of Ferguson and Francis

Sharing a section from my reading this week.  It seems appropriate, with all the upheaval in the world.

 A few days ago I posted on Facebook that if we are truly confused by the reactions of others, if we find ourselves standing on one side of an issue asking "why do black people act that way?" or "why would anyone do that to themselves?" or questions of that type, then we really need to be asking God to mess up our lives a bit.   Often times those of us who are white, middle-class and christian fool ourselves into thinking that God's goal for us is to live exemplary lives, with decency and order, models of respectability and honor.   I don't think so.  I think He means for us to get our hands dirty and to live outside of the lines.  I think He meant for us to suffer, be despised, misunderstood and full of contradiction, just as He was.

 We should KNOW the answers to the questions of why our neighbors feel and think and do certain things and if we don't, we should be going to them and listening.  Ferguson has given us a perfect opportunity to find out where our value system lies.  Are we most concerned about ferreting out details that prove one party's rightness or wrongness?  Are we more outraged at the disruption to the "normal" order and decency of things than we are outraged at the violence we see right in front of us?  When we see angry black men on the streets do we want to pull them aside and hear their complaints and learn from them?  Or do we want the police to shut them up and make them quiet again?   

It's messy and painful, this business of God's, but it is ours to enter into.    

From The Way of St. Francis, by Murray Bodo:

"How then do we do this in our world?  I can only answer by sharing what Franciscan life has become for me.  I gave up a long time ago trying to live without money and embraced instead another kind of poverty, the poverty of reputation and respectability that accompanies working with those who are poor in their brokenness and rejection by society.  And here I am not necessarily speaking in monetary terms but of that poverty which manifests itself as a sense of failure, or illness, or as emotional or mental disorder that can make one feel more apart and isolated than material poverty might.

Francis of Assisi gave us a way of solidarity with these people, a way of love that leaves us entirely poor in our helplessness and dependence on God.  He alone can enable us to love the "unloved" when everyone else is saying we are foolish or stupid to even try, when others are saying such a way can only lead to our own destruction.  Life among the "lepers' is always madness to those for whom respectability is holiness and safety is the norm.  True poverty of spirit is never in safety but in the risk of looking for God where God said he was to be found, among the least of his brothers and sisters."