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How do we move forward from here? Going forward will take a good dose of patience.  Patience because we cannot move too quickly from ‘here’ as that would insensitive. Those walking alongside the bewildered, frustrated and mournful residents of Ferguson might not understand how they think and behave; however, I still encourage patience. Patience is needed when irrational things are done; patience is required when illogical decisions are made. Patience is needed when ‘people don’t know what they don’t know.’ Patience is a must for our local, state, regional and federal authorities. Patience is necessary to allow the investigation to follow its due process.  Coupled with patience is adopting a long term view.  What has happened in Ferguson will not be remedied overnight.  We cannot close our eyes and presto and think “back to normal.” Worldviews or attitudes undergirded with and deeply steeped in false hoods will not be fixed in an instant.  Strained race relations in this country will not be solved overnight.  Strained relations between the black community and white police officers will not be solved in the blink of an eye.  The mommy and daddy of Michael Brown will not get over that their son is dead next week or next month. The suburb of Ferguson has been riven; it will take months and perhaps years to rebuild.  This too will take patience or long suffering.

Going forward will necessitate us engaging our minds.  We must be thoughtful.  Being thoughtful means considering the consequences of our decisions and the unintended consequences of our decisions.  Being thoughtful means at the very least having a diverse company of thinkers at the table. Giving someone ‘a voice’ is to treat a person with respect and dignity.

Going forward will demand that all citizens of this great country overcome their fears, their preconceived ideas, their stereotypes about the ‘other’ and build real relationships with their ‘neighbors’; where a ‘neighbor’ is everyone who is not you.  Neighbors are your next door neighbors; neighbors are those who don’t hang in your circles; neighbors are those who are not in your socio-economic stratum; neighbors are those not invited to the parties you attend; neighbors are those who are not in your neighborhood or don’t look like you.   And we must encourage our kids to do likewise: be neighborly.  As you know real life-on-life (not faux computer-on-life relationships) will be messy and uncomfortable.  (A Facebook relationship is not a real relationship; FB can help maintain a relationship but it should never take the place of a real life-on-life relationship.) Real life-on-life relationships are frustrating of course but they are also quite refreshingly nourishing.  So, if you are not engaged in real life-on-life relationships with a diverse array of people, I believe your life is severely malnourished.

Going forward will demand a serious look at those institutions in desperate need of repair; especially, the family and criminal justice (CJ) system.  We must seek to reform these institutions.  Christians are well aware that we are called to be redeemers.  How might we aggressively and thoughtfully reform the family and the CJ system?  (This task is quite daunting; however, for the Christian, God has given us His Holy Spirit to guide us to navigate such waters.)

Going forward we need to seriously question the status quo.  For instance, one industry that often does not get challenged is the media.  For instance, take a look at TV (news casts, commercials, etc.) and one would surmise that only whites live in this country and only whites can afford such things as vacations, homes, jeans, etc.  When whites see themselves primarily on the TV, this sends a subliminal message: ‘white is right.’ Conversely, when blacks don’t see people like themselves on TV, this too sends a subliminal message: ‘black is wrong’ or ‘blacks don’t do those things.’

Going forward we must avoid amnesia; that is, the greatest tragedy will be that we forget Michael Brown and the circumstances surrounding his death.  Going forward those in the majority culture might consider becoming a minority and enter in to places like Ferguson to understand up close and not try to understand from a distance or via a computer screen.  (For the Christian, there is a reason why Jesus ‘pitched His tent’ among people.) Entering into the lives of those who live in places like Ferguson will likely change how you think of those who are not as privileged as you. You might discover that their claims are not so unfounded or farfetched; you might discover that those who live in places like Ferguson have dreams like you, fears like you, hopes like you, etc.  Heck, you might discover that you are related! 🙂

Going forward whites need to understand that while they may see white police officers as ‘friendly and neighborly’; blacks don’t see white police officers in like terms. In fact, some of my white blue-collar friends don’t view the police in a favorable light (perhaps, it is a class thing too?). Some of this of course is unfounded but a good portion of this opinion is quite legitimate.  Just think about this thing called ‘racial profiling’.  A criminal justice colleague of mine did his dissertation on racial profiling.  What did he discover? Every municipality in the state of Missouri has instances of racial profiling.

Going forward, Christ’s bride, the Church, must take the lead.  The church must be a beacon of light amid such much darkness. The church was handed the baton to continue the work that Christ began; the work of renewal of all things. The bride of Christ must be the one that values all people who are made in God’s image.   The church knows that its members have not be called to a life of comfort but of service and sacrifice. The church should be the ‘drum major’ for justice and speak out when she sees injustice. The church should be the one on the front lines fighting to see injustice exchanged for justice. The church must be the redemptive change agent that God has called her to be.  The gospel by its very nature is meant to make our societies, neighborhoods, etc. more palatable places to live and work and play. The church needs to do better in living out this gospel so that it does bring about this lovely effect. So, we might need to repent also.  The church is equipped to be proactive so we can avert or limit such occasions like this in Ferguson.  The Bride of Christ must be a sweet aroma in a sometimes awful smelling world. The church must share the message of hope in words and actions to often a hopeless world.

Disclaimer: this blog is not meant to be ‘the be all and end all’ word on going forward but perhaps it can serve as ‘food for thought.’

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