If you’ve been around here any length of time, you know I love me some Bruce Springsteen. His latest album, High Hopes, is wonderful. I love it. One of the songs hit me this morning as I was driving to Costco. Ferguson has been sitting so heavy on my heart lately. A young man dead. An officer accused. A community in flames, with years of pain, resentment, and anger boiling over into people in the streets. Demanding to be listened to, to be seen, to be affirmed in their pain and anger at years of injustice.
I am not going to try and convince anyone that the people of Ferguson are justified in filling the streets. Mostly because I myself have no idea. How can I say how I would react if it my son, my brother, my family, my friends at the end of a gun. I have no idea what it is to walk through life as a black person, a brown person, a minority person. To my knowledge I’ve never been followed in a store because of my skin color. I’ve never heard someone lock their car door when I’ve been standing at the bus stop and they drive past. I’ve never seen someone cross the street to avoid passing me. I have no idea how it would feel to spend a lifetime knowing that people fear me without having any idea who I am. I can’t speak to what kind of hurt, anger, resentment it might create inside of me.
As a woman, I have my own stories of how walking through life as female has colored the way I view the world, other people, and given me my own fears and hurts. I can speak to men about what it means to be a woman. But when I am confronted with the stories of people of color about what it means to walk through life as they are, all I can do is listen. As a white person, I have certain privilege that I have not earned, but which is mine solely because my parents were white and so am I. My privilege demands that I listen to the stories of those not privileged as I am, and take their pain seriously. When thousands of people of color take to the streets to tell us they are out of patience with implicit (and explicit) racism, they are angry, and hurting, and grieving yet another lost life, I need to listen. It’s a huge challenge and call for humility and openness, but it’s what a culture of encounter demands. It’s what justice demands.
And when I see people taking advantage of a community’s outrage by looting, rioting, and doing violence I have to say something about that too. I don’t know what it’s like to be a person of color. But one thing I do know, one thing I have learned from the God of peace that I cling so desperately to, is this: violence only ever begets more violence. Blood will always end in blood. Without the transforming power of the cross of Christ to intervene and interrupt the violence, the cycle of pain and bloodshed will never end.
With this in mind, I have to share Bruce’s stunning words.
This is Your Sword
Now brothers and sisters listen to me
These are the few things that I leave to thee
The sword of our fathers with lessons hard taught
The shield strong and sturdy from battles well fought
The times they are dark, darkness covers the earth
This world’s filled with the beauty of God’s work
Hold tight to your promise, stay righteous, stay strong
For the days of miracles will come along
In the days of despair you can grow hard
Till you close your mind and empty your heart
If you find yourself staring in the abyss
Hold tight to your loved ones and remember this
This is our sword…This is our example…This love is the only thing that will ever truly conquer violence.