I’ve been reticent to post anything about the events in St. Louis/Ferguson/across the country because although I recognize that the internet is one of the most powerful tools, I also believe that that power comes with both heavy responsibility and, at times, heavy cost–factors for which I am frankly unequipped. I dislike being the token St. Louisan in the room, expected to have a concrete opinion just because I live there ten months of the year.
But I thought I’d break my silence just a little bit to share these images. Back in December, I was running some errands on South Grand, where a number of protests (and unfortunately, riots) were staged. Many storefronts boarded up and hunkered down. In the aftermath of the chaos, the plywood screens were covered in images and words of hope, peace, and perhaps even the beginnings of reconciliation.
At the time I was reading a book by Aaron Kheriaty, who writes, “We are created in the image and likeness of God, and thus fundamentally good and endowed by God with an inherent dignity. At the same time, our nature is wounded, fallen through Original Sin, and thus inescapably flawed, inclined toward evil, and subject to illness and suffering… Indeed, we are able to find meaning, hope, and redemptive value even in the midst of suffering or illness”. So regardless of worldview/faith/belief system, I think there’s some wisdom–and hope–in that for everyone.
[For more pictures (before stores started taking the boards down), see this album from the South Grand neighborhood Facebook page]
I’m not sure what to think about the grand jury’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson–not only because I’m ignorant of the legal system but also because I don’t have all the facts (and quite frankly, I don’t think anyone–not even Wilson himself–does or ever will). But St. Louis has slowly become my second city over the past two and a half years, and so in that respect, I’m sort of obligated to have an opinion. After all, what are the dinner guests going to ask me about at Thanksgiving after they’ve finished peppering me with questions regarding my classes? Ferguson, of course.
Beyond having an opinion about the situation–beyond the rhetoric and the talking heads and the angry voices–I care about the situation because I am human. Just like Michael Brown. Like Darren Wilson. Like each of the twelve jurors. Like the protestors. Like the innocent citizens whose businesses and livelihoods were damaged by rioters. Yes, even like the looters. And by caring, I choose to listen. Not just to hear the shouting and breaking glass and cable news headlines, but to listen to people’s stories and hearts and lives–when I agree, when I disagree, and when I don’t know.
Most important, I believe we are called “to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God” (Micah 6:8). I don’t think anyone knows or every will know what true justice is in this situation, much less how to implement it. But even when justice and mercy seem fundamentally opposed, as they do to so many right now, we must both search within ourselves and look to our God to bring justice and to show mercy to our neighbors. Because when Jesus called us to be a light to the world, He didn’t mean for us to light Molotov cocktails (metaphorically or literally).
For some further insights from people more mature and better educated than myself, see this article on Christianity today and this sermon from a local St. Louis church (audio link near bottom of page). Edit: NFL player Benjamin Watson posted this extended Facebook status, which is also worth reading.