I wept silent, powerful tears as I left from chapel this morning at Wheaton College.
I was overwhelmed seeing my community demonstrate the radical love of Christ, which refuses to stand for injustice.
I walked down the steps of Edman Chapel to witness hundreds of students, faculty and staff standing with signs and chanting. The message was simple. They were there to proclaim to our community and to the world that “black lives matter.” Since the grand-jury decided against the indictment of the police officer who shot Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, communities have been protesting across the country recognizing the broad systemic issues facing racial minorities in the United States. Occasionally someone will claim we live in a post-racial society, but increasingly people are speaking out with certainty that ours is a broken system that does not value all lives equally.
Michael Rau, senior, co-organized the event at Wheaton. He explained that “Mike Brown’s death in Ferguson by the hands of Officer Wilson is located within this larger context of repeated structural oppression…Thus, irrespective of the particularities of the Ferguson case, we must, at a minimum, decry the structural evils of our country that continue to disproportionately target and claim the lives of people of color.”
My community came together today to stand in solidarity with the city of Ferguson and to mourn the valuable lives of racial minorities lost every day in our depraved, unfair world. A mass of participants marched across campus, and proceeded to lay down in public spaces on campus for 4.5 minutes to represent the 4.5 hours that Mike Brown lay in the street.
I find myself frustrated by the Christian response to systemic issues. We often have good intentions. We desire to respond to injustice in the world, but are afraid to directly speak to systems of power. We fear that explicit action would reflect poorly on our faith or end up “politicizing” the truth of the gospel. We mean well, but we are not mobilized to act boldly in the way we should. We must remember that the Lord requires us “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with [our] God” (Micah 6:8 ESV).
We must do justice.
This is exactly what took place today at Wheaton College.
Jennifer Fu, senior, co-organizer alongside Rau explained the event was an attempt “[to live] up to Wheaton College’s motto ‘For Christ and His Kingdom.’ As an institution that grew out of an abolitionist movement and an institution that has tremendous power and influence in the Evangelical realm, we…believe it is our responsibility to fight for justice, equality, and freedom with our voice and our action.”
Rau further explained the progress the event represents, “Today, with Dr. Ryken present at our final stop of our peaceful protest…we have rekindled that fire and vision [of racial justice] that has remained dormant for so long.”
Wheaton College is by no means perfect, but I’m uniquely moved by what I saw on campus this morning. I am excited to see the Spirit of God continue to work in this place. May we move forward encouraged, but continue to speak out because as we chanted this morning, “no justice; no peace.”