Ferguson: A Clarification

My recent post Ferguson, Saint Louis, Missouri made quite a stir in my albeit small blogging world.  Some folks loved it, some folks hated it.  Most people I heard from in one way or another appreciated it to some degree.

Then I got a Facebook message from my friend Gary at the church I previously worked for as youth pastor in Saint Louis; Hope Church in Berkeley.  He said:

I’m sure you feel you have gleaned much wisdom after living in STL for five years. Your article took quite a shot at the most racially demised city in the USA and Hope Church. After 15 years at Hope, I know they deserve a much better evaluation than you left in the public’s eyes.

Gary is a man I really respect and whose heart I trust.  I was honored to serve his kids as youth pastor and appreciate the ministry of him and his family.   So when I received his message, I was deeply grieved.

I want to apologize on this blog collective to Gary and anyone else at Hope I offended with the illustrations I used about the young lady in our youth group or the comment from that previous elder in 1999.  Those were real situations, but I did not mean to infer those situations to be the identity or character of Hope Church.  Hope Church cared for and sustained my family through some of the darkest times in our lives.  I could not be more thankful for Hope’s impact on my life and the life of my family.  The staff and leaders of Hope Church are godly, compassionate people who love Him and one another, and are seeking to fulfill Hope’s calling in their neighborhood and around the world.  Pastor Clint is a man of God who shepherded and empowered me, and who would love to serve you in the same ways.  No matter the color of your skin or ethnic heritage, Hope Church is a biblical church that is pursuing Christ together and you will be deeply loved for who you are.

The illustrations I chose were because this is a theology and culture blog, so it’s primarily Christians reading it.  We Christians often act like sin belongs to the world, especially a really “bad” sin like racism or discrimination, so I offered some key perspectives/observations I received from The Church regarding espousal of this unrighteousness posture.  As my post says, my observation is that racist posture is especially pernicious and destructive in the city of Saint Louis.  Obviously, my time at Hope was a lot of that church exposure and my most intimate church exposure (thus the illustrations), but I could/should also have spoken of:

  • the regional youth pastors prayer gathering I attended in Kirkwood and listened to three other pastors (white guys) talking about ways to market their youth group so as to maintain a youth group demographic that makes parents comfortable, particularly regarding racial demographics.
  • or the time we were on a mission trip downtown and a black lady stopped to make chit-chat (or so I thought).  She ended up saying she went to a church down the street and that the presence of my “spoiled lily-white children” was not appreciated; they didn’t need our charity.
  • or the fact that North City at one point was a white Christian neighborhood, but once the HUD Act of 1965 started to gain traction there causing de-segregation of urban neighborhoods, the white Christians left.
  • or the white lady from another church who renamed Dr Martin Luther King Day for her small children — admitting that they’d learn about it what it really was when they got older — but until then she was going to keep her kids as far from “those people” as possible.

I stand by my major points and the heart of the article that this situation in Ferguson has the opportunity for redemption, but in my experience (and admittedly from an outsider’s view),  in Saint Louis these roots of racism, fear, discrimination, hate and suspicion run especially deep.  Therefore, Saint Louisans  — especially God’s people in Saint Louis — need to understand the fuller story, the broader picture, and the ramifications of generational iniquity.  I mean none of these things as points of judgment or condemnation from me against Saint Louis.  We love St Louis and we love North County.  It’s just that truth — the full truth, the whole story — has to be the starting point.  Only then can the truth set you free, which is my prayer for Saint Louis.  Freedom in Jesus’ name.

4 thoughts on “Ferguson: A Clarification

  1. I have a hard time seeing it as a race issue. I feel the greater issue is a failure to take any sort of responsibility for your own actions. This is a classic case of jumping to conclusions and saying what you need to say to get the best facetime. The media keeps saying this is just the culmination of years of problems but they don’t live in the Ferguson I know. They haven’t gone door to talk to any residents in the community to ask them personally, they are just playing into the hands of the people yelling the loudest.

    I still live and work with students in that area and racism is not the issue, humility is.

  2. Jenoa, I must respectfully disagree.

    Racism IS the fundamental issue here. I don’t disagree with your assessment that humility is an issue, along with a fallen African-American culture and all the other evils(crime, abuse, neglect, poverty, pride, lawlessness) that accompany that, but American Racism is at the root of the problem.

    Until we can embrace the reality that our father’s sins have put blood on our hands, we will continue to be locked in a inescapable web of intractable problems and fruitless efforts to resolve them. See Daniel 9:1-19

  3. The real issue here is clouded so much by anger, pain, years of frustration and so many other things. The issue here is that broken people to broken things to one another and all of that makes things worse. We are selfish creatures who look for ways for this world to serve them.

    The created cannot bear the weight of our hope and cannot ultimately fulfill the soul. Parents, police, government and authority all fail us and thus cannot withstand the weight of our hope. There are bad kids who bad things to police. There are bad kids who do bad things to bad kids. There are bad cops that do bad things to good and bad kids. Racial profiling is real. Racism is real. Partiality is real. A lack of personal accountability is real. Systemic racism is real. People saying stupid things on social media is real. Race baiting is real. Sensational journalism designed to sell advertising is real.

    The only thing that can withstand the weight of our hope is found in Jesus. We do well to not look to others to fulfill a role that they cannot fill. We do well to not look to the created as our hope. We do well to know that our battle is not against flesh and blood. We do well to know that suffering produces endurance in us which produces character which produces hope and hope does not disappoint us.

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