Thesis 33: What Michael Brown, Jr. Is Teaching Me About Resurrection

This post is part of a series of meditations on each of Luther's "95 Theses." You can view all posts in the series here.
33. We should be most carefully on our guard against those who say that the papal indulgences are an inestimable divine gift, and that a man is reconciled to God by them.
I decided not to go to Ferguson today.

Many of the incredible people who've changed my life over the past year will be there. But today is the first real sabbath I've been able to have in a while. Tomorrow, I will join faith leaders and act in civil disobedience. Today, I rest.

And I have struggled with rest a lot since last fall, since the death of Vonderrit Myers, Jr. (Why is it always the young men named after their fathers?!) brought the protest movement almost literally to my doorstep. Our Puritan work ethic is so intertwined with our self gaze that we must consistently extricate this demon from the lens through which we see our jobs, our relationships, our worthiness. But my God commands me to rest just as clearly as that God commands me to act. We should be taking that a lot more seriously.

What I have been learning by resting more purposefully since last fall is this: Resurrection is not abstract for me any longer. It is real life lived by real humans in the face of impossibly depressing death. It is living with impossibly and defiantly joyful lives especially in the face of death, even as many different sets of jaws close around us.

I was never teargassed or shot at in the past year. By police, I was verbally harassed, shoved, threatened with arrest for exercising my rights, and had pepper spray shaken in preparation as I was glowered at through a face shield. I cannot even begin to measure the number of degrading comments, looks, and insults from other civilians. I had trouble sleeping for the helicopters circling over my neighborhood for nights on end as my fellow protestors shut down South Grand. I wanted to rip my ears off sometimes. I was depressed and afraid to admit it, afraid to look away from the horrors of what was happening. Afraid to stop. Stopping would mean quitting, and quitting would mean death. I had already died enough over the course of 2014. I didn't want to contribute to all the death around me.

However, I also met radical theologians and normal St. Louisans on Twitter with whom I'm friends now in real life. I was reunited with old college friends in the streets of Manhattan as we shut down Times Square together after the decision to not indict the police who murdered Eric Garner. I cried tears of joy at the birth of one of my best friend's son. I was asked to share my story with fellow seminarians from Memphis as we shape a new theology for a new revolutionary era for the American church.

Mike Brown is alive. I see the new sprouts growing out of his new life every day. Mike Brown and Dorian Johnson were publicly claiming ownership of their lives and their communities in the streets of their neighborhood when the State decided that this claim was unacceptable. Mike was killed for that claim. In response to that death, we have been resurrected. We are the flowers growing out of his grave.

I cannot imagine a more meaningful 365 days of my life than these that have just passed. And like all wonderful things, this year has been interwoven with struggle. Friends have stopped talking to me, tired of my newfound fire for racial justice. A supervisor threatened that I would lose my job if I continued speaking up against police brutality. I saw the formal end of my ten-year marriage. Life and death do not cleanly separate themselves. They seem to so closely interact with each other that it is sometimes hard to tell ends from beginnings, deaths from births.

Through the tumult, so many in power have offered easy answers and friendly solutions. Just stop talking about cops in a bad light and we'll leave you alone. Don't talk so poorly about the church's response; we're trying as hard as we can. Change needs to come, yes, but you expect too much too quickly.

These are indulgences, easy tokens offered from on high to assuage fears that the cracks in our unjust society are beginning to widen, false offerings to false gods with names like Church Growth, Partnering With A Black School District, and Our Generous Donors. The name of these gods' altar is White Supremacy, the altar on which we sacrificed Mike Brown.

In the name of Christ, we must kill these gods so that Mike Brown can continue to live, as he does in me and in so many of the friendships that bloom and open to the sun in new life.

And so, on this anniversary of the day on which I was awakened to new life, I say: Rest in peace and power, Michael Brown. Thank you for the resurrection you continue to multiply all around as we hasten the Kingdom to come.

Original image by flickr user hugovk, and used under Creative Commons license.


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