Much ink has been spilled about the grand jury verdict in Ferguson that was handed down last week and its violent aftermath, as black citizens took to the streets and commenced rioting, looting and burning their own town down. It would weary me to enumerate every instance of smug talk-talk that was churned out, hastening to remind “white evangelicals” that racism is still a Problem and they shouldn’t “use the riots as an excuse” to “not listen to their African-American brothers and sisters” about it. (What’s that, the evidence overwhelmingly implies that so-called systemic racism was a non-factor in this case? Kindly do not attempt to cloud the issue with facts.) Reformed pastor Thabiti Anyabwile even tried to dispute the verdict with his own legal analysis of the case. I can only conclude that Rev. Anyabwile should stick to his day-job.
The most nauseating thing about it all was that while these opinion-makers could fill paragraph after paragraph with concerned noises about how their “African-American brothers and sisters” might have had their feelings hurt by the verdict, they seemed incapable of sparing more than a couple lines for the “African-American brothers and sisters” whose livelihoods were being destroyed by their fellow black men as the presses rolled. But for most people, that was apparently too uncomfortable to think about for more than a couple lines. The best thing “white evangelicals” could do right now, apparently, was to “stop talking and listen.” Because presumably, talking volubly and forcefully about the evil of the rioters and the need to stop them with force if necessary would be “insensitive.” Or “poorly timed.” Or something. As for the innocent people of Ferguson, yes, yes, of course, everyone agrees that burning their businesses down is bad. Now, hastily moving on to spend the next two pages blathering about white privilege.
Meanwhile, I’m listening to sound bites on the radio of one of these mobs screaming obscenities and death threats. “Shoot! Shoot! Shoot!” Over and over and over again.
I’ll grant that the reaction was a little less shocking than it was during the Trayvon Martin case. At that time, I called out pastors like Al Mohler, Russell Moore and John Piper for aiding and abetting the media vilification of George Zimmermann, even recklessly referring to the shooting as “murder” and openly implying that justice hadn’t been served afterwards. Still, it was profoundly disappointing.
Thankfully, there’s been time for a few more reasonable voices to be heard. I eagerly awaited what Voddie Baucham would have to say, since I know he’s one of the few members of the Gospel Coalition who actually thinks level-headedly about these things (and, ironically, one of their only black members), and was very glad to see him finally speak out. I could tell he was holding back last year during the Trayvon Martin case and probably felt he couldn’t say too much. It’s good to see him decide to speak his mind on the real systemic problems in the black community. While I could have wished for some longer and more specific condemnation of the rioting, Baucham covers a lot of very important ground from a big-picture perspective in his piece. He even boldly goes so far as to invoke the “He who lives by the sword dies by the sword” principle in reference to Michael Brown’s actual death, saying he “reaped what he sowed” by bullying the convenience store owner, and then by all appearances resisting Officer Wilson. That’s impressively edgy even for what I would expect from Baucham, but kudos to him for saying it.
Interestingly, Baucham does note a couple instances where he and a relative were stopped by the police when he hadn’t committed a crime. He then says that he believes it’s un-productive to nurse these instances as a grudge and a sign that the system is “rigged” against black people. I agree, and I will also add that police abuse of power has increasingly become a problem across the board, but it’s a problem for all races. This is not about black versus white, it’s about the police pushing the boundaries of what they can constitutionally get away with. You can find plenty of cases where the police have crossed the line with white Christians and white homeschoolers alone when it comes to unwarranted arrest, search and seizure, and bullying. Also, if you google “civil asset forfeiture,” you can read about cases where police have literally stopped innocent peoples’ cars and stolen cash and property from them.
Finally, in another recent high-profile case where police killed a black man, the abuse of force was the kind that we’ve seen in previous, non-racial cases. The man was upset with the police and asking them to leave him alone, but he wasn’t posing a physical threat. Yet they wrestled him to the ground and accidentally choked him to death with no warning. This is exactly how a retarded young man died the other year when he was stopped from entering a movie theater without a ticket. Again, not a black vs. white problem. A police department problem. And none of it has anything to do with what happened in Ferguson.
Meanwhile, there are hopeful stories, like the story of the woman who became the mascot of Ferguson’s innocent black business owners and has been given over 200 grand in a GoFundMe campaign to get her bakery back up and running. Or this story of black citizens lining up to protect a white-owned business from the thugs.
But you’re not going to hear much about them from mainstream evangelical media. This is one topic where you’re much more likely to get a clear picture of things from listening to conservative talk radio than from reading Christianity Today. Sad, but true.
Meanwhile, I stand with the people of Ferguson. By which I mean the innocent people of Ferguson.