Baltimore – A Rush to Judgement?


I wish everyone would shut up for a minute.

But probably not for the reason you think.

    I waited a long time to write anything about the riots in Ferguson, Missouri because I wanted to try to understand the issues.   
    But this time, after watching and listening to media outlets talk about what is happening in Baltimore I don’t want to wait.  I am posting now, not because I think I understand what is happening, but because I am convinced that almost no one does.
Every media outlet, every reporter, every politician, and a great many bystanders have taken sides.
    Just like the Ferguson case, and the Travon Martin case, and so many others, everyone seems to be absolutely certain that they know exactly what is happening and why.
Everyone is rushing to judgement.
    They judge the police.  They judge Freddie Gray.  They judge the mayor.  They judge the President.  They judge the protestors, the rioters (those are vastly different groups), they judge the victims of the violence, and people are even judging the parents of the people in the streets. 
    Christians are often accused of being judgmental, but this is ridiculous.  Everyone, Christian and non-Christian alike seems to think that they know so much about what is happening hundreds of miles away in Baltimore that they can stand in judgement of people they’ve never met and who they know almost nothing about.
I wish everyone would all shut up and listen for a change.
As I watch and listen to the reporting from Baltimore, all I seem to find is more questions.
What exactly happened in police custody that led to the death of Freddie Gray?
Did Mr. Gray really have surgery on his spine only weeks before his arrest?
Did that matter?
Did the mayor tell the police to allow the mayhem to continue when it might have been stopped much earlier?
I could ask questions all day but it seems clear that, so far, there aren’t very many answers.
    And without answers, all the self-proclaimed experts (left, right and center) should slow down their rush to judgement until they actually have some facts.  Right now there are too many things that we just don’t know.   
Instead of rushing to judgement, why don’t we listen instead?
We all want justice.
    But we should be careful to find the facts so that there can be justice for everyone.  There needs to be justice for the police, the demonstrators, the rioters, the politicians, and especially for the victims.
Investigating, finding, and sorting through the facts are all things that will take time.
While we wait, instead of judging everyone, why don’t we do something helpful?
    Why don’t we try to find ways to help those who lost homes, jobs, and businesses?  Can our politicians and academics find ways to reduce poverty and joblessness instead of just pointing fingers at each other?  Why not volunteer with some charity or aid group to clean up and rebuild Baltimore?  We should all take the time to listen and understand people with whom we disagree.
    Instead of pretending that we know exactly what is going on and who is to blame, our time would be better spent trying to fix the problem and help Baltimore heal.  And while we’re doing that, we should talk less and listen more.
Instead of judging, try donating.
And if you are so inclined, I’m sure that everyone involved could use your prayers.

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Re-evaluating the things we value

Our house in in chaos.

No matter where you turn there are piles of stuff everywhere and even higher piles of boxes. Of course, we’re moving. I suppose I’m thankful that we’re not moving across the country or overseas, but once everything is in the back of a truck I don’t know that distance matters too much.

For the last six years I have had the distinct pleasure of being the pastor of two churches in Central Ohio, Johnsville Grace and Steam Corners. As a pastor in the United Methodist Church, I (and my colleagues) serve as an itinerant minister. That means that I don’t have to find a church where I can be in ministry and it means that local churches don’t have to conduct extensive pastor searches when they feel the need for change. It also means that we have to move when the bishop says we should move (there’s a little wiggle room in there, but not much). The end result is that after a series of meetings and interviews, my family and I are moving to Barnesville, Ohio and on July 1st, I will become the pastor of Barnesville First United Methodist Church.

Moving sucks pond water.

I despise the hassle of packing and changing schools, doctors, grocery stores, pharmacies and uprooting nearly every aspect of my life. On the other hand, I have begun to see an unexpected value in moving. Moving causes me to re-evaluate the last six years of my life. I have had to reexamine my call to ministry, the engineering career that I left behind, and I’ve had to take a hard look at what I have accomplished where I am. When we move our belongings, we take a look at a lot of stuff that never got a second glance most days and we need to decide if these things are worth keeping. In the same way, I find that I need to do these things with my ministry. In six years I have done a lot of stuff and I have met with a lot of people. Some of that stuff, and some of those memories are real gold but, like my stuff at home, mixed in with my treasure is a fair amount of useless baggage that I need to leave behind.

The process of getting rid of my kids outgrown clothes and broken toys is useful and something we probably ought to do once in a while. It’s too easy to stuff things in the basement or in the attic but moving forces us to make choices. The process of leaving behind the things I’ve collected in six years of ministry is sometimes even harder but in the process I’ve discovered some things that have real, lasting value. There are people who have been real friends. There have been incredible acts of kindness and generosity. There have been real life transformations. As I leave, and as I reevaluate, I can see that God has been at work in me, in this place and in these people.

Amid the chaos and the pain… I’ve discovered real gold.