Eclectica: Week of August 11, 2014

Oy, what a heavy week. The deaths of Michael Brown and Robin Williams figured heavily in what I read this week, but there are some rays of light in there too.

Rest in Peace Robin Williams

Tragically, Robin Williams lost his long struggle with depression on August 11. This prompted an outpouring of memorials, but also many important discussions about depression and mental illness.

Depression, Robin, and You – my friend Bethany Bassett (who recently joined the crew at A Deeper Story, congratulations!)

Can prayer cure depression? Yes, I believe so. But it doesn’t always. This is an important distinction, because until we stop viewing depression as a spiritual deficiency, we can’t help those in our communities take those first steps out.

And make no mistake—we are needed. You are needed. If someone you know is drowning inside his or her own head, you are needed to function as lifeguard. You are needed to call her up and tell her you’re taking her kids to the park for the day and cooking dinner besides. You are needed to tell him you found a doctor who can help and will be picking him up at 10. You are needed to do the Googling, to pick up the prescription, to find the health food store with the particular supplement, to refuse to give up until a solution is found. You are needed for your perspective and energy and insistence on your loved one’s worthiness. Your presence can be vital, sometimes in the most literal sense of the word.

Thoughts on depression, suicide and being a ChristianNish Weiseth

Those who don’t struggle with depression, who don’t feel the ongoing darkness, or even those who struggle with depression yet still get the occasional bursts of joy or light, they try to understand and make sense of it. Label it as selfish and the easy way out. Call the suicidal “cowards.” But that’s not the mind of a person in the grips of unrelenting darkness. When depression corners you like that, it makes you believe that suicide is joy. Suicide is relief. And in some instances, it makes you think that suicide is a blessing or a gift to others. It can feel like the brave and noble thing to do.

Like I said, depression is evil.

But there’s another kind of evil lurking around the halls of the depressed, and it’s the belief that those who are stricken with depression (or any mental illness) are suffering because of their lack of faith in Jesus.

Suffering-WithElizabeth Stoker Bruenig

Pain like this, pain that abuts futility, it’s exhausting. I have thought for sometime this must be one of the many meanings tied up in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Christ’s disciples can’t manage to stay awake with him while he prays. I can stay up all night for television marathons; I’m sure the majority of us could manage it at the request of Jesus, but agony is exhausting, it’s draining, it’s especially tiring when it all points toward the great black void of futility, when there’s nothing you can do.

It is tempting, as Christ suggests, to drop off into torpor and give up on matters that seem beyond one’s control. I don’t doubt people in the position of considering suicide feel this exact same way, but I do believe there’s value in recognizing that people considering suicide and people who don’t want them to can suffer that together.

And in Gethsemane Jesus’ example reminds us that suffering together matters, that it means something.

The Church Won’t Rein in Misogyny, But Bloggers WillSamantha Field

Not long ago, Leadership Journal published a piece written by a convicted sex offender that painted his assaults of a teenage girl as a consensual “affair.” It took hundreds of people pleading with the editors for five days before they removed the article from the Internet. When it was still live, I contacted all the writers that Leadership Journal has published, which includes some of evangelicalism’s biggest names (Francis Chan, Max Lucado, Rick Warren), and asked them to join their voices with those of us asking Leadership Journal to #TakeDownThatPost. None of them responded.

It is extraordinarily rare for a big-name evangelical pastor to even address misogyny and sexism in the church. Instead, the issue is ignored. It is treated as if the lives, voices, and squandered spiritual gifts of women present a problem so insignificant that it is not worthy of their attention.

This has opened the door to an odd development.

Rest in Peace Michael Brown

Sudden death as a result of sickness is one thing; unjust death at the hands of a police officer is quite another. 18-year-old Michael Brown of Ferguson, MO was killed by Officer Darren Wilson on Saturday, August 9. It’s a sickeningly familiar situation: a white police officer initiates contact with an unarmed black man, and the black man does not survive the encounter.

Things To Stop Being Distracted By When A Black Person Gets Murdered By PoliceMia McKenzie (via Dani Kelley)

A Black person is murdered by cops, security guards or self-appointed vigilantes every 28 hours in the U.S. The killing of an unarmed Black teenager named Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO, which has resulted in protests in that town and harsh police push-back and brutality against even more of its citizens, and which, via social media, has gotten the attention of people around the world, probably isn’t even the latest occurrence, at just three days old.

Talking to people on Twitter about Mike Brown and what’s happening in Ferguson right now, I’ve noticed (again) how easily folks get distracted when Black people are murdered by the police. It seems as though every detail is more interesting, more important, more significant—including looting of a Walmart in Ferguson, which a local Fox news station focused its entire coverage on—than the actual life that was taken by police.

So, to get folks back on track to focus on what matters most here—the killing of yet another unarmed Black teenager—I’ve compiled this list of 6 Things To Stop Being Distracted By When A Black Person Gets Murdered By the Police.

In which I have a few things to tell you about #FergusonSarah Bessey

Ferguson reminds me of the Arab Spring uprising. The people of Ferguson are rising up against their oppressors and hallelujah for that. I pray for their endurance in the face of state sanctioned violence against their children.

I have hesitated to write about Ferguson because I have preferred to amplify local voices or the voices of those who have been engaged in the real and difficult work of race relations in the United States. After all, Canada has our own issues, particularly with our treatment of First Nations.

But these past four days in Ferguson have broken through my usual resolve: this is absolutely a justice issue. I have waited patiently for more white Christian bloggers to speak up, particularly the Americans, trying to give them precedent to respond, but I have been disheartened by minimal response there. I want to come alongside the African American voices already writing and advocating, even in this small way.

An Open Letter From God to the U.S. on the Event of FergusonMark Sandlin

Dear Loved Ones,

I’m sorry it’s been so long since I’ve written. As you might imagine, I’ve had a few things on my plate. Thanks for understanding.

I’m also sorry that this letter is going to have to be so direct, but I’m afraid recent events have pushed us far past pleasantries.

Please, throughout the things I have to say in this letter, remember I love you. I do.

I just wish you loved me back.

Oh, I know. I hear you say you love me and that really does mean a lot.

It’s just that…

Well, your actions make me wonder.

Why We’re Still Unwilling to Admit to Systemic Racism in AmericaBenjamin L. Corey

We’re still not ready (at least on a large scale) to admit to the existence of systemic racism in America. Just bringing the issue up got me called a “race baiter”, “ignorant”, and all sorts of other stuff– but whatever.

The realization that we’re completely unwilling to admit to the existence of systemic racism saddens me, but something I believe to be true nonetheless. The piece that completely tipped the scale for me was this piece which illustrates the response to protestors in Ferguson compared to protesters at the Bundy Ranch. At the Bundy Ranch, armed whites confronted the government to stand along side a rancher who’s been stealing from the government. They went as far as having weapons drawn on the police– and the response? The government backed down.

Compare that to Ferguson, where protesters have been met with police who were more armed up than the folks I served next to in Operation Allied Force (and I’m not even kidding).

It’s all just so… insane.

The question becomes, why? Why is it so difficult for us to just stop, look around at our country, and humbly admit, “yes, American culture still exhibits systemic racism”?

Black Bodies White SoulsAustin Channing Brown

I am quite used to there not being enough room in the soul of the white church to care about black bodies. There is not enough room in the service, not enough room in the prayers, not enough room in the leadership, not enough room in the values, not enough room in the mission statement, not enough room in political stances, not enough room for lived experiences of African Americans.

I am convinced that the soul of the white church has yet to be ashamed. It is not ashamed of slavery- it only dismisses it. It is not ashamed of Jim Crow- it only claims credit for ending it. It is not ashamed of incarceration rates- it only excuses it. It is not ashamed of ghettos- it pretends to have nothing to do with them. It is not ashamed of segregation- only silently benefits from it. There is no shame for who America has been. I believe that until there is collective shame for who white America has been to people of color, white America will not choose to be something else. If it is fine with who it is, it will continue to do what’s always done.

Ten Years of Everything and Nothing (a reflection)Bronwyn Lea

Today marks 10 years of our being here, and even though NOTHING has gone the way I planned it, I am filled with gratitude. I look around, and my life is unrecognizable from the way I pictured it would be when I was dreaming 20, 15 and even 10 years ago. This life I now live in suburban America is not at all what i imagined, and yet – if I dig a little deeper, while the form may be unrecognizable, the content has been the same all along:

for we love and are loved,

we have work to do wherever we are, 

and no matter what – we are kept by a good and gracious God.

These things remain the same. And I am so very, very grateful.

Blood cries out

Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.

Salvor Hardin

Incompetence and malevolence can be difficult to tell apart. Acts of violence are the fulcrum where they intersect and pivot around each other, for if violence is the last refuge of the incompetent, it is the chief goal of the malevolent. From different vantage points one can look very much like the other.

Take for instance a police officer who stops a young man in the street. Their encounter is very brief, yet the officer for some reason draws his service weapon and fires. And fires. And fires and fires.

And the young man dies.

Objectively, there is no reason why Michael Brown should not have survived his August 9 encounter with Officer Darren Wilson of the Ferguson, MO Police Department. He was an unarmed, 18-year-old kid who was 2 days away from starting college. Wilson was a 6-year police veteran with all the training and experience that entails, not to mention ready access to the array of lethal and less-lethal weaponry that all cops have at their disposal.

But Officer Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown. In the most charitable point of view, it looks like he found himself losing control of the situation, and despite all his training and experience he saw no other choice than to retreat immediately to his last refuge. But from a different viewpoint it looks more like he deliberately drew his gun instead of his taser (or instead of de-escalating completely and letting Michael walk away) and shot Michael Brown dead, firm in the belief that the world would not care about another dead black man in the street, and secure in the knowledge that his fellow officers would close ranks and shield him from the consequences if that belief proved unfounded.

It turns out that belief was unfounded, but luckily Officer Wilson’s chief had his back and was able to give him almost an entire week to settle his affairs and leave town before the world-at-large even knew his name. Whatever else he may be, Officer Wilson was competent enough to notice which way the wind was blowing and get the hell out of Dodge. He has been conspicuously absent ever since. His neighbors don’t expect that he’ll be back.

The question of incompetence or malevolence does not end with Darren Wilson, however, but extends to every action the Ferguson Police Department has made since the shooting.

  • Why did Michael Brown’s body lie bleeding in the street for four hours? Did nobody think to call for an ambulance? Or was he just another dead nigger, so who cares?
  • Why, when the authorities eventually deigned to retrieve his body, was Michael Brown carried away in the back of an SUV? Was being properly loaded onto a gurney in an ambulance too good for him?
  • Why was a complete incident report of the shooting not immediately filed at the Ferguson Police Department? Why were the eye-witnesses to the event not immediately interviewed? Are there not strict procedures that must be followed whenever regrettable incidents like this occur? Or was Officer Wilson unofficially given some breathing room to come up with a likely story?
  • Why, when it became clear that the residents of Ferguson intended to peacefully protest in the streets, was the police response to roll out the armored vehicles, the snipers, and the masked storm troopers? Are rubber bullets and tear gas really the best way to disperse a peaceful gathering? Mightn’t they be considered somewhat antagonistic, antithetical to defusing a tense situation? Or was that the intention all along?
  • And why, when Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson finally called a press conference on Friday, August 15 to disclose Officer Wilson’s name, did he spend so little time discussing Officer Wilson and his actions, and so much time discussing Michael Brown and a shoplifting incident that had not even been reported? Is Chief Jackson really so unaware of how badly that press conference was perceived by people who still have no answers to any of the questions that matter? Or was he deliberately blaming Michael Brown for his own death, and poisoning the pool for a neutral jury should the case ever go to trial?

The questions even extend beyond the Ferguson Police Department to the St. Louis county prosecuting attorney’s office. Why has Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch not expressed any interest in determining whether it might be appropriate to bring charges against Office Wilson? Is it because he is blatantly and shamelessly already in the Ferguson Police Department’s corner, and willing to ignore any wrongdoing by his heroic law enforcement officers in the name of being tough on crime?

Is everyone involved in this travesty really this incompetent? Or has this horrible episode merely uncovered for the rest of us what the minority citizens of this country have always known: that black flesh is suffered to live only at the whim of its white overseers, that violent death may be only three minutes away, and that relief for the survivors will be denied as a matter of course.

Meanwhile, Michael Brown’s blood cries out from the ground for justice. We who stand by and do not act are complicit in his murder, and the murders of those who will surely follow him.

If you do nothing else, please sign Shaun King’s petition to enact police reform at the federal level.

in Life | 895 Words