In the last few months I have had countless conversations about Ferguson and some of those conversations have started with people asking me, “What do you think about Ferguson?” I usually reply “Which part?” My response is based upon the many issues that surround the
death of Michael Brown and the events of Ferguson. There are issues of justice, anger, law enforcement, local government, blacks, whites, violence, crime and the list could go on. To be sure there is plenty to discuss, however when it comes to bible believing Christian and the church, the issue of unity is right at the top.
Ferguson exposed the reality of race relations in America and also the church. We have come a long way since the days of slavery, Jim Crow, and “Seperate but equal” but we are not a “post-racial society” where race does not matter. For the church, one of the major issues that it faces is the issue of unity within an ethnically diverse body of believers. For years black and white Christians have worshipped side by side and have stood together in the name of Christ, but no one could have imagined the division that threatend the church in the wake of Michael Brown’s death.
Christ won the opportunity for unity amongst believers however there is a practical side to helping to maintain and further that unity. Whites and blacks now work together, shop together, eat together, live in the same neighborhoods and even go to the same churches, but whites and blacks can still have drastically different experiences as American citizens. One of the ways that I feel closer to my white brothers and sisters is when they inquire about things that affect the black community and things that might affect me as a black man. For example, several of my white Christian friends saw the initial outcry, protest and anger coming from the African American communities and said, “Aaron, I don’t understand the anger, what am I missing?” Their question acknowledged that there was something culturally that they did not understand about the African American community.
When whites are seeking to understand the experiences of blacks it sometimes causes me to feel a little closer to them than I had previously, but this is only the beginning. It is the ongoing empathy, and a deep desire from whites, to really challenge their hearts and minds about the things that they do not understand, including societal inequties, that can begin to strengthen the unity within the ethinically diverse body of Christ. However this cannot happen without a willingness from blacks to provide a non-threatening atmosphere, for honest questions and dialogue from whites.
I beleive a deeper unity can and needs to be attained between white and black Christians and it can begin with courage and deep empathy from whites and longsuffering patience from blacks.