In the past couple of weeks, particularly on Facebook, I have been seeing more and more of my Christian friends posting about ISIS. They’ve shared stories that may or may not have been true (about people being beheaded), linked to mainstream news outlets highlighting stories of Christian persecution, and even changed their avatars to stand with their “brothers” or “sisters” half a world away, in the middle east. They type out passionate calls for justice and peace and mercy, O Lord.
And yet, over the weekend, on Saturday evening, in a nondescript place in Middle America, someone who is probably a lot more similar to them, and yet totally different from them, was killed. Unjustly and without reason. And yet there has been little to no outrage on Facebook. A young black man was killed in Ferguson, Missouri, and the community surrounding him rose up and has shouted for justice. And the rest of the world is silent.
Let me get really real. I see a whole boatload of white, comfortable, Christians, shouting loudly in the Facebook streets at their Iraqi brothers and sisters being persecuted. And now, when 18-year-old unarmed Missourian Michael Brown gets gunned down by police... silence.
So, if our outrage and cries for justice are only reserved for Christians who are being persecuted, and not for a young black man, and his family, and his community, are we not glaring hypocrites?
If we can shout against injustice in all number of foreign countries, and yet turn our gaze aside when it is in our own country, with our neighbor, are we not embodying Jesus’ story of someone with a plank in their eye, pointing out a speck in another's?
Since when have we been called to stand for ourselves, protect ourselves and defend ourselves? The Bible speaks of defending the widow, the poor, the oppressed. It does not speak of defending the Christian who is defenseless, but the oppressed. The defenseless. Point blank. We attempt to fence in those who should be recipients of justice and mercy… while the God of the Bible talked of opening wide the tents, and grafting people in, and calling “not a people,” “my people.” We are so concerned with our own that we’ve forgotten how to care for others.
So, I will say it point blank. If you are not grieved, and not outraged… you are not paying enough attention. Your myopic views are concerned with the people who look like you and who have the same faith as you.
If you are not grieved, and not outraged… you are a hypocrite. Our call to defend the defenseless does not know boundaries - whether it is a boundary of faith, race, sexuality or income.
If you are not absolutely grieved and outraged by what is happening in Ferguson, Missouri, you don’t understand that this place has been militarized, that the First Amendment has been spit on, that people have been shot at and tear-gassed and wrongly put in jail. Maybe you look on with dismay, or sympathy. Your tears and wailing for Iraqis and North Koreans and Jews are loud and clear, but your silence here will one day speak against you.
But maybe you are more outraged by your beloved Christian country disappearing, and you are more riled by patriotism than by injustice. Well, when the police come to town in tanks, and the freedom of the press is taken away, it's not really America anymore in Missouri. And if it's not America in Missouri, it's not America anywhere.
I cannot pretend to know the history of Ferguson, Missouri, and the years and context that have brought this town to this place. I cannot pretend to know what it is like to experience racism.
But I do know this. A young man was killed because he was black. And that is not just wrong; that is evil.
There’s this story in the Bible about a shepherd who would leave his 99 sheep to go find the one. The story is in the context about a sinner being saved and there being rejoicing over that one person.
But I want to believe that just as God rejoices over one saved, he is outraged by one person wronged. He is outraged, and would leave His flock to go and find and defend that person.
(Mike Brown is not just one person, wrongly killed. He unfortunately and tragically is one in a line of too many young black men killed for being black).
But, God is outraged by what happened to Mike Brown, and what is happening to this community. He is outraged by the bullets, by his body being left in the street, by the people getting thrown out of McDonalds, wrongly arrested, and by the tear gas and tanks and soldiers with automatic weapons.
I am praying for a prophetic witness to rise up. For The Church to stand in the streets, and for Her calls for justice be loud and clear.
Let justice roll down, Lord.
If you'd like to know more about what is going on in Ferguson:
- Look at the #IfTheyGunnedMeDown hashtag, and see powerful images of how the media portrays black men who are victims.
- Read Sarah Bessey's post, a calling out of the silence of Christians, and a few humble observations of what's going on.
- Theological Bankruptcy by Yolanda Pierce