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Wednesday • November 26, 2014

by Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr.

Jury boxPhoto by Jason Doiy2-9-11054-2011

This is an edited transcript of The Briefing podcast from early Tuesday morning, November 25, 2014, hours after the Ferguson, Missouri grand jury announcement.

The grand jury decision Americans were waiting for came Monday night in the suburbs of St. Louis, Missouri. As the Washington Post reports,

“A grand jury on Monday declined to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager, resolving a secretive, months-long legal saga and reigniting powerful frustrations about America’s policing of African Americans.”

The lead article on the issue in the New York Times offered a similar view of the facts:

“A St. Louis County grand jury has brought no criminal charges against Darren Wilson, a white police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager, more than three months ago in nearby Ferguson.”

The reporters, Monica Davey and Julie Bosman, go on to say,

“The decision by the grand jury of nine whites and three blacks was announced Monday night by the St. Louis County prosecutor, Robert P. McCulloch, at a news conference packed with reporters from around the world. The killing, on a residential street in Ferguson, set off weeks of civil unrest — and a national debate — fueled by protesters’ outrage over what they called a pattern of police brutality against young black men. Mr. McCulloch said Officer Wilson had faced charges ranging from first-degree murder to involuntary manslaughter.”

But as the news reports uniformly indicate, the grand jury found no probable cause to bring an indictment on any one of these crimes against Officer Wilson.

For the most part, the announcement is exactly what legal analysts expected. It is very difficult to bring a charge against a police officer who was involved in this kind of shooting in the line of duty. In almost any jurisdiction, this kind of police shooting would have led to an internal affairs investigation—not to a grand jury consideration. But the political stakes in Ferguson, Missouri were always high—especially after the images of the body of Michael Brown on the ground on a residential street in that city spread throughout St. Louis and the world.

As big a story as the announcement from the grand jury was in itself, the aftermath has become an even larger story, and exactly the kind of larger story that was feared. For what happened in the aftermath of the announcement from the grand jury was an outbreak of violent protests that set at least some parts of the neighborhood of Ferguson, Missouri on fire.

Furthermore, the protests in the St. Louis area turned violent with police reporting widespread automatic gunfire in the city. Americans saw a constant video stream of arsonist protesters and looters rampaging through some St. Louis neighborhoods. As the night wore on, the Federal Aviation Administration stopped all incoming flights into St. Louis’ major airports, citing automatic gunfire in the immediate area of the airport as the cause. As the evening wore on, protest spread to other major American cities as well. In the aftermath of the grand jury’s announcement, the family of Michael Brown, including his parents, called for protests to be peaceful, but their own admonition was not heeded.

Furthermore, as the evening continued, President Obama spoke to the nation from the White House about the decision of the grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri. Christians trying to understand what is at stake in this very sad spectacle should pay particular attention to President Obama’s comments. The president stated,

“As you know, a few moments ago, the grand jury deliberating the death of Michael Brown issued its decision. It’s an outcome that, either way, was going to be subject of intense disagreement not only in Ferguson, but across America. So I want to just say a few words suggesting how we might move forward.”

In one of his most important public statements to date, President Obama continued saying,

“First and foremost, we are a nation built on the rule of law. And so we need to accept that this decision was the grand jury’s to make. There are Americans who agree with it, and there are Americans who are deeply disappointed, even angry. It’s an understandable reaction. But I join Michael’s parents in asking anyone who protests this decision to do so peacefully. Let me repeat Michael’s father’s words: ‘Hurting others or destroying property is not the answer. No matter what the grand jury decides, I do not want my son’s death to be in vain. I want it to lead to incredible change, positive change, change that makes the St. Louis region better for everyone.’  Michael Brown’s parents have lost more than anyone. We should be honoring their wishes.”

As the president continued his remarks, he turned to address law enforcement officials saying,

“I also appeal to the law enforcement officials in Ferguson and the region to show care and restraint in managing peaceful protests that may occur. Understand, our police officers put their lives on the line for us every single day. They’ve got a tough job to do to maintain public safety and hold accountable those who break the law. As they do their jobs in the coming days, they need to work with the community, not against the community, to distinguish the handful of people who may use the grand jury’s decision as an excuse for violence—distinguish them from the vast majority who just want their voices heard around legitimate issues in terms of how communities and law enforcement interact.”

Finally, the president said,

“We need to recognize that the situation in Ferguson speaks to broader challenges that we still face as a nation.”

The president’s comments were restrained and responsible. As a matter of fact, it’s hard to imagine a more suitable and responsible set of comments for a president to make—much less the nation’s first elected African-American president.

For the rest of the post…

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August 15, 2014

Pray for FergusonIt’s hard to know how to respond to everything we see in the 24-hour news cycle. News, commentaries, social media, and television report hundreds of injustices (and thousands still go unreported). How do we choose which ones to engage?

Honestly, it can be numbing at times, if not daily. Terrible stuff happens all across the globe every minute — and as it was once said, “We have more on our plates than we can say grace over.”

On top of that, we’re prone to respond to things that we feel relate more to our own lives. So when we receive news that’s far removed from us, we emotionally disconnect. It’s understandable considering how much comes at us constantly. Many of us don’t respond in the grief and outrage that actually fits with the news of infanticide in Third-World countries or Christian persecution in the Middle East. We care, at least in principle, but it’s just not a core concern.

The same is true about the most recent tragedy in Ferguson, Missouri. Many of us don’t know how to respond emotionally because we can’t relate to the situations surrounding Michael Brown’s death.

Michael Brown and the Facts

Since the news began reporting on Mr. Brown’s death, things have only escalated. A helpful article from the New York Times reported that Michael Brown was killed Saturday in Ferguson, igniting protests and outcries in St. Louis County. The report revealed that Mr. Brown was unarmed when shot. What actually happened is still in question. One side said he and a friend were stopped on the way home from the store because they were walking in the middle of the street. Witnesses say Mr. Brown’s hands were in the air when he was shot several times, while the police say that Mr. Brown was shot during a fight over the officer’s gun.

It is hard to understand why an officer would need to shoot a teenager “several times” over a fight with a gun, just as much as it is hard to believe that an officer would unjustly kill a teenager with his hands up.

At the end of the day, only those present know what really happened. But given the facts, we all can admit it’s quite possible that a fatal injustice was done to Michael Brown. Despite the lack of details and our ignorance about the situation, what then is the Christian’s responsibility? Is it right to remain apathetic when we hear about tragedies such as these?

Human Like Us All

As a Christian, even if you can’t relate, you have an opportunity. As a black man, I don’t connect with the situation as easily as some might assume. I’m not from the city or suburb. I’ve never had a negative encounter with the police. It’s unlikely I would ever be bold enough to run from the police or resist arrest. It also helps that what many have ignorantly profiled as “suspicious clothing” isn’t a part of my wardrobe these days. Therefore, the chances of me getting gunned down by the police are slim. From what I’ve read, the most obvious thing Mr. Brown and I have in common is that we’re both young black men.

But more than that, the young man killed was human — like us all. He was made in God’s image. Regardless of the circumstance surrounding his death, we can care. Every Christian can respond to this situation. If an injustice took place, it matters because, according to the Scriptures, injustices are an abomination to the righteous (Proverbs 29:27). And regardless of what actually happened, we have a responsibility to pray for “all people” (1 Timothy 2:1), without prejudice.

The Christian First Response

So what should our response be? Every Christian can pray.

John Calvin, commenting on 1 Timothy 2:1–2, writes,

Some might reason thus with themselves: “Why should we be anxious about the salvation of unbelievers, with whom we have no connection? Is it not enough, if we, who are brethren, pray mutually for our brethren, and recommend to God the whole of his Church? For we have nothing to do with strangers.”

This perverse view Paul meets, and enjoins Christians to include in their prayers all men, and not to limit them to the body of the Church.

Therefore, in that same spirit, I encourage every Christian that encounters tragedies and injustices like this to pray. Pray for Ferguson, Missouri. Pray for peace to be restored in this city. Pray for Michael Brown’s family as they mourn the loss of their loved one. Pray that if they don’t know our Lord Jesus, that they would come to know him through this tragedy. And pray that if they do know Jesus, he would give them peace that surpasses all understanding.

For the rest of the post…

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