geezeronthequad: Bringing Ferguson Home
These next posts were supposed to be about the ways that Jesus Christ draws people to Himself but events in Ferguson deserve a response. Since this blog primarily addresses those on campus, I’d like to keep it on campus. And I want to begin our discussion with some words from our president. He said, “I think that it’s going to be very important and I think the media’s going to have a responsibility as well to make sure that we focus on Michael Brown’s parents and the clergy and the community leaders and the civil rights leaders and the activists and law enforcement officials who have been working very hard to try to find better solutions, long-term solutions to this issue.”
Some personal words first. I fell in love with jazz as a kid and became an avid reader of Downbeat Magazine. At that time, LeRoi Jones wrote a column and I read about people he called “ofays”. I didn’t know who these people were but they didn’t sound very nice. He was writing about me; “ofay” was an older term of contempt for whites. I grew up in a blue collar, mostly white, town in western Pennsylvania. Both the high school and the college I went to were mostly white. Coming to deeper faith during the counterculture years of the sixties gave me different eyes for a lot of things. In my first pastorate, I met the Rev. Dr. Eugene Williams of Faith Temple Baptist Church in Waterloo, Iowa, and his wife Ann. He adopted my wife and I, a steel town kid and a girl raised in the Jim Crow South. He called us his “white children.” We loved and learned a lot. I now pastor a racially mixed church (predominantly white) outside Detroit.
I do not believe, generally, that whites have much racial consciousness. On forms where we indicate our racial grouping, some of us can’t find ourselves when it says “caucasian” instead of “white”. We pick up racial sensitivity and identity from being a minority. White minority sensitivities fall along ethnic lines going back to the nineteenth century when Poles, Germans and Irish flocked to America. Racially, not only have whites been a majority throughout this nation’s history but many of our early forefathers twisted their new religious freedom into a sense of entitlement that left scars with Native Americans remaining today.
Much racism is subliminal. As I watch the Ferguson protests all over the country, I see a shallowness that pervades some protests – especially where we “ofays” are involved. Much, but not all, white protest can be shallow. We hold up signs, shout slogans and go home feeling righteous about what we’ve done. And because we’ve done it…it’s done. I remember a joint service at Christmas where some churches met with the black community at the city’s public nativity. They shined flashlights into the air and made noise about being with the “brothers and sisters” celebrating Jesus as the Light of the World. Then everybody but “the brothers and sisters” went home to wine and cheese. When King marched in Selma, people went home praying that their home wasn’t in flames or that a shotgun blast wouldn’t come through their living room window that night. I’ve seen the Strange Fruit Quilt twice. One time the quilt accompanied a display of lynching photos and let’s just say it created a memory. A crowd came through and a woman came up beside me. As I glanced at her, she smiled as if to say, “Because we’re both here, we certainly wouldn’t have been part of what went on.” Call this a dumb white thing. Virtue in retro is worthless. It goes like this. If we’d been in Nazi Germany, we certainly would have hidden Jews. We certainly would have not supported slavery. We would not have plundered Native Americans. We would have been in the forefront of the action along with the good guys of history. We just know it. We’re above this. The fact is that we don’t know what we would have done.
I want to suggest that, while national conversations on race are needed, we need to start building something new in racial dialogue and that those who know Jesus Christ need to start it and start it where they live, where racial prejudice seeps down into the cracks of everyday lives. And for students, that’s the campus. Outsiders see the university as citadels of generous and reasonable liberalism. Indeed, that’s how many schools desire to be seen – clear-headed and above all this. However, as John Calipari (A Clarion Univ. of PA grad (Hoo-rah!) and pretty good college hoops coach) once made reference – there’s some poop in the ice cream. First of all, there’s racial prejudice of all stripes on campus. And second, millenials (aka college students) show a rise in sensing reverse discrimination higher than the rest of the population. They’re not being discriminated against. We are.
Christians stand at a crucial point in all this because we possess the resources to really make change that gets into the bloodstream of our society. Everything on campus makes its way into the surrounding culture. You, as students, have a lot of years ahead and the things we discuss here will be foundational bricks for the rest of your life. And while we may have our times to shout, we will become builders of something new by the Spirit of God that will make a difference for those times when the shouts fade away. More next time.
Before you click out of this version of geezeronthequad.com, be sure to visit our Christmas store. Maybe you’re looking for something new and original as a gift for somebody. Doesn’t it just honk us off when Grandma keeps asking for a new Hebrew lexicon year after year like it’s a fruitcake or something? I keep saying that the gang at Geezer 1 is sharp and the things they do for Jesus could be the olives in the eye sockets of someone’s stuffed boar’s head. (Just trying to be festive here!)
If you think that this might encourage either a college student or someone who loves them then share, subscribe, Twitter and all that social media stuff. If you already subscribe, think about joining Geezer 1, the Facebook clubhouse for all things geezeronthequad. It’s a mix of students, student ministry leaders, professors, administrators, artists, writers, musicians, composers, theologians, booksellers, broadcasters, pastors, business people, cultural thinkers and entrepreneurs as well as a few campus rats who think that Jesus Christ thinks that the university is a special place. Take a look. You coming on board will make us better.
Please return your seat to the upright position and give your infrared night vision goggles to the attendant as you leave. See you at the next post at geezeronthequad.com