Laying Blame for Ferguson Solely at Feet of a 18 year old Man

CBS NewsAs far as I am concerned, the comments being thrown out by people wanting to lay the blame for the city of Ferguson, Missouri, solely at the feet of a dead 18 year old black man are the sort of thing one expects from people who like to remain, in their minds, better than people of color.

Some of the comments go so far as to imply that the person doing the commenting is a more intelligent being than those they criticize. There are many social scientist that have tried to speak to part of the dilemma, stating that the chasm between the white populations perception of the world and that of the black persons is beyond being wide – it is all but impassable.

The convoluted nature of the comments witnesses to the fact that the white critics have no clue or understanding of what it means to be a person of color in today’s world much less what it has been in days past.

I am going to resort to doing something I intentionally avoid – return to my training and experience as an ordained United Methodist Minister – retired. In many engagements on this page and the many others I frequent I have expressed my disillusionment with organized religion and the institutional church. I have also tried to make clear my appreciation for what I call the poetry of faith or the source of my grounding as a human being. Now before any of my less than impressed with religion friends gear up for the predictable flaming of folks who believe in a make-believe friend or criticize those who out of their own insecurity have a need to believe anthropomorphically about a deity up in the sky – Don’t start!!

I want to express something of my position regarding these, all too public, rants and self justifying claims of being the more responsible people.

Public proclamations of self-righteousness are, in reality, public statements about self-worth.” I am more worthy than you because I do not loot, plunder, burn and riot.” What is the value in such a pronouncement? In my opinion there is no value – there is only the out cry of someone who does not feel the pain, understand the anger or know what it is to constantly worry about whether you will have a tomorrow.

There is a reason that the words of hope and encouragement in scripture rang true to the oppressed and less fortunate. That same reason holds true today. There is also a reason why there are admonitions against self-righteous displays by those who claim to own their righteousness.

People who stand on the street corner, as it were, and proclaim their goodness, their family values, their faithfulness to what they’ve been told to believe – do themselves no service and show to the world their lack of depth morally.

At no point do I find a word of judgment aimed at the poor, the hungry, the naked or the oppressed. No, what I find is the challenge to figure out how to address those issues regardless of the cost – even to the giving of oneself as a solution.
What I find ample evidence of is the admonition against any and all displays of self-righteousness, whether through actions, thoughts or words.

Long ago, I worked out for myself the dilemma of heaven and hell. Someone asked, probably in reaction to something I said in a sermon, ‘don’t you believe in Hell?’
Yes I do – I believe in it every time I experience it. Sometimes as a result of my own actions and sometimes at the hands of someone else. But as for it being some place that I fear I may end up for eternity – no, I do not! Same is true about the concept of Heaven. It is what I long for everyday – peace on earth, happiness, no sickness, equality and justice for all human kind. Needless to say that was not the desired answer – but it was my answer then and it remains so.

I do not have to agree with all manner of protest to understand its underpinnings. I do not have to judge others behavior as wrong or unwarranted because I do not feel the motivating emotional pain or fear. It is not for me to stand on the side lines of another’s trauma and proclaim it’s their own fault – had they had my perspective they would have acted differently. No. It is not for me to judge. Particularly it is not my place to stand in public on a street corner in Somewhere, USA and proclaim my judgment.

From the book called “Luke” or the “Gospel of Luke,” which, by the way, means the Good News according to Luke, in the 18th chapter there is this short bit of wisdom:
Jesus also told this parable to people who were sure of their own goodness and despised everybody else.

“Once there were two men (could have been two women or a man and a woman for today’s purpose) –“Once there were two men who went up to the Temple to pray, one was a Pharisee, the other a tax collector.” (Tax collectors were among the least respected of society then) “The Pharisee stood apart by himself and prayed, I thank you God that I am not greedy, dishonest or an adulterer, like everybody else. I thank you that I am not like that tax collector over there. I fast two days a week, and I give you one tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance and would not even raise his face to heaven, but beat on his breast and said ‘God have pity on me, a sinner!”

The passage concludes with the statement that the tax collector not the Pharisee was “right” with God. I do not believe anyone is required to be in a state of self denigration to be “right with God.” I do believe that honest, compassionate, selfless living leads to a better place in day-to-day life.

In another passage about the Public vs Private expressions of faith the concluding comment goes something like – those who pride themselves and proclaim and display their righteousness for the world to behold – have within the act of their parade all the reward or blessing or outcome they deserve. Going back to my view about Hell – you might say it is what they have and deserve.

Another observation – for those who take offense at all things religious and who have separated themselves from caring about such matters – understand this – whether you believe in any deity or not – the qualities of humanness remain constant. Compassion, justice, mercy, equality and fairness in any and all relationships enhance the experience of being a human being – anything less tears at the fabric of our common human experience.
Thanks for your attention, now go back to – – just go on with your life.

Don Nelson


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