Looking Through Colored Glasses
I’ve struggled with what to say or whether to say anything at all about Ferguson. It seems that most folks have already decided what they think and read the news through their own set of “colored” glasses. And, yes, I put the word in quotes as a reminder of the way that term was used when I was growing up.
The “White Only” and “Colored Only” signs may have come down, but their insidious influence still colors some of the ways we think and live. There are other factors at work, of course, but the people I know who deny the remnants of racism in America all happen to be white.
As a white person, I know that, like most white people, I have far too few friendships with black people and that in spite of my best attempts to clean my glasses, my view of the world is still tinted by the continuing benefit of “white bias” in culture. As a general rule, if you put a white police officer and a young black man on the scales, folks like me will automatically tilt the scales in favor of the white man.
But wiser people than I have spilled truckloads of printers ink wrestling with those issues. As a follower of Christ, I have to ask a deeper question, namely, where is the Kingdom of God in all of this?
Signs of the Kingdom
If Jesus was correct that the Kingdom – the rule of God’s saving, reconciling, redeeming love – which will ultimately be the way in which God’s will gets done in this world is, in fact, already present with us, then where can we find signs of that Kingdom in Ferguson and in our own community today?
The stories that have dominated the news are the pain-soaked, frustration-laden stories that reoccur with sad regularity in our world. To find the Kingdom stories, Jesus said you have to look for small things like mustard seeds growing in the earth or like leaven in a loaf of newly baked bread.
Some of those stories finally made the “The New York Times” today.
On Thanksgiving, there were people who “brought paint brushes and prayers, thermoses of coffee and trays of drop biscuits, hoping to counterbalance the arsons, angry protests and racial strife.” Darcy Edwin was painting an oak tree on the plywood that was covering a destroyed shop when she said, “This is a really small thing. It’s not going to fix any big issue.” Probably not, but you never know what God will do with the visual image of a tree growing in a burned out neighborhood. And then there was this:
A teenage protester whose face had been hidden behind a ski mask lowered his headgear, approached a police commander and gave him a hug.
“Good to see you, man,” the commander, Lt. Jerry Lohr of the St. Louis County Police, said to the teenager,Joshua Williams.
“How’ve you been? How’s your mom doing? I saw her out here earlier.”
Lieutenant Lohr, 41, had a scratch on his left eyelid from a scuffle that broke out during an arrest the previous night and a wad of chewing tobacco in his mouth. He wore no riot gear — just a standard-issue brown uniform — and held not a baton in his hand but his knit cap.
“We going to have a good night?” he asked Mr. Williams.
“Yeah,” Mr. Williams, 19, said.
It’s not a cure for the systemic issues that fed the fires in Ferguson, it’s not a way of avoiding the hard work of racial reconciliation, and it’s not an excuse for hiding behind my own colored glasses, but it’s a small sign of hope that God hasn’t given up on us yet.
Thanks be to God.