Along with the rest of the nation, we are once again watching the news of yet another young black man whose life, for whatever reason, has been taken from him. People are drawing their own condemning conclusions, others are seeking justice through legitimate means, while some have taken to the streets to loot, destroy, and steal. It is a sad time for Ferguson, MO and a sad time in America.
Incompetent and insensitive police officers, a minority, make poor decisions for the use of deadly force in situations which may have had alternative, non-life threatening results. They get the attention while the ‘good cops’ are most often overlooked. And most people in the Black community are very decent, law abiding citizens with values and live by principle, work hard, and contribute toward the greater good of the community, their own included. The real minorities, people who do the most damage to community, its security, and quality of life, are the ones that are given the most notoriety so that their images tarnish and brand the larger majority.
I think that I can say for everyone, that we are all frustrated and angry about the loss of decency, quality of life, safety and security, respect and dignity, and all the things that made for a greater society and culture that are now deemed out of style or ‘old school.’ No one likes seeing young black men die daily for little or no just cause. All of us want our ‘America’ back . . . the one where much was imperfect with it, but things were better. We are all victims now, we are all vulnerable, and it doesn’t matter what our socio-economic conditions, circumstances or race may be.
People that resort to violence, looting, and disruptive behaviors, are not simply people out of control because they are bad people. And, it is not just a race issue. People who see themselves as victims again of not only individual assaults, but what they perceive as systemic assaults that confirm their thoughts of their lesser value and worth among the people of the land, at some point can be expected to lose control. Force faces force to bring relief at any cost. And people are condemned for expressing their hopelessness, their lost condition, and for lacking more appropriate means of expression. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of this in this manner, “A riot is the language of the unheard.”
It is disobedience of a different kind where people are out of control. Their anger, frustration, or agony becomes uncivil and outside of the realm of common reasoning. And no one can understand that if they’ve never been without options, allies, real help, or alternatives that they can understand to take advantage of. Disobedience, whether civil or otherwise, is disobedience, and depending on whom the oppressors are, whether tolerated or not, it will be defined by those who oppress.
Jesus observed a ‘multitude’ of people in Matthew 9 in which He identified people who perhaps believed His words and shared His values but they were the ‘others’ of their culture and time, and were continually made to feel that way. In many cases, they were the people of the land who were always seen in a different light because they were common and without the advantages or benefits of what was perceived as a more cultured existence. The text reads in the New International Version, “When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” They were harassed, they were helpless, and they were like sheep without a shepherd . . . and they were there with Jesus looking for help, hope, and relief.
Where did we lose our compassion? How did we lose the insight, the wisdom, or the discerning spirit to look upon people to see their plight? What has happened to us as a people to make us care less about others, or to care less about life . . . all life? Listen to the cries of the Prophet Jeremiah as he looked upon the plight of the people of his time: “Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look around and see. Is any suffering like my suffering that was inflicted on me that the Lord brought on me in the day of His fierce anger?” (Lamentations 1:12 NIV)
Those which are the culprits of oppression always condemn the oppressed. They do it because they don’t understand their plight and they oversimplify it. They do it because it serves their purpose to maintain their oppressive mindset and methods. But Jesus saw it, He sees it, and His challenging message to us of this modern age of the 21st Century is to see it in order to bring about needed change in the quality of life of the oppressed as well as the larger community.
Life is too precious to look over the loss of it! It is a tragedy when anyone dies at the hands of another. Their blood cries from the dust as when the first death at the hands of another occurred. Everyone is someone’s son or daughter or related to other kindred. It is always someone’s loss when someone is killed. And compassion should always be considered and justice should always be demanded.
Condemning people for openly expressing their pain, hopelessness, and loss of faith is a sad testimony to anyone who calls themselves the faithful. Let us all pray who call ourselves the faithful, as Jesus instructed . . . people who pray cannot condemn; and people who pray will always be compassionate!