Greetings Church Family.
I am sure that like Terri and me, many of you have just watched the news of the Grand Jury report from Ferguson, Missouri, and the resulting demonstrations and riots and… In so many ways the whole situation is sad.
- Certainly it is sad for Michael Browns family, friends, and community. I have been in the presence of those who have lost a child. I have never heard the anguish of the soul as I have in those situations. Truly it is sad for them.
- Certainly it is sad for those who are committed to upholding the laws of a community and nation and find themselves in a situation where deadly force has been used and a life has been taken.
- Certainly it is sad for a community that feels that more often than not it is on the end of unjust acts inflicted upon them by those in power.
- Certainly it is sad for store owners who see their merchandise stolen by a teenage and their store, the source of their livelihood, ransacked by looters who feel their actions are justified because they are angry at a Grand Jury decision.
I am also sad about the opening paragraph of the letter sent by Gradye Parsons’, the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA). I can agree with what Mr. Parson says in paragraphs two, three, and four. We do need to work within our communities to create a safe environment for all citizens (think of our universities where 1 in 4 women suffer sexual assault during their secondary education studies). We do need to pray and work for more equitable communities and create better systems to help insure justice. We need to take a stand and say “No more” when there are acts of violence. I agree that Christ’s Church and those who call themselves Christian need to be “the light of the world and the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13-16).
However, It is the opening paragraph of Mr. Parsons’ letter which I find sad for it sours for me the tone of the rest of his comments. The Grand Jury did not say that Michael Brown’s killing was justified. It said that police officer Wilson’s action was within the prescription of the law, that his actions did not warrant an indictment. I see a huge different between the two. Only the Grand Jury listened to 60 hours of testimony from over 70 witnesses. Only the Grand Jury examined three autopsy reports. It was the Grand Jury that had to take all the evidence, make sense of it, and then take a stand. The letter below assumes that the decision of the Grand Jury was not a ‘just’ decision.
Office of the General Assembly
Today the community justice system of Ferguson, Missouri, told the parents of Michael Brown that his killing was justified. We grieve with the family and community about the decision, and encourage support for their continued quest for justice.
This decision calls the whole church to reflect seriously about the communities and the racial climate we have created in this country. We need a society where everyone is treated with dignity and valued, where there is no fear of walking down the street. We and the places where we live have fallen short of that.
We call the church to pray that God will give us the courage and strength to have honest conversations about race where we live, work, and worship. We pray for safe spaces in Ferguson and in all communities for people to voice their views. We hope for lessons learned, lives changed, and inequitable systems across the United States dismantled in order to bring about the kind of world God has called us to co-create.
The last healing miracle of Jesus is in Luke 22. It is the story of Jesus’ capture in the Garden of Gethsemane. One of the disciples reacts, and in defense of Jesus slices off the ear of a servant of the high priest. Jesus says “No more of this!” and heals the servant. May “no more of this” and healing be the church’s response. Amen
It seems to me that the only right decision for Mr. Parsons’ would have been an indictment against the police officer…regardless of the evidence presented. It seems that the only true justice is that which reflects a pre-determined decision made prior to all the facts being on the table. I am sad that one of our leaders has this published his preconceived notion.
Now, it may end up, when all the information from the now published Grand Jury report is fully digested, that a different course of action, a different result within our justice system will come about. I say, “Have at it.” Justice requires truth. Human beings make errors. Check the facts. See if the decision accurately reflects those facts. If not, put it in the hopper again and see if a different conclusion is reached.
Finally, I look forward to a day when the type of craziness that infects this world will be completed. I look forward to a day when petty thefts don’t lead to armed confrontations and death; I look forward to a day when a radicalized individual no longer straps a bomb to his body, walks into a volleyball match and blows himself up; I look forward to a day when our political leaders will stand up for what is right because it is right and not because it benefits their future aspirations. Advent is preparing for that day. Isaiah describes what will happen when Jesus returns the second time and establishes the Kingdom of God and a just society. He says:
Isaiah 9: 6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
Lord, come quickly.