Crazy. That is what the last week and two days has been here in our city. I have been thinking all week about how to respond to this as a pastor, and as a follower of Jesus in this city. I know that I don’t need to recount the events, that has been done enough. But I do know that quickly I begin to interpret events through the grid of my worldview and culture. I know that living in Eureka, MO, which is 90+% anglo, I will tend to be drawn to a view of these events that are shaped by the culture and values of my people. In other words, and this may bother many of you, I tend to react to this with the values of anglo middle-class culture, and I tend to judge these things through those lenses. Of course, I don’t mean to do that, it just happens. I tend to choose news reports that feel comfortable based on the way I view the world. I tend to read articles that come from a certain perspective. I tend to have conversations with people who are generally like me and form opinions with a community of people who share a cultural perspective. Based on these things I can quickly find myself laying blame in certain places and coming up with solutions that I think should solve all the problems in the world. And most important, I can quickly tell you how everyone else should repent.
Over the years I have grown to realize that this tendency in me is, in a huge way, a significant part of the problem. When I form my opinions in the complete vacuum of any perspective from a cultural point of view different than mine, I can pretty much know that my ideas will be shaped by some of the idolatry and sinfulness that moves my life. On the other hand, if I strive to hear from people from other cultures, races, perspectives, then what can happen is that my view will begin to grow in compassion.
I spent some time today with one of my oldest and best friends, Greg Carr (@blackeagle1913) today. Greg and I played high school football together, and we learned to love Jesus together. We even sang is a gospel music group during my younger days together (although to be honest, he carried the whole group). Greg is a follower of Jesus and a pastor who is also very involved in issues of race and justice. While I don’t want to share specifics of our conversation, I can tell you that I left the discussion with a very different perspective than what I had before our lunch. I think that spending a couple hours with him has led to greater compassion toward the events I am watching on TV. I find that I am slower to condemn the people that I would tend to write off quickly, and that I listen to the issues with a little bit different ears. It was a sweet time today, blessed my heart to listen and pray with him.
So the point of my little blog enter here is this. Be careful about forming your opinion about an event like the situation in Ferguson without ever listening to people from that culture. Make sure you do not purport to have answers to cultural issues that have never really confronted you. Learn to listen, and make it a goal to have compassion. And remember, any situation like this is a call to repentance. But it is easy to repent for everyone else. But in all situations, the focus of my repentance should be me. I can tell you that in the middle of these protests are truths that I don’t want to hear, but there are sinful values that I need to address in myself and in my people.
So let me encourage the people from my culture to reach out and have conversations with African-Americans and listen to their perspective. And let me encourage you to spend some time reading about Ferguson from people who love Jesus but are also black. Recognize that you tend to be drawn toward viewpoints that mirror yours, but growth will come when we intentionally move toward people who see the world a bit differently. So, here are a few places to start. Let me encourage you to spend some time reading these blogs written by African-American leaders who love Jesus, but also see the world a little differently.
Mike Brown in my Neighbor, by D. A Horton – @da_horton