Yesterday, Ruth Krall sent out a meditation on what Ferguson teaches (or should teach) us. It's very powerful, and manages to weave together the Christmas story of incarnation with the events of Ferguson. Ruth has kindly permitted me to share her meditation with you here. (As I've mentioned previously, Ruth is a Mennonite theologian who maintains the Enduring Space blog and has been very actively involved in the movement to call the Mennonite to accountability around issues of sexual abuse of minors and violence to women). Here's Ruth's meditation:
Social psychologist Philip Zimbardo's work on evil, dehumanization and the all-too-human proclivity to do violence to each other, the Lucifer Effect, comes to mind - his 1971 "prison" research revisited several years ago in this important and discomfiting book about authoritarian abuse of power in situations where one identifiable group is at the mercy of and is tightly controlled by a second.
The task of re-humanizing, according to Bishop Tutu, is essential for the healing of a nation torn by racist violence - both overt and structural. Uniforms, riot gear, and masks that hide our face can - and often do - facilitate dehumanization. Removing the masks and being vulnerable do not guarantee redemption but they are steps along the way.
This troubling story in Ferguson about our collective national racism should be - but most certainly won't be - one that our Christian attention should be focused on during this beginning of the holiday season. Instead we will soon be hearing miracle stories and singing hymns about blue-eyed, blonde virgins giving birth to a blue-eyed human god created by a divine-human artificial insemination process surrounded by white, blue-eyed angels.
If the Jewish holocaust teaches/taught us anything at all - and sometimes I doubt it did - it teaches us that our cosmic mythologies are secure breeding grounds for hate, prejudice, anger, rage, violence, and most of all evil. James Carroll's wonderful deconstruction of Christian Antisemitism in Constantine's Sword as one root - perhaps the taproot - of the Jewish holocaust is, like Zimbardo, necessary reading to begin to understand these complex issues.
Reading a bit of Elie Wiesel this morning in which he says that it is the duty of the survivors to bear witness to what happened in order to warn and to protect others from the same violence that they experienced. My paraphrase here. I would add that it is the Christian's duty - if they claim to follow the Jesus path - to join this witness against the utter insanity of violence and violation done by the powerful against those with much less social capital and power.
Race, religion, ethnicity, skin color, gender orientation, gender, national origins, class: all reasons to hate each other; all reasons to assault each other. Yet whatever the incarnation stories are meant to teach us is that the divine came and lived among us and was rejected out-of-hand
Blessings to each of you as you seek to prepare the path in a search for the way of justice and peace and accountability to help create a violence-diminishing world. As we link hands together, we are each made stronger. One is often perceived as a paranoid lunatic - so therapeutic wisdom teaches us - but two or three form a formidable and vibrant witnessing community.