The news cycle feeds on it, cultivates it, and we all buy in and it’s causing the demise of our society. It’s horrendous to watch, awful to feel, and we all long for things to be different.

The church is too often influenced by the culture, lagging behind in their ability to process and engage. We are rarely thoughtful and prayerful enough to identify the cultural norms that are wrong and the ways in which we can display the change found in Jesus.

The cultural norms of Jesus’ kingdom are far greater than our American kingdom and our country, cities, and neighborhoods benefit when we bring the greater Kingdom to our earthly home.

The Culture of Fear

The culture of fear causes us to expect the bad to happen, the terrorist attack to happen in our neighborhood, the individual we just met to hurt us, steal from us or offend us, and encourages us to be suspicious of our own neighbors. If he looks different than you, you better be careful. If her lifestyle is not the same as yours it is a threat. The church, we, bought in long ago and we were (and are) a part of the problem as we hated and hurt those who were different, those who didn’t follow the straight and narrow. Now we are on the other side often and need to recognize the culture we should have been creating all along.

The invitation we could have offered was faith and not fear. It is faith that changes us, hope in our Jesus and hope in following His way of life that makes it better for others and us. Offering a culture of faith leads to actions of trust, love, and sacrifice for your neighbor regardless of race, socio-economic class, language, or lifestyle. It’s so different than the current culture that it will be refreshing and hopeful though it may take a while to feel normal and trusted by others. We must persevere in this culture of faith to see actual change.

The Culture of Death

The culture of death involves all of us standing by as more and more deaths increase around our country and we become numb to it. As more and more people suffer from mental illness and take their lives. As more and more acts of violence rage in our streets, we stood (and still stand) silent. “It’s not guns that kill people, it’s people that kill people”…With guns. From 2000 to 2010, the number of deaths by gun violence in our country matched the population of St. Louis. We’ve been content and comfortable to watch a culture of death takeover, refusing to push back against the means and methods of violence, not offering a better way. It’s time to repent and show a better way. It’s not just death by gun violence; it’s abortion, suicide, drug abuse, and so much more. We hide from it and we remain silent about it.

Instead of a culture of death, we must push forward a culture of life. A culture of life flowing from the church would look like a community so in love with Jesus, their joy extends to provide value and dignity to every human being as it seeks the advance of all those around them. It offers ways out of bitterness, entitlement, anger, and hatred toward forgiveness, humility, love, and peace. It seeks to destroy all that kills the body and the soul, from guns and drugs to hateful slander and accusations. It presents a culture that seeks reconciliation, offers alternatives to abortion, suicide, mental illness, and drug abuse that sound crazy, like offering to be the home that cares for these people and the community that provides the environment for change.

The Culture of Separatism

The culture of separatism invites us to choose sides. Israel or Palestine, Republican or Democrat, Black or White, Rich or Poor, Police or Citizen, and demands that we not only choose one but also destroy the other. A new civil war rages in America and every day you are to choose sides of the battlefield and fight against your brother or sister because somehow your victory and their defeat will mean the advancement of society. The result: we get nowhere but angry and our factions grow together in anger feeding on half-truths and differences of other side.

The culture of unity and peace is the alternative and it is best found by following Jesus Christ. There has been no one as radically inclusive as Jesus, who would sacrifice for all, die because of a love for the whole world, and then create a church unified not around racial, political, or economic boundaries, but around His sacrificial death and victorious resurrection that would build one humanity of diverse backgrounds.

In the scriptures describing the early church, we see Acts 6 inviting us to imagine the church that would acknowledge their wrong in racial injustice and “Hebrew privilege”, repent and then invite the minority Hellenists to join the leadership and take the mission forward alongside of the majority. The following chapters show us the joy of God in expanding His mission through a racially unified people who put Jesus and God’s love above the divisions.

It’s a culture that acknowledges and values the diverse values, lifestyles, and hopes of different ethnicities and socio-economic classes by seeking understanding and celebrating the image of God in each of them.

What Repentance Looks Like

Repentance often starts by listening to those who have been sinned against, hurt, or ignored. It moves from listening to a loving ownership and empathy. It acknowledges not “I’m sorry you were hurt by this” but “I did this and it was wrong.” It must then move to change by embracing faith in the forgiveness and freedom of the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This results in change on an individual and corporate level, but change takes time, like a seed growing into a tree.

In these issues, it will take a while for the culture to shift in the church, but we must start now by seeking understanding and repentance. It’s ridiculous to shun the idea of “white privilege” without seeking to understand it and then listen to minorities in a majority culture to hear how it happens. That is simply the beginning and culture building in the opposite direction must become a commitment.

But more than anything, it’s time to stop being silent. We avoid the conversation because we don’t know what to say, but we must learn what to say by asking the right questions, by voicing displeasure and unifying with the voices that do know what they are talking about in these situations.

This requires that we stop trying to take the lead and join in a support role of minority leaders. Honor their leadership, stand behind them, and recognize, like the early church, that they have the better solutions for the church and our neighborhoods.

We must mourn the death of Mike Brown, the culture our silence has helped create and let our mourning become a movement toward ending these deaths and many others like them. We must declare that these deaths must end by building the culture of Jesus’ kingdom that offers faith, life, and peace to others.

Jesus’ resurrection was to defeat the power of death and all its causes. Let’s join Him as He achieves His full victory.