Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ferguson Apocalypse

Thick, black smoke billows from a burning car in Ferguson, Missouri. A grand jury has investigated the shooting of Michael Brown and has determined that the evidence does not offer sufficient cause to indict officer Darren Wilson for any crime in the shooting.

We often use the word "apocalypse" to describe events that are chaotic and destructive. Both adjectives certainly describe 2014 in Ferguson. First came the shooting. Then came the riots. Two other young black men have died in the Greater St. Louis are in the meanwhile. The Missouri National Guard had to intervene. The Department of Justice has begun its own investigation. Never has the Ferguson pot settled below a simmer since the day Brown died.

The root meaning of the word "apocalypse" is something along the lines of "unveiling." For my part, the events in Ferguson have served as something of an unveiling. I had hoped that we were further along in racial reconciliation. I had hoped that our nation was prepared to resolve differences more productively. I had thought that police forces were generally more representative of their communities and that tensions were not quite so high as they obviously are at least in some quarters of our country. I disagree with so much of President Obama's politics; I had hoped that the one silver lining of his term of office would be a greater harmony among the races during his sojourn at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. A different set of facts have been revealed, as has my erstwhile naïveté.

The Apocalypse is the actual Greek title of the final book of the New Testament. John's Apocalypse tells us the prophecy of the end and forms a major portion of the foundation for Christian eschatology. The events in Ferguson tell us more about our anemic eschatology than they do about our poor ethics.

A healthy eschatology will help us to see one another based upon our shared spiritual future rather than our diverse genetic heritages. Our eschatological citizenship makes us a part of a united nation that is far more polyglot than the United Nations. It reaches to every tribe and tongue and people. The barrier is torn down. We are now one. When we speak and act as though we are not one, we out ourselves as believers who do not actually believe, at least as far as our eschatological destiny is concerned.

A healthy eschatology will give us a hunger for justice, both in the sense of micro-justice (in this particular case of Officer Darren Wilson versus Michael Brown, was this shooting justified?) and in the sense of macro-justice (does Ferguson generally offer a just society of day-in-and-day-out equal treatment under the law for all of its citizens without regard to race?) Both, after all, appear in The Apocalypse: both the settling of scores with vast people-groups on a national scale and the appearance of each individual human before God's final tribunal. Being an eschatologically minded Christian will cause you to care about both.

A healthy eschatology will denude us of our incredulity when human beings act destructively toward creation, toward others, or toward even their own selves. This surprises you? Have you not read The Apocalypse? Why, again, did you think people were above such things? Good eschatology should never rob us of our compassion over the anguish human destructiveness brings, but it is difficult to read and believe the apocalypse while retaining a Pollyannish notion of the essential goodness and tranquility of humankind.

A healthy eschatology will remind us that spiritual forces are at work in the world, both of the evil and the good varieties. Pundits on news channels are not giving us the whole story, and they will never be able perfectly to analyze or predict what human beings will do. There are variables in the equation that are invisible to the analysis of the world. The people and the police of Ferguson, Missouri, are pawns in a cosmic battle.

A healthy eschatology will evidence itself in such seasons as a deep yearning for something beyond. I've written about Rich Mullins before. He penned these lyrics that are undeniably Christian and deeply applicable to this situation. The song is deeply, passionately eschatological. I think it exemplifies the way we believers ought to feel at moments like this.

I believe there is a place
Where people live in perfect peace
Where there is food on every plate
Where work is rewarded and rest is sweet

Where the color of your skin
Won't get you in or keep you out
Where justice reigns and truth finally wins
Its hard fought war against fear and doubt

And everyone I know wants to go there, too
But when I ask them how to do it they seem so confused
Do I turn to the left?
Do I turn to the right?
When I turn to the world they gave me this advice

They said boy you just follow your heart
But my heart just led me into my chest
They said follow your nose
But the direction changed every time I went and turned my head

And they said boy you just follow your dreams
But my dreams were only misty notions
But the Father of hearts and the Maker of noses
And the Giver of dreams He's the one I have chosen
And I will follow Him

I believe there'll come a time
Lord, I pray it's not too far off
There'll be no poverty or crime
There'll be no greed and we will learn how to love

And children will be safe in their homes
And there'll be no violence out on the streets
The old will not be left alone
And the strong will learn how to care for the weak

And everyone I know hopes it comes real soon
But when I ask 'em where I'd find it they seem so confused
Do I find it in the day?
Do I find it in the night?
When I finally ask the world they give me this advice

They said boy you just follow your heart
But my heart just led me into my chest
They said follow your nose
But the direction changed every time I went and turned my head

And they said boy you just follow your dreams
But my dreams were only misty notions
But the Father of hearts and the Maker of noses
And the Giver of dreams He's the one I have chosen
And I will follow Him

And oh, I hear the voice of a million dreams
Then I wake in the world that I'm partly made of
And the world that is partly of my own making
And oh, I hear the song of a heart set free
That will not be kept down
By the fury and sound
Of a world that is wasting away but keeps saying

They said boy you just follow your heart
But my heart just led me into my chest
They said follow your nose
But the direction changed every time I went and turned my head

And they said boy you just follow your dreams
But my dreams were only misty notions
But the Father of hearts and the Maker of noses
And the Giver of dreams He's the one I have chosen
And I will follow Him

2 comments:

Christiane said...

a thought concerning the SBCvoices article on slavery:

"The seventh commandment forbids acts or enterprises that for any reason - selfish or ideological, commercial,
or totalitarian—lead to the enslavement of human beings, to their being bought, sold and exchanged like mer
-
chandise, in disregard for their personal dignity. It is a sin against the dignity of persons and their fundamental
rights to reduce them by violence to their productive value or to a source of profit. St. Paul directed a Christian
master to treat his Christian slave “no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother
, . . . both in
the flesh and in the Lord."

sorry to post here, Dr. Barber, but wanted to offer another viewpoint and did not have the opportunity to do it there so please forgive intrusion

Joe Blevins said...

Anywhere in the USA there is a simple fact shown over and over again: There is a simple lack of respect for the law and the rule of law. Officer Darren Wilson' s intent was not to murder anyone of any race. He intention was to get home safe and uphold the rule.of law . Michael Brown was not some child going to choir practice. He was a 300.pound criminal with over a six foot height. He had with the distinct intention to take away the officer's weapon to kill him with it. The video from earlier that day at the convience store showed Mister Brown's purpose and general state of mind. It is unfortunate that such events take place. Police are just human like anyone else. People need to follow the instructions of the police. It isn't open for debate if he feels his life is endangered.
I have worked as a teacher at three different school districts over the past twelve years. One was at an alternative school. Many of them were felons with a history of assault and robbery. Some were not from poor families. In fact, many were from fairly affluent families from the Dallas area. Today many people young people have no moral compass, no real compassion and no respect for anyone but themselves.
Michael Brown lived with his maternal grandmother not his "concerned" parents that cared not for his daily well being. It was only after the cameras and (fundraising) money arrived that Brown's parents showed tears and concern over their deceased son. In fact the mother assaulted the grandmother when she was given money from the sale of tee shirts. The whole thing is driven by the 24/7 news loop took this all into a 21st century comment on "race relations." It wasn't about race. It was about a thug trying to brutalize an police officer. Race doesn't figure in when someone is fiercely assaulting you. The rule of law is often ignored because of the age of the perpetrator. This is the way of the world these days. When I was a teacher I was assaulted and I was stabbed. The school took no responsibility, the student did not because he was under 18. So I have seen first-hand how all this works. Close up. My own son died when he was a baby. I promised myself that my remaining life time would be spent trying to help other youth. I have been a part of the United Way for over 20 years and several other agencies for youth. That is why I became.involved at my local church: to teach vacation Bible school; to read to the youth in children's church, actively work in the Fall festival to maybe encourage youth; possibly help someone to see that church isn't so scary, but rather a place to make some real friends. The AWANAS was much the same idea. Perhaps a fun time at church gets the youth to see a different way than popular culture dictates today. It is too bad that someone finds fault with that notion.