So many voices, so little unity. So here I am, another old (well, older anyway) white guy talking about things in the black community. Still, I think there are higher goals to consider.
It of course did not take long until Al Sharpton arrived in Ferguson. One can always count on the arrival of those who love the results of violence. These people are the ones who are never called upon in good times to make things better. They come in on their own after the situation deteriorates.
But where are the solutions to the problem? The lack of an indictment was not the problem. The problem began long before. No, these are not the results of slavery. Yes, they are the results of a society built around many race-based class distinctions. The contributors are many: European wealth and condescension, the socialist concepts of immutable classes and class warfare, and so much more. There is no simple solution to a complex problem. There is a clear solution but the process takes time.
The day after the grand jury announcement CNN’s Chris Cuomo paraded a litany of commentaries on what should have been done. Armchair quarterbacks every one. His rhetoric only stoked the flames. His progressive approach solved nothing. (For that matter, what has progressivism done of any value in the last 50 years? Nothing. Not really. Today it is a negative and highly defensive movement.)
Two particular voices from the black community have gotten some attention. Voddie Baucham and Benjamin Watson stand out.
Mr. Baucham is a pastor. And he experienced the life that goes on in the inner city. He says:
I have been pulled over by police for no apparent reason. In fact, it has happened on more than one occasion. I was stopped in Westwood while walking with a friend of mine who was a student at UCLA. We found ourselves lying face down on the sidewalk while officers questioned us. On another occasion, I was stopped while with my uncle. I remember his visceral response as he looked at me and my cousin (his son). The look in his eye was one of humiliation and anger. He looked at the officer and said, “My brother and I didn’t fight in Vietnam so you could treat me like this in front of my son and my nephew.”
Benjamin Watson’s statement is similar. He began his Facebook post with this:
At some point while I was playing or preparing to play Monday Night Football, the news broke about the Ferguson Decision. After trying to figure out how I felt, I decided to write it down. Here are my thoughts:
I’M ANGRY because the stories of injustice that have been passed down for generations seem to be continuing before our very eyes.
The feelings run deep. The history is long and will not go away. No law will make what we call “racism” disappear. No matter how hard liberals try. No sermon will remove the pain. And history does not disappear by being unaware of it. No matter how hard conservatives do not try.
Both gentlemen end their pieces with as follows. Mr. Baucham is concerned about the advance of the gospel in all this:
I don’t care what advantages my white neighbor may or may not have. If he does have advantages, God bless him! I no more fault him than I fault my own children who have tremendous advantages due to the fact that they were raised by two educated, Christian parents who loved, disciplined, and taught them. Ironically, when I think about THAT advantage, I am filled with joy and gratitude to God for his faithfulness. People are supposed to bequeath an advantage to their children and grandchildren (Prov. 13:22). Why, then, would I be angry with my white neighbor for any advantage he is purported to have? And what good would it do? How does that advance the gospel? Especially in light of the fact that growing up with the gospel is the ultimate privilege/advantage! It is the advantage that has granted us all “American privilege”! Are we guilty for being citizens of the wealthiest republic in the history of the world? I think not!
Mr. Watson looks does the same:
I’M ENCOURAGED, because ultimately the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem. SIN is the reason we rebel against authority. SIN is the reason we abuse our authority. SIN is the reason we are racist, prejudiced and lie to cover for our own. SIN is the reason we riot, loot and burn. BUT I’M ENCOURAGED because God has provided a solution for sin through the his son Jesus and with it, a transformed heart and mind. One that’s capable of looking past the outward and seeing what’s truly important in every human being. The cure for the Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner tragedies is not education or exposure. It’s the Gospel. So, finally, I’M ENCOURAGED because the Gospel gives mankind hope.
When I read Mr. Baucham’s statement it reminds me of what I read, firsthand, from believers in the persecuted church. He expresses little concern for self and more concern for the gospel. Mr. Watson speaks to a sense of purpose and hope.
Both of these raise an important question: Is the gospel a functional solution to this and other problems? Or are we saying this because we see the gospel in some ethereal sense, an idealization without legs? I’m afraid that the latter is the situation for many. “Just get people saved and this will fix society. The world will be at peace. Amen.” Well, yes and no.
Reading church history, including the New Testament, one cannot see the gospel and redemption apart from education. Sermons are not enough. The gospel changes live but this requires instruction. That is exactly the function of the epistles and the church fathers’ interaction with the early church. Training in moral behavior befitting our calling is what we read. Whether the slave situation with Philemon or the economic class situation noted by James, or the pride and sexual matters in Corinth, or the law-based burdens imposed in Galatia, training is everything. It is the point where real progress is made. I am seated in a local Panera right now listening to a pastor train some of the men in his calling. That’s what it takes — time commitment.
There are other steps needed as well. We can note, as did Mr. Baucham, the problem of the neo-Marxist influence that has structured society for political management. But even without dismantling these structures the believer has a “militant” faith. It exists and grows in a situation where it may be unwelcome. That’s what it has always done and will always do.
In the end nobody really speaks for Ferguson. As Christians we speak on behalf of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob under the authority of Christ to promote redemption in Christ and all which comes with it. It’s not going to be simple. But it is clear. What remains is for us to obey.