Ferguson in Black & White

In mid-August I began a post on the Michael Brown shooting that I felt as a white man, I couldn’t finish.  Not in a way that would do justice to the frustrations of many black Americans who believe that in general, white Americans fear them, look down on them, or threaten them.  Or in a way that could entice white readers to appreciate legitimate past grievances instead of just dismissing the violent aftermath as the results of “outside agitators” or lawless elements in the community that are just looking for an excuse to loot.

Now that the grand jury has refused to indict Officer Wilson and the streets are ablaze, I’ll try again.  If this shooting was important enough for the President to mention at the UN and to hold 2 press conferences about, it’s important.

Let’s get some obvious things out of the way.  First, two parents’ lives have been shattered because their son will never come home again.  I don’t care what color we are or aren’t, that should break us too.  Second, the courts and the political process are available to citizens with legitimate gripes. Looting and burning down businesses in your own community (many of which are minority-owned) and could employ you or your friends, is absurd and self-destructive behavior that hardens fair-minded people to your grievances.

Third, when Michael’s mom Ms. McSpadden dismisses Officer Wilson’s account so blithely: “I don’t believe a word of it”, she loses some credibility.  She may be right that her son did not have a history of violence, but she was not on Canfield Drive the night he was shot while the officer was.  Her claim that I know my son far too well. He would never do anything like that. He would never provoke anyone to do anything to him and he would never do anything to anybody,” is the kind of “my kid’s a saint” parental denial that school teachers and administrators often must contend with.  Parents hire attorneys to fight the school’s discipline because certainly their child would never do XYZ.  Moreover, is Michael’s stepfather omniscient–does he have some special revelation that Officer Wilson woke up that morning with a chip on his shoulder, looking to kill somebody as he said on CNN?

Then again, I’m white.  My ancestors weren’t shipped to this country in leg irons.  They didn’t bake in the sun picking cotton or get repeatedly raped by the massa.  I have no history of lynchings.  No memory of walking down streets as a young man and seeing white people eye me nervously.  No parents recalling being refused service in a restaurant.  Once engaged to a black man, my sister has said it was an eye-opening experience for her to be treated differently by others when she was with him.

America is a great nation but its history is checkered with prejudice.  We butchered, stole land from, and broke promises to native Americans.  Immigrants from many places have been treated poorly.  America has struggled to live up to its Declaration of Independence claim that all men are equal.  Take the African slave trade; in colonial times, anyone of means kept slaves.  Including national heroes like Washington, Jefferson, and Madison.  Even Abraham Lincoln admitted, “I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of … making voters or jurors of Negroes nor of qualifying them to hold office nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races, which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality.”

To our shame, the American Church gets more than a footnote in bigotry’s sorry history in this nation.  In many places–and not just in the south, not only did the church use the Bible to defend slavery but taught a white supremacy that made American slavery as brutal as some things the Nazis did.  (NOTE: IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED “TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE”, YOU SHOULD.  BUT NOT WITH YOUR CHILDREN.)

If you’re white, this isn’t your history; if you’re black, it is not only your family’s history, but a way of thinking: abused, mistreated, endangered, marginalized, or disdained.  This is who we are; this is who I am.

These are realities that must influence a white person’s view on the Ferguson shooting aftermath.  Which should help us understand some in the community who assume any white police officer–it didn’t have to be Officer Wilson, it could have been any white cop–has a thing against a black man, especially a young one.

I’ll do something I’ve never done before: let a football player finish this post!  African-American Saints tight end Benjamin Watson posted some things on his facebook page we could all stand to hear.

“At some point while I was playing or preparing to play Monday Night Football, the news broke about the Ferguson Decision. After trying to figure out how I felt, I decided to write it down. Here are my thoughts:

I’M ANGRY because the stories of injustice that have been passed down for generations seem to be continuing before our very eyes.

I’M FRUSTRATED, because pop culture, music and movies glorify these types of police citizen altercations and promote an invincible attitude that continues to get young men killed in real life, away from safety movie sets and music studios.

I’M FEARFUL because in the back of my mind I know that although I’m a law abiding citizen I could still be looked upon as a “threat” to those who don’t know me. So I will continue to have to go the extra mile to earn the benefit of the doubt.

I’M EMBARRASSED because the looting, violent protests, and law breaking only confirm, and in the minds of many, validate, the stereotypes and thus the inferior treatment.

I’M SAD, because another young life was lost from his family, the racial divide has widened, a community is in shambles, accusations, insensitivity hurt and hatred are boiling over, and we may never know the truth about what happened that day.

I’M SYMPATHETIC, because I wasn’t there so I don’t know exactly what happened. Maybe Darren Wilson acted within his rights and duty as an officer of the law and killed Michael Brown in self defense like any of us would in the circumstance. Now he has to fear the backlash against himself and his loved ones when he was only doing his job. What a horrible thing to endure. OR maybe he provoked Michael and ignited the series of events that led to him eventually murdering the young man to prove a point.

I’M OFFENDED, because of the insulting comments I’ve seen that are not only insensitive but dismissive to the painful experiences of others.

I’M CONFUSED, because I don’t know why it’s so hard to obey a policeman. You will not win!!! And I don’t know why some policeman abuse their power. Power is a responsibility, not a weapon to brandish and lord over the populace.

I’M INTROSPECTIVE, because sometimes I want to take “our” side without looking at the facts in situations like these. Sometimes I feel like it’s us against them. Sometimes I’m just as prejudiced as people I point fingers at. And that’s not right. How can I look at white skin and make assumptions but not want assumptions made about me? That’s not right.

I’M HOPELESS, because I’ve lived long enough to expect things like this to continue to happen. I’m not surprised and at some point my little children are going to inherit the weight of being a minority and all that it entails.

I’M HOPEFUL, because I know that while we still have race issues in America, we enjoy a much different normal than those of our parents and grandparents. I see it in my personal relationships with teammates, friends and mentors. And it’s a beautiful thing.

I’M ENCOURAGED, because ultimately the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem. SIN is the reason we rebel against authority. SIN is the reason we abuse our authority. SIN is the reason we are racist, prejudiced and lie to cover for our own. SIN is the reason we riot, loot and burn. BUT I’M ENCOURAGED because God has provided a solution for sin through the his son Jesus and with it, a transformed heart and mind. One that’s capable of looking past the outward and seeing what’s truly important in every human being. The cure for the Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner tragedies is not education or exposure. It’s the Gospel. So, finally, I’M ENCOURAGED because the Gospel gives mankind hope.”


“Mom, Dad, I’m Gay”

What would you say?  How would you say it?  What would be left unsaid?  What would you later wish you had said?  What would you later wish you had not said?

A Gay Agenda continues its relentless demand for applause against every nook of society.  Lumping moral opposition together with personal distaste, both are bulldozed aside behind blistering charges of “Hate!” and the “Homophobe!” label that nobody wants to wear.  It’s happening in politics, education, the church, but the greatest pain surfaces in homes where a child admits what he/she has long known: “Mom, Dad, I’m not who you think I am.”  How does a parent who loves both God and their children, respond?

He could pass as a twin to Cowboys’ legend Roger Staubach, but I think businessman, author and blogger Clare DeGraff’s claim to fame is in providing a wonderful service to the Church by fashioning a sample letter he says he’d give to a son who came out.  I found it biblical, loving, practical, and it untangles some things that can get tangled in a Christian’s mind.  Maybe it will help you some day.

Our Dear Michael,

Your mother and I want to make sure you know this above all; we love you, and always will. We’d rather say the things in this letter face-to-face, and I hope we will have a chance to do so, as soon as you come home for Easter. However, to avoid any misunderstanding and awkward moments, we thought we’d put our thoughts in black and white.

Perhaps you’ve been afraid that we’ll reject you and throw you out of our life because you’re gay. I want you to know that you will always be welcome in our family home – your home. We hope you’ll continue to text, email, phone regularly. We certainly will. We’d especially love you to come home any opportunity you can. I hope we can continue to go fishing together and to share other areas of our lives like we used to. Our relationship will undoubtedly change as a result of your chosen lifestyle, but our love for you will never change.

Up front we want you to understand that we don’t believe being homosexual is a sin. However, sin has contaminated every relationship even heterosexual relationships. I’m a heterosexual Christian who still struggles with lust. That’s not the way God made me and you being gay is not the way God created you. It’s the way we have become because of sin.

To deal with these “not the way God created us to be”, issues (sin), he established his moral laws. These laws, found in scripture put boundaries on my behavior and yours and tell me that regardless of my feelings, impulses, or hormones, “you shall not”.

A thief can’t steal, nor can a husband beat his wife because “that’s the way God wired him.” All those who dare to call themselves followers of Jesus are commanded by God to resist our natural impulses and simply obey him, whether we feel like it or not. When we fail, we’re told to confess our sin and repent of it, which means stop doing it.

It’s also clear that God considers some sins more grievous than others, such as those listed in Leviticus 18 and 20. Interestingly, of the sexual sins God considered deserving of death in the Old Testament; almost all of them are heterosexual sins, in addition to homosexual sin.

In the opinion of the church for 2,000 years, Romans 1:24-32 couldn’t be more clear about how God feels about same-sex sex. We hope you’ll be intellectually honest enough to not accept the interpretation by the gay Christian community that what Paul is prohibiting is temple worship sex or pedophilia. The other explanation of the gay community is that this doesn’t prohibit committed, monogamous, same-sex unions, only promiscuous homosexual sex. Please be honest enough to admit that’s a real stretch from what is plainly written. Those passages don’t even hint at those possible interpretations. And, because these strong prohibitions appear in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, clearly it’s a sin for both Jews and Christians, for all time.

Then Paul in I Corinthians 6:9-11, lists the sins that actually bar us from entering the kingdom of heaven. He doesn’t mean those who are inclined to those sins or even have committed those sins, but those who have given themselves over to them without regret or remorse.

So for us son, if you are gay but are trying to resist the temptation to sin sexually and confess it when you fail, we embrace you as a fellow struggler against sexual sin and a brother in Christ. However, if you embrace the gay lifestyle, and in particular gay sex or gay marriage, then we are in serious disagreement and based on scripture, we believe you are in danger of the judgment. Therefore, we will continue to pray for the Holy Spirit’s conviction in you.

Obviously, our prayer is that you’d accept God’s wisdom and reject the teaching by some Christians that the gay lifestyle is fine with God if it’s a committed, loving and monogamous relationship. It’s impossible for us to come to that conclusion based on the Bible. Because we live under the authority of God, as much as we love you, we don’t have the right to accept, what God clearly prohibits [sic] we’re truly sorry.

You’ve asked us this painful question, “Do you mean God expects me to live alone the rest of my life?” While that prospect saddens us, it’s no different than the choice heterosexual, single Christians have made for 2,000 years – to be celibate. And the Bible doesn’t prohibit you from having a roommate, although that might be very unwise if you cannot resist the temptation to remain celibate.

So what does this mean practically in our relationship?

Your male friend may visit our home with you, but we will need to discuss certain boundaries. For example, we can’t allow you to share a room or a bed together when you are here. We also ask that you not openly display affection for each another, especially in front of the other children. We hope that you’ll worship with us on Sundays, but that’s your choice. We also ask that you not discuss your living together, or your relationship, or your views on sexuality or gay relationships in front of the children. We don’t want them thinking that by our silence, we approve, and we don’t want to embarrass you or your friend in front of them by rebuking you, if you do.

I know how badly you want the whole family to accept who you are sexually, which we can. You also want us to accept the loving relationships you believe God allows you to have. However, we can’t do that and be faithful to scripture at the same time. So, if you can live with these boundaries, so can we.

We’d be honored to sit down with you and discuss how you or other gay Christians read the Bible differently. But, when we’ve read the various arguments on gay, Christian websites, it feels like they’re simply trying hard to justify – what they want to be true. We recognize that tendency, because we’ve done it ourselves on occasion regarding a clear teaching from God, [sic] we’d prefer it wasn’t there.

Son, we love you so much and look forward to seeing you, if you can live with these boundaries.

Please let us know if you can do this. If not, we’re sorry your friend is not welcome, but of course you are.

Love, Mom and Dad