I awoke this morning to a familiar script:
The white police officer who shot a black teenager was not indicted.
The black neighborhood erupted in violence, looting, and arson.
Two vastly different accounts of what happened in August. Two vastly different sets of life experiences that interpret reality. Two vastly different ways of seeing the world.
Some are saying this is a new movement. A new uprising of social, class consciousness. A clenched fist powerfully raised to stand up to “the system”.
You can’t change systems without changing the people who inhabit them and run them.
You can’t change how different groups see the world or interpret reality with a protest campaign or political movement.
You can’t undo deep, scarring, formative experiences from early childhood with better laws, policies, and procedures.
You can’t put the shattered, inner city family back together with social programs and more generous benefits or better schools.
You can’t erase a community’s tortured history with token gestures or feel good photo-ops or commissions that give political cover or calming calls to keep the peace.
We’ve tried all these things.
They change nothing.
Ironically, these do-gooder methods only deepen the anger, fuel the disconnect, increase the divide, and set us up to do it all over again.
But the do-evil approaches aren’t any better.
Burning and looting your own neighborhood’s businesses may express the pent-up rage, but charred, empty shells don’t do anyone much good.
Destroying may give a temporary feeling of power and revenge, but it almost always leaves the neighborhood a vacant wasteland for many years.
Riots and raging accomplish nothing.
They give a temporary fix of intoxicating power, but they can never answer the question, “Now what?”
So what can help? What can heal?
What can free tortured hearts?
What can heal people and groups who carry around so much pent up rage inside of them?
What can drain the soul of corrosive anger, brimming hostility, and raging violence within?
I’m going to make a jump here, and focus on specifically on young men of color.
The fact remains we have many, many angry young men of every color.
They are unfathered and underfathered.
They don’t fare well in schools or in employment or in the criminal justice system because they clash with authority.
They are attracted to delinquency, criminality and substance abuse.
They don’t finish school, and can’t find or don’t hold down jobs.
They are totally alienated and feel like the system is against them.
They are stopped, questioned, frisked, and called out by police even when they’re not doing anything wrong.
Which piles on the rage and fuels fantasies of revenge.
Then something happens and they snap, band together, lash out, and can’t seem to stop. So…
What if we approached this differently?
Notice first that these young men used to be tenderhearted little boys full of promise and potential.
They didn’t start out this way, they ended up this way. Which tells me…
They need a Father bigger than their sorrows, greater than their anger, and deeper than their despairing emptiness.
They need this Father to love them, bind up their soul wounds, treasure and value them, and hold them close until the tears come out and the well of grief is drained.
They need this Father to give them a higher calling, a ennobled manhood, and a holy reason why.
They need a different kind of burning–a burning bush experience with Father God.
They need a different kind of riot–a riot of joy over their coming home to Father God’s house.
They need to leave the land of their enslavement to their perpetual anger, and enter the land of liberation by Father God’s perpetual love.
Then, no matter what system is outside of them, no matter how stupid and petty other people are, no matter how difficult life is, there is hope.
Free at Last!
The grief behind their anger is healed, setting them free from their own, self-destroying reactions.
Father God-changed people transform their world.
Father God-loved people love and help others.
Father God-built people build up their families, neighborhoods, and nations.
And Father God-restored, once broken young men get a second change at life and can be a force for great good.
That’s why, behind all this bad news, there remains, as always, the potential of a fed-up, broken people who are finally ready to receive the good news.
And good news is just another name for the Gospel.
And how do you think I know all this?
I used to be one of them! This is my story.