For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace. – Ecclesiastes 3:1,7-8
I read the following discussion on Twitter about the unrest in Ferguson, MO.
— Denny Burk (@DennyBurk) August 20, 2014
— Thabiti Anyabwile (@ThabitiAnyabwil) August 20, 2014
Thabiti Anyabwile wrote a blog post about evangelicals exercising theological and practical leadership on this. The twitter thread is a bit of a rebuke of evangelicals who’ve remained silent. I’m one of them and so it prompted me to ask myself why I have chosen to remain quite. Here are some of my reasons:
1) Privilege. I am a white, middle-class male in my 50s. The only reason employees in a store watch me closely when I walk in is because they are working on commission and want to make a sale. When/if I ever get pulled over it by the police they worst they will suspect me of is drunk driving. I cannot imagine what the situation on the ground is in Ferguson because of my privileged position in American society. This leads to:
2) Ignorance. I have never been to Ferguson, MO so I don’t know what the conditions are there. I don’t understand all that transpired between a white, well-armed cop and a large, unarmed black teenager and so I am profoundly unqualified to comment upon it. The only thing I can say that would be acceptable due to my privilege would be to condemn the shooting of yet another black man. I condemn that since every human life is precious. But which reason for the shooting shall I condemn? Systemic racism in the police force? Unyielding economic oppression of blacks in America? Generational un/underemployment and an American society that perpetuates huge obstacles to changing that situation? The militarization of local police forces? Yes, all of these but I have no idea what the mix of these factors and others are at play in Ferguson.
3) Room. Because of the above two factors, I believe it is best for me to keep my mouth shut and allow the protestors and the Missouri government to surface the real issues at play there. My voice, privileged and ignorant as it is, will not contribute to that process. My social-media-fueled opinions, if they were even to matter or be heard, cannot help. The protestors need to keep the pressure on the government and the police need to be allowed to complete their investigation. Twitter and Facebook will not help and may actually hurt. It would be good if Ferguson were not in the 24-hour news cycle but were only reported on when something important happens. The media need to be there to add pressure to what the protestors are already applying but the rampant speculation and knee-jerk commentary that fuel the news cycle won’t help. My feeble contribution won’t help either.
4) Prayer. Since I am ignorant and my opinion is slanted by my place in society, I am uniquely unable to help. But I know someone who knows the intimate details of what happened down to the thoughts and intentions of every heart involved. He is sovereign over the Ferguson police and mayor, even over the Justice Department and president. He holds sway even over the crowds of protesters and scandal-hungry media. And he commands me to pray to him, to ask him to grant us peace, and for him to give our elected officials, his ministers in all of this, wisdom. Prayer is not not doing anything. It is appealing to the greatest, wisest, most benevolent power in the universe to move in human affairs. My best course of action to do something that can actually help, is to pray that God will bring justice to our divided, conflicted, drifting nation. Including and especially Ferguson, Missouri. And so I am doing the best thing I can do.
All of this does not mean that I am not interested in racial justice in America. I am sorely aware of the twisted justice system and racist economic system in this nation. The problems confound me and the solutions elude me but I do long for justice and peace and freedom to come to this place. I long for the day when slavery and its ugly shadow will be lifted from out nation. I want everyone in this nation to be able to improve their lot in life by hard work and by enjoying the fruit of the labor of their hands. I want the police to once again “serve and protect” and not be a revenue stream for municipalities. Where I can see clearly, I will speak when I believe I have something to add. Wisdom in this case seems to be for me to hold my tongue and pray.