(In May of 2015 the United States was witness to altercation after altercation of police brutality that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of individuals. I had been watching events unfold via social media outlets all that year (sadly almost 2 years later NOTHING has changed). Protest turned to full on riots and cities burned. Watching all this unfold I posed a simple question; where was the church?)
My wife and I don’t have cable. We “cut the cord” a few years ago and stream most of everything we watch on our television. For the most part we don’t miss it too much, especially on our finances every month. However we still get local channels thanks to a digital antenna. This is where we get our local news mostly for weather. However turning on the news is not what it used to be even 10 years ago. With 24 hour news stations we as a nation and culture are bombarded with images and stories constantly taking place around the world.
The last few days I had a hard time not following the riots in Baltimore.
It’s everywhere. All consuming. From local coverage to the CNNs, FOX News, and MSNBCs. Updates are coming in by the minute of what is taking place as the urban city of Baltimore is on fire in more ways than one. All anyone needs to do is tune into one of the news affiliates mentioned or do a quick search on their computer to see how all of this came about.
I strongly encourage you to do this. Research what is going on. Pull from different sources to try and get a better picture of why in 2015 we are still struggling like this as a people…as a nation.
I feel like I’m watching the same thing unfold that I just saw a few months ago in Ferguson Missouri. Confrontation between law officials and inner city African-Americans over the death of two young African-American men. I wish this was just a modern problem, something that has just starting happening in the last few years…but it’s not.
The Detroit riots in 1968.
The Miami riots in 1980.
The L.A. riots in 1992.
The Oakland riots in 2009.
Now Ferguson. Now Baltimore.
I don’t know really where to start in trying to understand this. So much violence and emotion. Social media has exploded in the last few days of people taking decisive stands on who they believe are innocent and guilty.
That is something that I’m not going to do here. I have no desire to label those involved in these horrific events to be simply categorized as either “right or wrong”. This is so much bigger than that. And it’s not just the people in Baltimore, Ferguson, L.A., and Detroit that have to answer for this.
ALL OF US SHOULD.
A man is dead, police officers as well as others continue to be injured, business owners are losing everything, and the city continues to burn.
I have many questions, none with easy answers. However one I feel I must ask to others, but particularly to myself; where is the Church?
The picture here (courtesy of latimes.com) is a scene from Ferguson and a group of clergy that marched throughout the city. These pastors, ministers, priest, etc… all came under a banner of peace. Asking those around them to protest in different fashions. A violent action doesn’t need a violent response (and let me be clear that not all the protest in Baltimore have been violent in nature). Messages can be heard without making destructive noises. The Church and its people should be a reminder that this is possible.
The Church at one time took up the charge of being the beacon of light in dark moments. We need only look back several decades to see that the church was used as a meeting place for civil unrest. Martin Luther King Jr. would meet along with his fellow Civil Rights activist in churches all throughout the South during the 1960s. The Church was a meeting place for those without a voice to voice the injustice being done upon them. That is why in 1963 a bomb was let off at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham Alabama where four children, let me repeat that…children, died because some thought that a certain group/race of people did not deserve their voice to be heard. Destroy the churches and you destroy the movement. Fortunately that was not allowed to happen.
In times like these we need to be reminded that the Church still needs to serve that cause. When acts of discrimination are being allowed to happen the Church should be there with arms and doors open. A sanctuary where reconciliation is allowed to occur. The last thing the Church should be seen doing is remaining quiet on issues like the ones we are witnessing now. For all the violence spawned by frustration, the Church can point others to a different alternative. Where unity and compassion hit harder than any bricks on police shields ever could.
This is our calling and duty to be an example. The Church should be a symbol of hope, not an antiquated figure that has lost its value in the modern world. I see men and women locked in arms singing praises in the face of such pain and suffering while not allowing despair and intolerance to be what is remembered when the smoke finally settles.
The eyes of the nation and the world rest on the Church during this time. I pray that we believe that from chaos, order can be restored. That in moments of weakness God’s strength is made more apparent. That even when death and ruin is all we can see, that life and restoration is what we can offer.