taking the words of Jesus seriously

EDITOR’S NOTE: RLC Contributor Leroy Barber, who was interviewed by Romal Tune on the Red Carpet this week, flew to Ferguson, MO, yesterday. The questions he took with him are questions for all of us in America who follow the Jesus who was lynched outside Jerusalem.

What if you were the Brown family? What if your son, who was preparing to leave home and start his college career, was approached by police for either jaywalking or stealing cigars from a store (we don’t actually know why he was approached but these are different possibilities out there)? A simple, granted stupid act, that normally wouldn’t be a big deal. Not that I’m justifying stealing, but let’s be honest, white kids do some of these same stupid things. The difference is, they don’t end up dead because of them. In fact, very few of them are even arrested or brought to court because of them. The Brown’s son ended up dead and laying in the street for more than 4 hours, as a result of his SUPPOSED stupid act.

If it was your son shot and lying dead in the street like an animal, how calm and contained would you be? How law abiding would you remain? What kind of feelings would you have towards the police? My heart sinks to even think about it.

What if you were a young man in Ferguson and sat looking at your friend lying there dead for four hours or more. Would you not be enraged? Would there be screaming? Would you insist on justice? Would you at least ask for some dignity on his behalf?

What if your child happened to be on his or her way home from school, and saw a police officer engage a man with his hands in the air… and shoot at him six times? What happens to the spirit of that innocent child just walking by that day?

What if you have black sons in college and hear this story? Do you lament? Do you ask for prayer? Do you call all of your friends–black, white, Latino, Native, Asian–and ask them to speak out with you?

What if you are a Christian? You hear all of this and wonder what to do. Do you pray? Do you blame the victim? Do you ignore, and simply chalk it up as another black man dead? Do you cry for justice? Are you silent? Why? Are your politics more important? Does your theology justify your silence?

I have so many questions as I head to Ferguson. I don’t have many answers, but the questions drive me to be present. The Brown family screaming in the streets moves my heart. My tears well up at the thought of seeing my own child dead and laying in the streets. My anger rises up, as I think about a ”public servant” feeling justified to shoot a defenseless black man,  six times.

I am crying. I am angry. I am hurt. I am unsure. I am prayerful. I need community. I can lead.  I need to march, and march I will. I need to speak up, and speak up I will.

About The Author


Leroy Barber has dedicated more than 25 years to eradicating poverty, confronting homelessness, restoring local neighborhoods, healing racism, and living what Dr. King called “the beloved community” in a variety of organizations and churches. Currently he is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of The Voices Project and College Pastor at Kilns College, as well as Executive Director of Holla. Rev. Barber is on the boards of, The Simple Way, Missio Alliance, The Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN), and the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA). He is the author of three books included the recently released Red, Brown, Yellow, Black and White: Who’s More Precious In His Sight?

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