On Monday night, my wife and I sat in our suburban St. Louis family room and watched St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCullough tell reporters and the world that the grand jury did not return a true bill against Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown. In other words, no charges would be filed.
Since the death of Brown in August, I have heard and read much about the case, and early on I understood one thing.
Tell me how you vote, and I will likely be able to tell you your opinion on the Brown case.
I first saw it two days after Brown’s death. A good friend published a blog post, which was as extreme as any I have seen since that time. Anyone who gently pointed out that we didn’t yet know the facts to draw any conclusion was rudely dismissed – this happened because of endemic and institutional racism, and because white police officers are by definition racist.
My friend is an otherwise gentle soul. I like his writing and his books. I’ve reviewed his books, and favorably; in fact, that’s how we introduced ourselves to each other. I wasn’t surprised at his feelings; I was shocked at the absolutist way he responded to even mild criticism. He seethed with anger.
Many people have been writing about Ferguson. The writing is largely predictable, even among most Christians. I’ve seen lots of feelings, beliefs, arguments, and advice. What I have yet to see – from any sector or individual – is wisdom.
And let me say right here I have no wisdom to offer. This is not the time for wisdom.
Yesterday I watched the press conference by the mayor of Ferguson, followed by the press conference by the governor of Missouri trying to explain why the National Guard wasn’t sent into Ferguson last night until after the business district was looted and burned. (Looters hit corporate targets like Walgreens, McDonalds and Toys R Us; they also hit a cake shop, a beauty supply business, a Chinese restaurant, a public storage facility and the convenience store where Michael Brown was filmed stealing cigars minutes before his death). I did not watch the press conference by Attorney General Eric Holder.
It was the Ferguson mayor’s press conference that has stayed in my mind. With the mayor were ministers from local churches, urging calm and an end to the violence. One, an African-American woman whom I bet can blow out the windows when she’s in the pulpit, gave a mini-sermon. None of them offered words of wisdom.
They offered something more: love and hope.
If our community is to find our way through this to something better, it won’t be politicians, who have generally made the situation worse, who lead us. It won’t be the anarchists who seem to have arrived by the busload from out of town. It won’t be the media, and it certainly won’t be the editorial writers at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
It will be the church.
Not churches collectively, but “the church,” the Christians who belong to various denominations and attend various churches. I saw them at the mayor’s press conference, and I recognized them. I see them at my own church, which is still a buttoned-down Presbyterian kind of place. I see them at a lot of churches in St. Louis, and I see some who don’t attend church at all.
In The Cure: What if God Isn’t Who You Think He Is and Neither Are You, authors John Lynch, Bruce McNichol and Bill Thrall say this: “We’re learning to live with a community of people who trust God and others with what is true about them. We discover we’re part of a destiny bigger than our own. While we have an individual destiny, the community we are part of also has a destiny, and we are intertwined with it.”
It will be the church who leads us, the church led by the Spirit.
Politicians will not be able to do this.
Only the Spirit-led church can do it.
Led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, we’ve been reading The Cure. To see more posts on this chapter, “Two Destinies,” please visit Jason at Connecting to Impact. This concludes our discussion of the book.
Photograph by Ken Kistler via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.