Ed Stetzer has written a thoughtful reflection on the grand jury decision in the case of Missouri v. Wilson, the killing of Michael Brown. You can read it here. I did spend some time early this morning reading the testimony presented to the grand jury simply because, like many of you, I am struggling to reconcile the warring narratives present around this story. I’m not sure that I’ve moved closer to clarity or that I ever will. I don’t have the sort of clarity that allows me to tell black brothers and sisters to get over it and move on. I don’t have the sort of clarity that would allow me to get in my car, drive to Ferguson to protest or to riot. Internally, I’m conflicted and I realize that–in a sense–my internal conflict signals my distance from the social dynamics that are behind the Ferguson reaction.
In my own life, one of the realizations that marked my transition from intellectual adolescence to maturity was the shocking realization that there is no such thing as absolute justice in this world. I hope this doesn’t come across as an evangelical bromide because I don’t wish it to be. Simpy put, in this world we will only ever know proximate justice at best. Am I being cynical? Perhaps. I prefer to think of myself as being realistic.
The truth is that we’re living between the inauguration of God’s kingdom and its concrete fulfillment in our lived experience–to borrow a phrase from Robert Benson, “between the dreaming and the coming true.”
Steven Garber sums up my reaction to the brokenness of the world in his article “Making Peace with Proximate Justice“:
There is not a week in my life when I do not
think about the tensions of the now-but-not-yet
nature of the Kingdom, where Jesus has made
all things new, and yet where we still do not
see that reality completely incarnate in history.
I have to make peace with proximate justice,
even as I ache for hope and history to finally
and fully rhyme.
The reality–at least as I see it–is one where we have to admit and hold together things that are actually irreconcilable:
- That racism and racial profiling are real AND that a police officer has the right of self defense in a situation where he reasonably fears for his life.
- That there is deep pain, suffering, trauma, and sorrow in minority communities AND that it is morally wrong to commit violent acts of vandalism against others’ personal and real property.
What I have written may cause anger among some, and if so, forgive me. All I know is that there is some truth in both sides of this story and of this issue. Put differently, both get some things right and some things wrong. AND at the end of the day God, through the prophet Micah, continues to invite His church to pursue His vision of justice:
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
3 Replies to “Ferguson: Between the dreaming and the coming true”
Well said. Thanks. I get frustrated with those claiming that just because the grand jury reached a conclusion it is inherently just, and people should just move on – “nothing to see here”. Our toleration of systemic injustice needs to end, but I will have to do some reading on the idea of “proximate justice.”
Jeff, you have said what I think most of the time. But then I wonder:
When you say
That racism and racial profiling are real AND that a police officer has the right of self defense in a situation where he reasonably fears for his life.
That there is deep pain, suffering, trauma, and sorrow in minority communities AND that it is morally wrong to commit violent acts of vandalism against others’ personal and real property.
Don’t you and I get the privilege of inserting the *AND* mostly because we are white?
Thanks for your comments. I think that the “and” is objectively true despite the context, yet it is experienced very differently by different people.