There is much to be thinking about, planning for, and celebrating, with Thanksgiving this Thursday, and the season of Advent and new Church year starting on Sunday, but I wanted to say something about the decision that was announced in Ferguson, MO last night, and the events that have followed the announcement.
Seeing images of violence and looting, and seeing images of anguished and angry people are never easy. Most of us are drawn in by these images, and we react to them viscerally. It is important to remember that what we see on television or news sites is what get covers or portrayed; it is never the whole story. It is also important to recognize that in a setting where passions and feelings are as inflamed as they are in Ferguson (on all sides), there will always be some who will take advantage and manipulate the situation for their own ends.
Frankly, I am not sure what to think or believe about the grand jury’s decision and the shooting back in August. I think there is some information we may not have. I do know, however, that tensions resulting from our national history of racial injustice and the ways that continues to show up, along with strong feelings about income inequality and many other factors, are a reality of American society. Conversation about institutionalized racism and civil rights can be difficult and uncomfortable, particularly when we don’t think those things touch us personally. Having said that, we know that violence and destruction is never the answer.
Here is an excerpt of a message the Right Rev. Wayne Smith, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri, sent to his churches earlier this month: “...As people of God, we do well [to anticipate these likelihoods] by preparing spiritually. Corporate and personal prayer become crucial in times like these, and I know that some congregations expect to open their doors to be places of prayer for their neighborhoods. Their doing so encourages me, and I hope that you will publicize these invitations broadly. Now is a time to storm the throne of God.
Now is also a time for the renunciation of violence—not just physical violence, but the violence of words. The spiritual discipline of guarding what we say, out of anger or hurt, becomes immeasurably important in times like these. This discipline allows us actually to become instruments of peace.”
We Christians believe in prayer. We also believe that all people have been made in the image of God, and that each person is someone for whom Christ died – loved and valued beyond measure. We know, as well, that human beings are limited and fallible – that we can and do sin, fall short of God’s best for us. It is in the midst of this mixture of love and sin that we are called to work for the fullness of God’s Kingdom: “on earth as it is in heaven.”
So from here, the most important thing we can do is pray for God’s wisdom and peace, reaching for that peace within us, as well as looking for it in the midst of events and interactions: “O God, you have bound us together in a common life. Help us, in the midst of our struggles for justice and truth, to confront one another without hatred or bitterness, and to work together with mutual forbearance and respect; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” ~ Book of Common Prayer, In Times of Conflict