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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Two Unrelated Events That Show What We Miss

While this blog was taking a break, two events occurred which can tell us what seems to forever go over our heads. The first event was the suicide of Robin Williams. While most heralded Williams talents and comedic genius, his real contributions were left unsaid. For while getting too caught up in how he performed, and he went beyond performing by giving of himself personally, we missed who he was as a person. He was a giver, he was empathetic, and he was compassionate. And he exceeded many Christians in what should be considered these Christian qualities because he had an outward-directedness to his life. But most of all, he was sensitive. We could see that in the roles he played and how he played them.

Perhaps if we watched his movies and learned the sensitivities his movie characters displayed from films like Dead Poets' Society, Mrs. Doubtfire, Good Will Hunting, and Good Morning Vietnam  we could grow as people. His roles in those movies taught us things about what it means to be human. And how he played those roles showed that these sensitivities were a vital part of who he was for both good and bad. Becoming more human is what we will miss if we only focus on his tremendous talents. For it is about being human that Williams has much to teach us.

Of course, some of my fellow Christians will protest this. They will say that he was not a believer in Christ, which is probably true, and that much of his material went against the Scriptures, which is somewhat true. And so they conclude that we have nothing to learn from him. But the Scriptures beg to differ with that kind of arrogance. Romans 2 tells the Jews then, and includes all of us who are religious now, that we can be easily shamed by the conscience-driven acts of unbelievers because of our own sins. God can use the goodness that most unbelievers have to remind us of how sinful we are especially when we get caught up in performing religion rather than practicing it. And we perform religion when we use it to exalt ourselves above others (see the parable of the two men praying and Paul on judging others).

The Scriptures provide a guide on how to filter the material that comes from people like Robin Williams. So rather than shunning what he has to say because we ourselves prefer to perform religion, we should use the Scriptures to discover what we can learn from people like Williams.

The other event that occurred was a community's reaction to the shooting of one of its own in Ferguson, Missouri. Those of us who have shredded Francis Schaeffer's warning  against seeking our own personal peace and prosperity will not only have the greatest difficultly in understanding the reaction of the people there, we will exhibit the greatest resistance to even learning about the people's protest. In fact, most, if not all, Whites in America will not be able to understand how the people in Ferguson feel. Why is this the case?

Chilean economist Manfred Max-Neef uses topics like love and poverty to show us that understanding comes from experiencing, not studying. This is why he says that unless we fall in love, we can never understand it. He says something similar about poverty. The same applies to understanding lives of the people in Ferguson. The killing of Michael Brown was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back.  And regardless of the actual facts in the Michael Brown case, it is what the people of Ferguson have had to live through, along with the belief in Michael's innocence, that have many in Ferguson saying, "enough is enough."

Enough is enough of what? A spiraling increase in crime and racially targeted police stops make up part of the problem. So is the racial makeup of Ferguson's police force. In addition, we have a national problem where it has become to easy to perceive that Whites are favored by police while Blacks are automatically viewed as suspects. New York City's Stop And Frisk program lends much credence to this police discrimination against Blacks. And then we have had a number of shootings with impunity of Black kids by White police officers or even citizens. And there have been reports that some Blacks are framed for drug offenses they did not commit. When we add to that the fact that the economic recovery has bypassed almost all but the very rich, we get a sad, Picasso-like picture of life for people who live in areas like Ferguson.


Certainly justice must be done concerning the shooting of Michael Brown. But life will still go on in Ferguson after the investigations have been publicly released. And with that life are the problems that were a part of life in Ferguson before the shooting. And that is what we will be missing if we focus too much on the shooting of Michael Brown. This is not to minimize the shooting and the investigation. Shootings, like the one of Michael Brown, are a tragic part of the lives of many minorities in America. However, I am saying all of this to draw attention to the problems of regular life in communities like Ferguson as well. Perhaps, if we studied and learned about these kinds of problems in the communities near us, we wouldn't need public flareups or dramatic events to discover the problems that many of our fellow citizens live with on a daily basis and to react to them.



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