A Year From “Ferguson”

Aug 10, 2015   //   by efremsmith   //   justice, reconciliation, the church  //  2 Comments

Yesterday was the one year anniversary of the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. His death came within the very unfortunate conflict with Officer Darren Wilson. Our nation slipped deeper in the ditch of the racial divide after that event. Or one could state that our nation went deeper into the sea of the matrix of race that has plagued us since our inception. Though some tried to have healthy and constructive dialogues and strategic action meetings they were drowned out by extreme political ideology, some leaders who seemed more enamored with cameras than solutions, violent riots, and in some cases movements which lacked true leadership or a clear end game. The tensions between Under-resourced, African American Communities and Police Departments are not new. Individual and Systemic Racism is not new. The is not a one year old problem. The ministry I serve, World Impact, was initially birthed out of the Watts Riots. These riots began after a violent altercation between an African American family and the Police in 1965. And along with this history, this past year has been one filled with grief for me. Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Frank Gray, Walter Scott, Sandra Bland, The Mother Emmanuel AME Church Nine… Did we learn anything from the past? Or did we simply choose to forget?

I could move beyond this year and mention Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, and even go way back and mention Emmit Till. But again to go there you would have to be willing to see the reasoning in connecting the distant past with this past year and even with today. You don’t even have to buy into a narrative that these lives are all connected in order for your heart to be deeply grieved. But I’m not grieved just by what has transpired this past year nor is my grieving just limited to the loss of these lives. Yes, we must address the deaths of unarmed African Americans and you don’t have to spew anti-Police rhetoric to do it. You don’t have to spark violent riots to do it. All you have to do is recognize that we live in an upside-down, sinful, broken, and dysfunctional world. You don’t have to demonize people in order to acknowledge this. All you have to do is realize what Christ realized at the conclusion of Matthew 9 in Scripture. He looked at the multitude and had compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. This multitude that Christ looked upon was full of sin, oppression, corruption, division, and death. This is true in our nation today. But, Christ had a solution. A solution that included new life, healing, empowerment and transformation. We need healing, transformation, empowerment, and conversion of the multitudes today.

I know a lot of good Police Officers. I have been touched, blessed, and helped on many occasions by them. I have also been the victim of racial profiling on a number of occasions in encounters with the Police as well. I have come to realize that in every field and in every system there is good and bad, beautiful and ugly, right and wrong. If we would become humble enough to acknowledge the brokenness within humanity and with all of our systems and institutions we could move towards solutions. There are multitudes of people who are like sheep without a shepherd. Some are poor and marginalized. Some are in positions of authority. If we would take the time to embrace this truth, we could begin to solve the problem at the root that has brought so much grief this past year. Our criminal justice system is broken and we don’t have to throw police officers as a whole under the bus to address that fact. Racism is still real and we don’t have to throw all White People under the bus to address that fact. A culture of “Thug-ology” that has led to so many homicides and shootings that are Black on Black is real and we don’t have to throw all inner-city Black males under the bus to address that. We have lost a value of life in the womb, but we don’t have to throw any woman under the bus to address that. How we address these social ills, sins, and injustices, is first by taking on the same compassionate mission that Christ showed us. We need a Kingdom advancing and compassionate mission focused on African American urban youth and families as well as Police Officers for example. It is very possible for the Church to be a force of liberation and reconciliation in the spirit and theology of J. Deotis Roberts and Martin Luther King Jr. Incorporating their theologies and strategies into modern day ministry models is the urgent work of the church. The urban church must work individually and collectively with Missions and Para Church organizations to professionalize urban youth and family ministry right now. Police Chaplains must see themselves as missionaries to Police Officers right now. The Church must work collectively and compassionately across denomination, urban and suburban, and race right now to develop a Kingdom advancing and reconciling agenda that is rooted in compassion, justice, mercy, and healing. There are already many ministries that are taking this challenge and have been in the trenches for a long time, but there are not enough. And in too many cases the Church is fractured, segregated, and too focused inwardly on unhealthy issues that aren’t relevant for today’s mission field. The Church must also be willing to break the chains of slavery and leave the plantations of extreme political ideologies, false theologies, materialism, and modern day Towers of Babel. Only a Free Church surrendered to the Kingdom of God can lovingly, boldly, and non-violently take on the demonic forces of injustice, racism, thug-ology, materialism, and Herod-like leadership structures. There must be servant-leaders in the Church who are willing to be bridges of reconciliation and ambassadors of the Kingdom of God in these troubled times.

Yes, my heart is grieved, but my spirit is hopeful and determined. Let us work together as children of God and citizens of God’s Kingdom to extend truth, transformation, justice, love, reconciliation, and new life within this broken reality before us.

2 Comments

  • Once again, “Amen” to everything you have said in this blog. I have been thinking about how to best articulate to people why “Black Lives Matter” is such an important theme in the church and in society. Many in society and in the church (especially those that fall under the white evangelical category) make a point of saying “All Lives Matter” or “Police Lives Matter” etc as though African Americans are only saying their lives matter. Of course, African Americans think all lives matter.
    Your tweet on Twitter was the smartest articulation of why “Black Lives Matter” is such an important campaign.
    For those who have not read it, here it is:

    Yes, All lives matter to God. The point is All Lives Don’t Matter in this Sinful, Divided and Broken World. The church must deal with that.

    Thank you for all you do to spread the Gospel in the inner city. World Impact has my financial support and you and the World Impact Ministry are in my prayers. God Bless you and your family!

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