JESUS WOULD BE THERE
The protests in Minneapolis over the shooting of Jamar Clark have enter the third week. Since the beginning (see photo above) I have felt the need to be present as a ally, as a witness, as a participant. In the past weeks several of my white friends have reached out to me to ask me why? I feel as if others have pulled away from me, some have joined me and a few have accused me of participating in riots and violence.
Before we begin, let me get this out in front:
- I do NOT defend or support the actions of SOME of the protesters who chose to engage in physical or verbal violence.
- I do NOT believe that ALL COPS are evil and I know some who do excellent work in a very difficult setting. I am thankful for them,
However, evidence and the experience of millions show that there is a serious problem with the system of policing and incarceration. Brutality and abuse is common, trust and respect have eroded to a place that without significant changes we will experience greater and greater conflicts and crisis. Change must come for peace to take root.
This is an attempt to explain my beliefs and motives which, I believe, demand that we join our voices in this cry for justice. I am there for the following three reasons:
JESUS WOULD BE THERE
When Jesus said the words, “Blessed are the PEACEMAKERS, for they will be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9) I do not believe he was calling us to pacifists who flee from conflict and chaos; rather I believe he was encouraging us to be children who follow in the footsteps of a parent who has demonstrated a tenacity to pursue peace and justice at all cost. The call is not to create for ourselves a peaceful existence but to MAKE PEACE in the midst of chaos and violence. Followers of the Prince of Peace are called to rush into chaos with the power of Shalom.
What is the Theological Basis for this View?
- In the act of creation, we are told that while there was chaos, void and darkness; God spoke order, life and beauty into existence. When chaos reigns peacemakers should rush in to help create order, life and beauty; peace.
- In the Exodus, God heard the cries of the oppressed and came down to set them free via the actions of his servant Moses. Via a series of ten plagues, Pharaoh was convinced to set the children of Israel free. The plagues are not unlike an escalation of protests. While it was only the ruling class who were holding the Jews in captivity, ALL of Egypt benefited from their labor and oppression and so ALL of Egypt suffered under the plagues that were divine protests forcing the hand of the oppressor to set the captives free.
- In the Incarnation of Christ, God chose to enter into the chaos and brokenness of this world to bring an end to the bondage of sin. The teachings of Jesus upended the traditions of men; He called for self-less love and sacrifice (love your neighbor as you love yourself), he spurned those who valued rules and rituals more than they valued fellow humans (violating “Sabbath rules” for healing or eating grain) and called out the religious leaders who he called repulsive names (white-washed tombs and serpents) for doing lots of religious activity for show, while having no mercy or compassion for others. Jesus’ teachings and miracles were not just demonstrations of God’s love and power but also were protests against the Roman establishment and the complacency of Jewish leaders. As a threat to the political / economic order he was executed.
- In the Cleansing of the the Temple, Jesus was angered that his temple had been transformed from a place of prayer into a “den of thieves”. The commercial exploitation of the poor and marginalized had transformed the outer-courts of the temple from a place for prayer for all nations to a place where the defenseless people were being robbed of their sacrifices and extorted by their spiritual and social leaders. We know from scripture that after pentecost the Spirit of God is no longer limited to living in the temple or with a few leaders, but has been “poured our on all flesh” If Jesus was incensed at injustice in the temple, do you not think he would incensed at systematic abuse today of people for power and profit?
Jesus knew that to be a peacemaker one must be prepared to face the consequences of an evil state (Pharisee and Roman collaboration) while striving to overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:1 – 13:2) It is to rush towards violence; however it is manifested, with the power of love and truth. Violence so infected loses its power so peace can take root.
But What about the Protests In Minneapolis?
Sure there were times during the protest when there were words and actions that made me uncomfortable but I realized that was not reason to flee, but reason to press in. I could give many examples but here are two:
- I watched young people yelling and cussing at the police; but also saw thoughtful conversations to their right and left. I saw passion and frustration under control, sure the words were extreme, yet both the protesters and the police (for the most part) resisted responding with physical aggression. Had I not been present I would not have seen this reality that the media “failed” to tell you about. Many believe such controlled expressions of anger were cathartic and one reason we have not had rioting as other towns have faced.
- I saw a young white guy in the midst of peaceful chanting outside of the precinct fence launch a brick up and over the fence and onto a police car. Had not myself and other protesters called the man out and forced him to leave it is likely the police would have responded with more mace and more violence would have followed. If we were not present in the chaos, we could not have been instruments of peacemaking.
Much of what has been seen on the media are the moments of highest tensions and the occasional acts of violence. By being present I know that these events do not characterize the true nature of the movement anymore than poop in your toilet characterizes the general cleanliness of your home.
Our western culture wants to imagine that everything can be clean and neat, black and white, good and evil; truth is that is seldom the case. Yet there is neither person nor place that is all good or all evil. I believe we need to be comfortable and embrace the dualities that are part of life. Jesus was often at places religious people found uncomfortable, such as in the homes as tax collectors and sinners. But then he said that is EXACTLY where he was, and we are, supposed to be. (Matt 9: 9-13)
Why Be Present in Chaos? Part 1 MY BROTHERS / SISTERS ARE THERE
Why Be Present In Chaos? Part 2 INJUSTICE IS HERE