Ferguson, and its fallout, has bothered me more than just about every other cultural event in recent years. Around 100 days ago, I became gripped to its story, images and characters. Several nights in a row were spent, eyes glued to Twitter (because anyone who knows, knows that any news on Ferguson worth reading, was on Twitter), until early in the morning hours.
Another young, unarmed black man (kid) had been shot and killed by a white police officer.
This refrain, sadly, is not new. This story has been written before. But, for some reason, Ferguson was different. This time, the story took on new life, deeper meaning. The story transcended itself. The images painted multi-dimensional pictures. The characters were shadows and types of people beyond themselves.
For me, the Ferguson story was revealing. In the midst of another tragedy of violence, and then violence responding to violence, emerged a more important story. In no way do I mean to diminish the loss of life of Michael Brown and his family, or the turmoil felt by officer Darren Wilson and his, or to dismiss a community of hurting people. I simply mean that this larger story both includes these, yet transcends them in telling us something bigger, something deeper, something more important… something about ourselves that we would be wise to listen to, lest another smaller story like this one (or worse) is told in the not too distant future.
You see, to me, while this is about Michael Brown and Darren Wilson and Ferguson and its people – it is also more – it is about who they represent. While this is indeed about race and injustice – it is also more – it is about what they represent.
- White privilege.
- Black oppression.
- Gun culture.
- Violence begetting more violence.
- Polarized hate.
The lie and illusion of fear and separation are at the root of the Ferguson story, and Ferguson is a microcosm of that fear and separation in rule over most of humanity. We are all culpable. We all have blood on our hands as a result.
We really haven’t evolved much as a humanity, after all. We are still bigots, look down and differently on the “other” – these days, we are just usually a little quieter about it than we used to be. We’ve all got our biases, me included, and we form mindsets and world views based on these biases that inform our responses. We feel separated, and so we separate to gain a sense of inclusion. We really don’t know crap about what it’s like to be in another’s shoes. (As long as ours are nicer, who cares?)
Guns and money are lord. We may say we want peace. It sounds good in pageants and campaign speeches, but when the rubber hits the road – we want the power and the control. And what better to gain and maintain these than with the almighty dollar and a firearm. “Peace” is with whomever has the dough and the AK-47s. When we are presented with fear, the one with the gun gains confidence. Bullets are easy to stand behind and impossible to face in the heat of the moment. We’ll clean up the mess later, when tempers settle – only the mess will include permanently dead people. We spend billions outfitting “keepers of peace” with life-ending machinery, training and preparing men and women to fight and preemptively bringing conflict locally and around the world. Oh, and all of this is more than ok when it is for the Empire, for love of country. We are living by the sword (gun, bomb, etc.), and we will soon die by it if we do not have a change of mind.
Violence is always the final level of progression in failing to see the sameness and Oneness in another. It is the curse of Cain (the genesis of all civilization). We kill because we desire what another has. We slay out of jealousy. We slaughter what we fear, don’t understand, and cannot empathize, relate or belong with. This is always the cruel, last step in what can be traced to layer upon layer of previous responses of violence, with violence. What is today hateful words on Facebook from both sides of a polarized argument (politics, gender, sexuality, race, religion (oh, God, religion), this Ferguson event, etc. – just go check your feeds), will tomorrow manifest itself in the loss of life in violent response to violence. It’s all fruit from the same (wrong) tree – just more fully grown.
If you’re paying attention, what Ferguson is showing us (no matter what you believe or feel about Michael Brown, Darren Wilson, police use of force, judicial process, non-indictments, riots, etc.) is that we as a humanity are choosing to live in the hell of our own demand for judgement. While much will be said about “justice” in this conversation surrounding Ferguson, Real Justice, the only One that matters, is a Person. Jesus Himself is Judge, and He came not to Judge, but to bring Justice. Except His brand is not to dole out to each one “what they deserve.” Jesus-Justice is about showing all people, every single one of us, that He has already included us. There is no fear. There is no separation. We are not judged, in the sense of being excluded.
But we want to be.
How else can you explain the pattern of self-judgement and other-judging that marks human history, right up to this time, and illustrated in Ferguson, MO and in the newsfeed and timelines of those chiming in?
“Michael Brown” only steals cigars from a shop out of a lack of seeing that he is loved, included, provided for, and has everything he needs in the Fellowship of the Divine.
“Darren Wilson” only fires his gun out of a “fear of his own life” from a lack of seeing any other Way, and reacting with culture, perception, tradition, training (said or unsaid) that has conditioned him to “fear” a large, black “demon” (the word he used) coming toward him.
“Ferguson” only protests and sets cars and buildings on fire from a lack of feeling included, dignified, belonging with, respected, listened to. As Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said, “Riots are the language of the unheard.”
At our core, we don’t know, really know, that we belong. Out of a failure to trust our Eternal Belonging, we create our own (some call this religion), and then judge ourselves “in” and others “out.” We want some to belong with us, but all cannot. So, we demonize. We hate. Ultimately, we kill. The comfort and inclusion offered by weapons, money and Empire calm our fear and help us justify the separating. To me, this is the bigger story that “Ferguson” is showing us, as a people. This is the sobering reality we must own, and begin to move away from.
Many suggestions will be offered in the coming days, some of them even sincere, about how to respond to the violence and events in Ferguson. The sincere ones will be searching for unity, peace, for resolution to and dissolving of violence, and for prevention of reoccurrence and escalation. Only one suggestion will be worth listening to and remaining in:
Love one another.”
Embedded in this is what I hope we see, and learn to live in, and live out.
One – not an. other.
We are One. Jesus accomplished this for us on the Cross. We are One with the Trinity, and One with each other. This is the Gospel. We are included. We belong. We are all beautifully different and diverse, individually – and yet mystically and gloriously the same, without distinction as a Family. We are reconciled, and it is ours to announce, proclaim, declare and demonstrate that to all. There is no black or white, male or female, American or other nationality. All of these are the seeds of Adam, and are dead. We are all the seed of Christ. We belong in Him, and He belongs in all of us. There is no “other.” There is only One. This is the message of Heaven.
To reject this, consciously or unconsciously, is to reject Love Himself, which is to be in Hell. And isn’t that what Ferguson (and Facebook) looked like last night?
When we see this message of Oneness – in God, and in each other – trust this, and live this – we will no longer have Ferguson. We won’t even have any longer the bigger story of what Ferguson represents. We will only have The Story – that in which we are realizing and resting in our glorious inclusion in Divine Life – ever-loving and ever-giving selflessly from this Vine – one to each other.
Then we will see Him in His All in All Fullness and Shalom, and the Kingdom of Heaven will have indeed come on Earth.
My hope is that Ferguson becomes the catalyst to begin representing something else, Another Story. This one rises from the ashes and reveals Light and Life. This story paints a picture of selflessness, Love, and one-anothering. These characters have beaten swords into plowshares, are colorless, nameless, and countryless – but nevertheless have never belonged more in their life. They are Jesus – equally in, with and alongside – Michael Brown, Darren Wilson, the people of Ferguson – and all like them, and those that they represent. This story includes, but transcends. It is of itself, but not only itself. It is beyond. It is more.
It is the greatest Story ever told.
It is Love.