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At Thanksgiving, reflections on Ferguson

Bishop Beckwith & Canon Jacobs giving "Blessings to Go" in Newark Penn Station

The Thanksgiving holiday has been inconvenienced by an early snowfall; and the spirit of gratitude which accompanies the holiday has been blunted by the tragic reality that continues to emerge from Ferguson, Missouri. The weather may make it difficult, and in some cases impossible, for people to gather for the Thanksgiving meal. The events in Ferguson yet again expose how difficult, and in some cases how seemingly impossible, it is for people in American society to move beyond the prejudice and racism which have been woven into our nation's fabric – and work together as communities that offer equal justice and freedom for all.

The tragedies of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Trayvon Martin in Florida, Akai Gurley (the young unarmed man shot in Brooklyn last week) and Tamir Rice (the 12-year-old boy killed in Cleveland last weekend) are all rooted in fear. No doubt the police are often afraid, given the risks and challenges of their role; but they also carry the deep anxiety of the communities they serve, which often live with an unspoken fear of the "other."

There is the tragedy of young, unarmed black men being shot and killed. But there is a deeper tragedy of a culture that seems to live with the illusion that in order for the majority to be safe (and presumably free of fear) some need to be sacrificed. That illusion is racial profiling of the worst order.

I remember theologian Walter Brueggemann saying that "fear not" is the overarching message of the Gospel. I believe that. But I also believe that the way to deal with fear is not to deny it, or create illusions that hide it – but to name it and work through it. Jesus did that. He named fear, he faced fear – and in his Resurrection overcame fear.

Jesus continues to name and face fear – through us.

I invite you – with whomever is able to show up at your Thanksgiving meal, to give thanks for the fact that Jesus is with us, and can help lead us through our fear to a promise of hope, peace and justice. Our faith – and our acting from our faith, has the potential to make life safer. For everyone.


How insightful your comments are. the simplicity but correctness of your comments will undoubtedly be acknowledged privately by policemen themselves. I believe that those that are most fearful should be screened as part of their psychological examination...particularly since many use false addresses to become policman in urban area and have not had exposure to African Americans untill they are employed as policmen in largely AA communities.

Thank you for reminding us of how pernicious racism is.
I recommend Nicholas Kristof's series about Racism in the New York Times: here's the link to the latest one, which was published on Dec. 1:
Kristof suggests that we establish "Truth and Reconciliation Commission" to examine racism in America.
On a smaller scale, Namaste's Anti-Racism trainings are one safe place to have dialogues about racism that are often difficult. As a former member of Namaste, I know we talked about ongoing safe spaces for dialogue in districts or across congregations--now may be the time to try that. I'm willing to explore options in my district.
The bishop is right--"Fear Not" is a central message of the gospel. Fear of saying the wrong thing, or being politically incorrect, can affect all of us. Denying that fear doesn't work very well as we try to live the gospel of reconciliation. Jesus will lead us, if we are willing, to do the hard work of hope and peace and justice.

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