Sunday, November 30, 2014

on ferguson, part II / advent begins.

In light of the last week of events in Ferguson and around the nation, the arrival of Advent seems especially precious and necessary.  This is a season that focuses on waiting, on longing, on the deep ache for things to be made right.  I read throughout Scripture about a God who intends to restore all things, to make every person whole, and I wring my hands wondering when this relief will come, at long last, into a world broken by racism and poverty and greed and violence.  We need help.

Advent asks us to look hard and long at the pain that exists in the world, but it also asks us to not give up hope.  This feels exactly right after such a long, weary week.  I read and listen and try to bear the pain of the black community in my country, and I also cling to hope that the Kingdom of God blooms in small moments today, and will someday arrive in its fullness, making all things new and setting all wrongs right.  Here are some of the reflections and observations I have found helpful in my wrestling over the past week:

"But the chief obstacle to having an intelligent, or even intelligible, conversation across the racial divide is that on average white Americans live in communities that face far fewer problems and talk mostly to other white people...Overall, the social networks of whites are a remarkable 91 percent white. White American social networks are only one percent black, one percent Hispanic, one percent Asian or Pacific Islander, one percent mixed race, and one percent other race. In fact, fully three-quarters (75 percent) of whites have entirely white social networks without any minority presence."

-Robert P. Jones

...

"What I am talking about are the perceptions of trust Whites and Blacks have of the US legal system and how those perceptions affect the unity of the church in light of how we are responding to the news coming out of Ferguson. I especially want to draw attention to how many White Christians will harshly judge and condemn the outrage within the Black community regarding the grand jury decision. Many White Christians will ask, Why all the anger and outrage? The rule of law was followed, the grand jury did its job, the system worked.

But this easy confidence that the system 'worked' is a luxury of the privileged. It is the same easy confidence that allowed the wealthy members of the Corinthian church to expect justice to break in their favor when they took their brothers and sisters to court. The Corinthian church experienced division and disunity because its members had very different opinions about the degree to which the legal system was trustworthy versus broken, the degree to which the system was biased for or against
them. The privileged and powerful trusted the system because it worked for them. And the same holds true for White America today. And you abide by decisions you trust."

-Richard Beck

...

"The greatest problem is not with flat-out white racists, but rather with the far larger number of Americans who believe intellectually in racial equality but are quietly oblivious to injustice around them. Too many whites unquestioningly accept a system that disproportionately punishes blacks and that gives public schools serving disadvantaged children many fewer resources than those serving affluent children. We are not racists, but we accept a system that acts in racist ways.

Some whites think that the fundamental problem is young black men who show no personal responsibility, screw up and then look for others to blame. Yes, that happens. But I also see a white-dominated society that shows no sense of responsibility for disadvantaged children born on a path that often propels them toward drugs, crime and joblessness; we fail those kids before they fail us, and then we, too, look for others to blame.

Today we sometimes wonder how so many smart, well-meaning white people in the Jim Crow era could have unthinkingly accepted segregation. The truth is that injustice is easy not to notice when it affects people different from ourselves; that helps explain the obliviousness of our own generation to inequity today. We need to wake up."

-Nicholas Kristof

...

"Having been enslaved for 250 years, black people were not left to their own devices. They were terrorized. In the Deep South, a second slavery ruled. In the North, legislatures, mayors, civic associations, banks, and citizens all colluded to pin black people into ghettos, where they were overcrowded, overcharged, and undereducated. Businesses discriminated against them, awarding them the worst jobs and the worst wages. Police brutalized them in the streets. And the notion that black lives, black bodies, and black wealth were rightful targets remained deeply rooted in the broader society. Now we have half-stepped away from our long centuries of despoilment, promising, 'Never again.' But still we are haunted. It is as though we have run up a credit-card bill and, having pledged to charge no more, remain befuddled that the balance does not disappear. The effects of that balance, interest accruing daily, are all around us."

-Ta-Nehisi Coates

...

"But I serve a demonstrating Christ.

I serve a Christ who walked into the temple, looked around and felt anger. Who fashioned a whip for the purpose of driving folks out. Suddenly tables crash to the floor. Money clangs as it scatters across the floor. Feet pounding, tripping, running, racing to get out of there. Benches over turn. A whip slices through the air. A voice roars, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations. But you have made it a den of robbers.'

I serve a demonstrating Christ."

-Austin Channing

...

"That is the point of prayer maybe- not only to change the world but to change our hearts so we have new eyes with which to see the world. We can’t just TALK and DO. We have to be still first and stay open and listen so we know what to say and do.

I think that choosing the 'side' you identify with the least, and making them the focus of your prayers is as close to God as we can get."

-Glennon Melton

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