Ferguson, Franklin Graham & Our Own Wishes

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Did Franklin Graham’s Facebook post reveal our own secret wishes, even though we know they fall short?

Commentary by Carl Nelson

On March 12 Franklin Graham wrote about Ferguson and other recent police-involved killings on Facebook and suggested that the solution is “as simple as” obeying the police and doing whatever they say. Nearly 200,000 people agreed and “liked” his post.

Several days later a group of 31 respected Christian leaders – most of them evangelicals – responded with a public letter saying that it’s not as simple as Graham suggests. Most of the 31 signers of this letter are African American, Hispanic and Asian American. (Christianity Today, the Christian Post and other media have weighed in too).

[pullquote style=”right” quote=”dark”]To seek shalom in our day and time, every part of the social order that now contributes to disparities must be submitted to God[/pullquote] Nearly every American recognizes that the problem of racial division in our society is not a simple one to solve. Even Americans who are hardly aware of the gaping disparities between whites and blacks, or who have never heard personal stories of how the black experience in America is vastly different than what whites experience, are vaguely aware that the solution to the problem is not “as simple as” just doing whatever the police say.

But in defense of Franklin Graham, can I ask my fellow white brothers and sisters, have you ever been tempted to believe it were this simple? Even though we know closing the racial disparity gap will require strong families, educational break-through’s, church and community partnerships, job creation and much, much more (and probably over several generations), our society is always looking for the magic cure.

Politicians suggest either increased spending on social services or the polar opposite, cutting dependency on welfare programs, as the only way to change the situation. Teachers unions tell us more education funding will solve the problem, while opposing voices champion school choice and reform. Law and order types push for three-strikes legislation and tougher sentencing. Others say its all about fatherhood and rebuilding the nuclear family unit. Some evangelicals are guilty of only offering salvation for the soul.

The shortfall of all these single-issue cure-alls is that they fail to honor God. In scripture we learn God’s instructions for lives that flourish and for communities that prosper and are filled with peace. Old Testament Jewish society was enveloped by an interwoven web of laws and regulations and commandments designed to create a just and life-giving culture where people lived in harmony with God and each other.

To experience shalom, every part of our being must be submitted to God. To seek shalom in our day and time, every part of the social order that now contributes to disparities must be submitted to God, redeemed and re-ordered to contribute to righteousness, justice and flourishing.

The Christian leaders who wrote an open letter to Franklin Graham spoke the truth. But let’s also admit there is a little of bit of Franklin Graham in all us, wishing the problem were “as simple as” … (insert the single cure-all you focus on here).

When we fall into that trap, we fall short of the glory of God.

Carl Nelson
Carl Nelson

(Authors note: I confess that even as I try explain that overcoming racial division is a complex issue, my words fall short of encompassing all the factors that contribute to our current condition, and I myself don’t fully comprehend all the causes and solutions. I pray you bear with me in patience. ~Carl Nelson)