We go to that line a lot. And it is, understandably so. As a pastor, I have an excessive desire to comfort folks. Even at times, detrimentally so, for myself and for them. As a person, I seek—at least yearn for, if not always seek in a full way—comfort, peace, that all might be copacetic.
But all is not copacetic. All is not peaceful. Certainly, comfort is illusive, comfort for many.
Which is why alongside receiving our only comfort in Christ, we need to also experience more of the tension. Maybe cry a bit more and get angry at the things we ought to get angry about.
That is why I was so moved by a prayer request in a recent article on Ferguson written by the Jeff Chu, incidentally an elder at Old First Church (RCA) in Brooklyn. He quotes the Rev. Traci Blackmon, pastor of Christ the King United Church of Christ, towards the end of the piece:
I asked Traci Blackmon what people of faith outside of Ferguson ought to pray for. “I want you to pray for justice. I want you to pray for reconciliation. I want you to pray for restoration,” she said. “But I don’t want you to pray for peace. We don’t need peace right now—we need unrest.”
We need unrest.
Do you feel unrest?
It is easy for those within a dominant group to miss the unrest that is so prevalent. Or to label it as other, outside of and distinct from themselves.
Growing up, racism was always overt. Or so it seemed. It was expressed, practiced, and shared often via language and the kinds of words that were used and attitudes displayed. In pleasant company it might be preceded with, “well, I’m not racist but…”
Some months into my first year of college my hometown made the national news. The President of the township’s Board of Trustees scheduled a meeting on Martin Luther King Day. Not a good move. The “stuff” hit the proverbial media fan however when he gave his reasoning. Martin Luther King Day in his estimation was a ``colored'' holiday.
``I apologize if I hurt anybody's feelings,'' he said and went on, ``none of us is colored. It's not going to affect us. Nobody colored comes to the meetings anyway.''
The man who said those words was a good man. But somehow saw King day as completely disconnected from himself.
When do I do that? When do you?
Many good folks also see Ferguson as completely disconnected from themselves.
A recent pew poll shows this:
The new national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Aug. 14-17 among 1,000 adults, finds that the public overall is divided over whether Brown’s shooting raises important issues about race or whether the issue of race is getting more attention than it deserves: 44% think the case does raise important issues about race that require discussion, while 40% say the issue of race is getting more attention than it deserves.
By about four-to-one (80% to 18%), African Americans say the shooting in Ferguson raises important issues about race that merit discussion. By contrast, whites, by 47% to 37%, say the issue of race is getting more attention than it deserves.
I’m on vacation right now, visiting friends in central Iowa. I’m seeking some rest, some comfort, some peace. But all that said, I need to feel some unrest too. And to pray that the unrest changes things. And me.