(I don’t pretend to have clear answers to all this mess. But I know there are things I can do and one of those things is write. I pray for wisdom to discover the others.)
I was probably 19 when a group of us college kids got together, came up with a strategy and presented our frustrations and suggestions to a group of church officials from our area conference. These were the “big guns” above the local church level. We met in their office one evening. The room was full of suits.
We spoke on behalf of all our peers. I think my particular spiel focused on asking that church leaders stop entertaining us with pizza and movies. We were thinkers. We wanted more. We wanted depth.
I don’t remember experiencing a major shift in how we were ministered to which would make sense because these days (15+ years later) a lot of the suits are struck by how many young adults have left and will leave the church and they’re focusing much energy on how to do better retention. (It helps the cause when those leaving or those who have left are kids of the suits.)
As far as I know, those of us who boldly stood before our church leaders are all still “in” the church which makes me wonder if there’s a strong connection between believing you have a voice and sticking with an entity you don’t always agree with.
What does this have to do with Ferguson? So much of what’s transpired overnight relates to what we believe about our voice.
My daughter knows how to cry. She has different cries which include a fake cry–dramatic already, I know. At 6 weeks, crying is her primary mode of communication, the method she knows how to use in order to get what she believes she needs. No longer crying would mean that either I’ve let her cry so long that she’s given up on that method or I anticipate her every need so perfectly that she never has to ask(cry). Neither is true so she still cries.
Older folks also cry sometimes, often through violence. Looting and starting fires are reminders that we haven’t been introduced to a successful peaceful method. Sure, we’ve heard that it works for others but until we see it working for us we’ll continue to cry out in ways that we believe get attention. Where there’s attention, even negative attention, there’s the possibility for change.
Yes, similar to my daughter’s fake cry, there are some who use violence just because they can (and because it’s dark out). But many do it in anger, believing it’s the only way to get results. After all, it has worked at other times. But your definition of “worked” and their definition may differ.
Are we willing to help each other experience a different story, one that doesn’t require justice to always equal a conviction and one that never causes us to entertain that notion to begin with? Are we willing to help each other develop a strong, clear voice and a determination that cannot be rattled?
Go ahead and boycott Black Friday. Chances are great that some who feel voiceless also misunderstand consumerism so not spending will be short-lived. But I’m all for timely action so let’s see how it goes. And then what’s next? This is where our responsibility to orphans and widows takes on new, grittier, dimensions.
My daughter won’t always cry to get what she needs because she’ll get older and with age will come education that yields mobility and words. One day she’ll say, “Mum, I’m hungry,” and another day she’ll walk to the kitchen and cook herself a meal. But more than that (coz this ain’t about pulling oneself up by bootstraps), I hope for the day when she volunteers to cook a meal for someone else.
We need each other. We need each other.