UNITED STATES REFLECTION: The Ripple Effect– #StayWokeAdvent

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CPTnet
8 December 2014

UNITED STATES REFLECTION: The Ripple Effect– #StayWokeAdvent

by Chris Sabas

[Note: The following reflection has been adapted for
CPTnet.  The original is available
on the author’s blog
: ]

I write this post in response to the recent challenge to

“reflect;

cry out;

meditate;

repent;

accept grace;

pray;

weep;

wrestle;

wake up;

question;

hope (if even just a little);

sit with darkness;

squint at the light;

read;

write;

create;

observe;

listen” 

in an effort to keep watch and not be silent in light of
what we have witnessed in #Ferguson, Missouri.  The writer, out of
anguish, frustration and anger, asked us who observe #Advent, with anticipation
of the arrival of shalom, to “stay alert…to “stay woke”…to your senses, your
mind, your body, your feelings, your spirit to where to Spirit is stirring and
leaning. Stay woke….to the impact your life has on others…Stay woke…to the
injustice that we either contribute to or diminish…Stay woke….to the groanings
of the world…Stay woke…to the humble, radical, empire-upsetting ways of
Jesus…Stay woke…to the darkness…Stay woke…to the light…and to the sacred and
profane in both.” 

On every level, I am not surprised as
to what happened in Ferguson, notwithstanding my immense
disappointment.  Indicting a
police officer
 in the United States is difficult; buildings and
cars on fire have happened before in a variety of locations, worldwide.  And as a committed professional
socialist-hippy-tree-loving-committed-undoing-oppression-nonviolent-agitator,
our job here is to challenge people to change the dialogue (i.e. no, we do not
support the burning buildings or burning police cars, but who are we to judge
in light of x-y-and z and the ongoing systemic abuses and hey, why don’t you
continue to watch and *listen* rather than walk away and dismiss it, because
it’s not about that).  Police in
the United States, not just the Ferguson police department, are in fact, militarized and
the use of shields, tear gas, armored vehicles, Humvees, rubber bullets,
flash-bang grenades etc. is an example of this; and Mike Brown, unfortunately,
is just one of countless examples of an unarmed black man being shot,
multiple times, by a white police officer

Admittedly, I just have to shake my head as I watch our
country’s first black President repeatedly say “we are a nation of laws and
rules.”  Our great grand experiment was founded upon slavery, conquest,
slaughter, and genocide of the continent’s indigenous communities and yes,
property destruction (think Boston Tea Party and
the fearless white “patriots”).  But we are a democracy and exceptional…well
kind of.  The democracy began for white, male property owners and
eventually has begrudgingly expanded to women and people of color…. in theory
any way.  I am, um, exceptionally wary of the current Voter ID
initiatives
.  And
speaking of exceptionalism,
well I just hope you are bold enough to click the hyperlink because that is the
other part of the Gospel responsibility: to learn, to test, to challenge, and
that usually begins by unnerving ourselves because that is what the Gospel is
supposed to do, as it completely shatters and destroys our comfortable notions. 

However, we within American Christendom get caught up in
forecasting the end of days and how to properly proclaim Christ as Lord and
Savior, and who is even “permitted” to do so.  We sadly forget how Christ
went about day-to-day activity while he was with us.  We conveniently
forget who he spent time with, who (and what) he challenged, while proclaiming
and presenting examples of how heaven is indeed on earth.  “The Gospel is not a fire insurance
policy for the next world, but a life assurance policy for this world.”

Not only are we to test, but we are to live in faith, hope
and love as Paul reminds us in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-22.  Upon reading that Sunday morning, I
thought a lot about our responsibility to test, to the #StayWokeAdvent
initiative, and how to juxtapose this with Paul’s reminding us to be patient,
to seek to do good, respect those who labor among us and to give thanks in all
circumstances with love.  

Specifically, how does this happen within the us-vs.-them
mentality?  And here’s the catch: all of us have it—from the Governor of
Missouri who made plans to call out the National Guard long before the Grand
Jury announced its verdict regarding Darren Wilson to us progressive nonviolent
do-gooders, myself included.  

Who cannot simply be moved to tears by that photo taken on
November 25 of a weeping
twelve-year African-American boy hugging a white Portland police officer
,
at a Ferguson solidarity rally?  The boy, Devonte Hart, had a sign around
his neck: free hugs.  Bret Barnum, a white, Portland Police Officer
apparently asked, “Do I get one of those?”  The pair hugged; and what a
moment, fortunately captured by photographer Johnny Nguyen.  And
the wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead
them
.” 

I hope we make every effort to support each other, and to
respect those who labor among us, even with our differences of opinion.
 This has important implications for our continuing spiritual formation
within our human experience. 

And we can live it and do live it by walking our own “Little
Way”, in our every day actions and experiences, within our homes, communities
and circles.  It could even include wearing a sign that says: free hugs,
or even giving thanks for caretakers, or washing the dishes to help the
caretakers, or spending time at a local shelter, food bank or even spending
time with your faith community after worship in dialogue and fellowship (maybe
you can start a book club and discuss The New Jim
Crow
, by Michelle Alexander).  Because every day actions and
experiences, regardless of how mundane it feels (and even the petty insults and
injuries, regardless of how much it stings the heart and soul), brings us
within the presence and love of God the Divine. 

Hey, how about a hug for
this
socialist-hippy-tree-loving-committed-undoing-oppression-nonviolent-agitator? 
And if tears flow for either one of us, well, that’s ok because that’s the
little piece of God within, outwardly feeling the moment.

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