What Fathers and Mothers Need to Know About Ferguson
By William Dwight McKissic, Sr.
On Saturday, August 9, about 2:15 p.m., a shooting took place in Ferguson, Missouri, that will forever be etched on the collective psyches of all Americans. Ferguson, Missouri, was not on the radar screen of most Americans until the news begin to circulate over the past several days, that yet another young African American male had been shot and killed by a police officer. Complete facts and details surrounding the young man’s death are still largely unknown. But what is known has triggered protests, looting, rioting and a police response that is reminiscent of the civil rights rallies and police responses in the 60’s. Ferguson is indeed a powder keg, and America and the world are watching.
What should fathers say to their families about Ferguson? What should pastors say to their congregations about Ferguson? What would Christ, through His preachers—Black, White, Asian and Hispanic—say to America about Ferguson?
The Bible is clear that it becomes the responsibility of fathers to interpret history for their children and to provide for them lessons that lead to hope in God.
“Remember the days of old, Consider the years of many generations. Ask your father, and he will show you; Your elders, and they will tell you:” (Deuteronomy 32:7)
5For He established a testimony in Jacob, And appointed a law in Israel, Which He commanded our fathers, That they should make them known to their children;
6 That the generation to come might know them,The children who would be born,
That they may arise and declare them to their children,
7 That they may set their hope in God, And not forget the works of God,
But keep His commandments; (Psalm 78:5-7)
“1Hear, my children, the instruction of a father, And give attention to know understanding…
3 When I was my father’s son, Tender and the only one in the sight of my mother,
4 He also taught me, and said to me: “Let your heart retain my words;
Keep my commands, and live.” (Proverbs 4:1, 3, 4)
The Bible commands fathers to instruct their children and to specifically instruct them concerning historical matters, in a manner that they “may set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments.” What fathers need to know about Ferguson is what is it that they should teach their children as a result of what took place there.
The lesson that every child needs to learn from Ferguson is this: I cannot control what the policeman can do toward me, but I can control how I will respond to him or her. Therefore, my response should be respectful, submissive and strategic toward protecting my best interest and Kingdom concerns.
I. Ferguson Reminds Us that We live in A Fallen World
The Bible portrays heaven as a place of total tranquility, racial inclusion, peace and harmony.
9 And they sang a new song, saying:
“You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,
10 And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10)
Everybody in heaven is redeemed. Everybody on earth is not. There is no racial strife, mistrust, bickering and rioting in heaven. There is division, disunity, distrust and disfavor that often characterize race relations on earth. Men are separated from each other, because they are separated from God.
The first murder recorded in Scripture was between two brothers. Even among people of the same family and race there is confusion, disunity, and bickering, because we live in a fallen world. The first fight in the early church was among members of the same church at Jerusalem, but one group (Greeks) leveled charges of inequitable distribution against another group (Jews) in Acts 6:1-7. Because we live in a fallen world tainted by sin, we see the fall-out in our families and in the church. Consequently, we inevitably will see it in our society.
Ferguson, Missouri, is symbolic and symptomatic of the fallen nature of mankind that’s evident universally. As Black families moved into Ferguson beginning in the 70’s, Whites began to flee. In 1980 the town was 85% White and 14 % Black; by 2010 it was 29% White and 69% Black. However, the Ferguson Police Department consists of 53 officers, of which only three are Black. The largely White police force stops Black residents far out of proportion to their population, according to statistics kept by the state’s Attorney General. Blacks account for 86% of the traffic stops in the city, and 93% of the arrests after those stops. In St. Louis County there have been allegations of widespread racial profiling. Ferguson reminds us that racism is still a reality in our world in hiring practices and in police patrol—racial profiling.
The consequences of this profiling can be deadly for many. A BLACK MAN IS KILLED IN THE U.S. EVERY 28 HOURS BY POLICE is the title of an article written by Adam Houston. Houston maintains that police officers, security guards or self-appointed vigilantes extra-judicially killed at least 313 African Americans in 2012. Ferguson hosted the most recent high profile case of such killing. Ferguson reminds us that we live in a fallen world. Jesus said in this world, ye shall have trials and tribulations (John 16:33). Jesus wept over Jerusalem because of their propensity toward violence. The Black-on-Black crime in Chicago, Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Detroit, Dallas, and New Orleans is equally indicative of the fact that we live in a fallen world. Cain is still slaying Abel. How unfortunate!
II. Ferguson Reminds Us That Obeying God Is Crucial. The Redeemed Ought To Live Like The Redeemed.
The 18-year-old, 6’4”, 292 pound African American male who was headed to college but whose life abruptly ended, name was Michael Brown. The policeman who shot and killed him was named Darren Wilson. I have no knowledge of the spiritual condition of either. But what I do know is that the death of Michael Brown could have and should have been avoided.
We certainly grieve with Michael Brown’s family. The Wilson family is also in a state of befuddlement. I hope that both men were redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, but I simply don’t know. What I do know is that Brown’s family and the Wilson’s family lives have been radically and inalterably changed. Neither family is pleased with the state they are currently in. Both families, no doubt, point the finger at the other for causing their disruption and pain.
The truth is that there was wrong on both sides of this table. The battle is now over who shares the lion share of the blame for the killing—Brown or Wilson.
Without taking sides in this issue, while awaiting more facts to evolve, it appears to me that if news reports are accurate, that Wilson shot Brown, multiple times, from a distance of 35 feet while he was in a surrender posture, Wilson should and could have exercised restraint, inasmuch, at the time Wilson did not view Brown as a suspect. Hindsight is always 20-20. But I’m sure Wilson regrets not having exercised restraint and patience.
As for Brown, if it’s true that he was walking in the middle of the street and blocking traffic that was/is nonsensical, in addition to being against the law. Additionally, he handed his critics a stick to fight him with by robbing a store of some cheap cigars. Yes, we all have made some youthful mistakes, and perhaps committed some crimes during our tender years that we wish we could recall. Yet, unfortunately, in the minds of many, this somehow renders Brown complicit in his own death. There is no connection between the robbery and the shooting. Yet, in the court of public opinion, Brown is somehow being held liable as a result; and he has only himself to blame for that.
Because we do live in a fallen world, my mother use to tell her children, “make sure that you don’t hand the devil the stick to hit you with, because he will sure use it.” May all young men, regardless of color, learn a lesson from Brown’s failure!
If reports of Brown assaulting Wilson are true, and attempting to take his pistol, may the lesson learned be: (1) respect authority, (2) obey authority, (3) submit to authority, and (4) honor authority. (Romans 17:1). He who lives by the sword, may also die by the sword. Violence, robbery, and disrespect toward authority are surefire ways to create problems with parents, police and peers. These things should be avoided at all cost.
Justice is wrapped up in the Kingdom package (Amos 5:24; Micah 5:6). While seeking justice, I should not engage in unjust activities. I must disassociate myself from evil (Psalm 1:1-2). While combating racism, I should not practice racism (Malachi 2:10). God will bless the person who honors authority (Ephesians 6:4). God will bless the person who is meek (Matthew 5:5). God will bless the person who honors His laws (Proverb 28:7). A man that doeth violence will suffer (Acts 28:17). The key to longevity and a peaceable life are submission to authority and to run from evil (I Peter 3:10-14).
May the life of Michael Brown be redeemed by posthumously teaching lessons to parents and children that might lead to better outcomes! May the life of Darren Wilson be redeemed by teaching lessons to authority figures that a nation and an entire race of people can be put ill at ease through one act of intemperance!
Ultimately, Ferguson teaches us that true justice, equality, love, brotherhood and peace will not be found in this world but through the blood of Jesus (Ephesians 2:13-14)…for truly it is at the foot of the Cross where true brotherhood is found. If America gathers at the Cross, we can find healing, help and hope for our present predicament.