“It may be that when we no longer know what to do we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.”
-Wendell Berry, from Standing by Words

We knew the verdict already. Anybody who paid attention to the media and the way the narrative was shaped knew the ending. Last night was no surprise, and honestly, the violence was not either. We were all afraid that a small group of agitators would turn to violence and destruction, and they did.

Now that the evidence is fully examined, we will find a morally ambiguous argument in which both sides can make a case for their side of justice. But it is no surprise that the powers did not implicate themselves. To indict Darren Wilson is to call into question the morality and justification of the powers’ existence. Law and order must be maintained. Fear cannot be sustained. And so our worldly institutions will do everything to preserve their authority.

Christ, through his humanity and peace, clearly and perfectly called into question the authority of the powers. His pure humanity shamed the powers, and this led to crucifixion. In a similar vein, the civil rights movement of the 1960’s shamed the powers and the institutions of racism. Watching blacks violently abused for sitting in a restaurant or on a bus exposed our political system’s brutality and oppression, and the racism in our own hearts.
Today, we weep over the destruction of our city. “A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.” (Jer. 31:15)

As we face the brokenness, the violence, the destruction, we must find a path through the mourning. We are baffled. Many of us fail to see how “democracy” and the American “promise” can lead to such violence. Injustice may or may not have occurred in this situation. Each side has their opinion, and all the evidence in the world will likely not change anyone’s minds. Yet situations like this, lead all sides to hopelessness. We collectively ask how events like this can happen, and it exposes the idea that something is deeply wrong with the American experiment.

As a white male, raised in a western context, my gut reaction is to adjudicate the facts of this situation. Yet it is not my responsibility to adjudicate. I see the anger and hopelessness on the faces of my black brothers and sisters. I see the ensuing violence. As a Christian I lament the violence. And instead of adjudication, I need to ask why it is my black brothers and sisters are angry. Why are they furious, and why are some resorting to violence? What do I not understand about the black experience in America?

Until I am willing to ask those questions and listen to my brothers and sisters, to understand the experiences and the sources of anger, and until I am willing to examine the violence in my own heart, Ferguson will repeat itself, as it has for over 400 years. Until we engage this conversation, we will never fully deal with the problem of racism.

This is our real work, our real journey. Only then can we rebuild the beloved community, the kingdom of love and mutuality that we were called to. It is the undertaking of this conversation through which the impeded stream, hope, will create a beautiful song. This is our task, the practice of reconciliation and the restoration of the rich mosaic of creation.