There’s a Facebook post that is currently circulating. You know, the one written by football player Benjamin Watson. In it, Watson wrestles over his emotions regarding what is going on in Ferguson. While I don’t necessarily resonate with many of the points that he raises in the post, I do agree with some of Watson’s analysis of sin being the root of the problem in Ferguson. And so do other Christians, apparently. Over the last day or so, my Facebook feed has been full of peers posting and commenting on Watson’s piece, jumping on the sin bandwagon. Sin seems to be the idea that believers, who have otherwise been largely silent in Mike Brown’s death, can unite around. And so, since the idea of sin has come to the forefront, it is expedient that we take the opportunity to identify just what type of sin we are dealing with here.
You see, if we are going to have a conversation about sin we must be honest and forthright in our analysis. We cannot simply look at individual sins, but we must look much deeper into the soul of our nation and consider the factors, the history, and the values that have led us to this point.
Capitalism. This is really the sin that we are dealing with here. In the name of capitalism, America has done a lot of shameful things which include exploiting black and brown bodies. In pursuit of profit at all costs, the idea of race was created and used to justify treating blacks as property instead of people. Because blacks were not seen as fully human, it was okay to enslave us, beat us, and even kill us, with little to no consequence for any of these actions. In that construct, blacks were not only seen as inferior to whites, but were also labeled dangerous so that whether we are asking for help, walking down the street, or playing in the park, we are automatically assumed to be guilty without ever having a chance to be proven innocent.
The sins of racism and capitalism are, therefore, closely intertwined. In fact, capitalism cannot thrive without racism continually waging a war against black people in this country. Consider the war on drugs which disproportionately targets and imprisons black men, when in fact, whites use recreational drugs at the same rate, if not higher. Also look at the housing crisis; the homes of blacks were foreclosed on at higher rates than whites due to discriminatory lending practices. Blacks, regardless of credit and income, were steered into subprime mortgages and so were at a greater risk of losing them compared to whites.
And of course, Ferguson. Let’s look at Ferguson and the incidents of police brutality around the country. Data suggests that a black man is killed by a police officer or self-appointed vigilante every 28 hours. In the few weeks surrounding the death of Mike Brown, there were are least 4 other men who had been assassinated by the police. Now that Jim Crow is no longer legal, a practice that was set in place when whites started to feel threatened by the economic gains that blacks were making, the police force has become the de facto executioners of the state. Not only is this sinful; its downright demonic.
So yes, sin is the undergirding problem in Ferguson and America at large. But it is the sin of capitalism and racism that must be dealt with in order to move this country toward a place of healing, reconciliation and love. This is why we cannot allow the idea of sin to exonerate ourselves from dealing with the bigger issue here because if we ignore it, we will not only lose out on God’s peace but His very presence. While undoing racism is a big task (we are dealing with structural and systemic issues here), with God nothing is impossible. Here are a three ways to get started today:
1. #BOYCOTTBLACKFRIDAY: In the wake of Monday’s verdict, protestors, community leaders, and activists all over the country have been calling like-minded individuals to #boycottblackfriday and in fact, all related activity through Cyber Monday. Since it is capitalism that continues to allow people like Mike Brown to be shot and killed without being held accountable, capitalism has to take a hit. Stand with black people and our allies and proclaim before the world that #blacklivesmatter.
2. Preach about Ferguson this Sunday and the weeks to come with a deepened analysis around racism and capitalism. See the sin for what it is and bring your congregation, small group, or social media following through a critical and informed understanding of what is going on. This will require that you take the time to listen to what other people are already saying about Ferguson, but it will also demand that you start to educate yourself around racial justice issues.
3. Pray. And after you are done praying that God break this nation’s strongholds, join up with others to demand justice. This is a battle that will not only be won on our knees but with our mouths, hearts, and feet as we declare God’s kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven.
*Note: It’s not about the rioting. It’s really, really not. It is because of CAPITALISM that some Americans value property over life.