Taylor Rivers: Regarding Ferguson, what is our response?


Dear Loma,

It was difficult for me to reintegrate into our “Loma culture” this fall after a semester abroad because I knew that most likely meant that certain social issues, specifically centered on race, would neither be spoken of nor discussed at large.

It “makes sense,” but at times due to the racial demographic of our campus I feel our community misses the opportunity to discuss and to respond to events that may not directly affect us here at PLNU. However, are we not called to move beyond our community? I love the ideology of Henri Nouwen concerning “voluntary displacement.”

Christ calls us to leave our places of stability and comfort and to enter into the unfamiliar in order to live and grow along side our fellow humans. That may mean physically, at times, but that also can mean emotionally and socially as well. In the wake of the visible racial unrest occurring around the nation right now, I feel challenged to voluntarily displace myself into the minds and hearts of those protesting in Ferguson, Missouri, in New York City, in Philadelphia and many other areas.

Although, these are not physically my communities, when people cry a claim of injustice in any circumstance, should I not be moved with a desire of empathy? I feel often our response to racially focused events, such as the shooting of teenager Michael Brown and the fatal choking of Eric Garner, is to “not pick a side.” We do not want to jump to conclusions or speculate on what we do not know.

As understandable as that view is, let us focus on what is known. Lives have been lost, and families and communities are mourning and lamenting over these losses and the numerous unaddressed losses that came before. This is not merely a discussion about political views or what media outlets you ascribe to; it is a discussion about voluntarily stepping outside of our social and emotional realm to walk and commune alongside those who are suffering in our country. I’m thankful that there is no better role model of voluntary displacement than Christ. Philippians 2:7-8 says:

“…but [Jesus] made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man humbled himself and become obedient to death – even death on a cross!”

Christ empathized with the human race, even to the point of death in the most un-respectable of ways. He chose to leave His place of authority and privilege to walk alongside our race, to understand the limitations and the oppression of our condition. I encourage you, as a member of this PLNU community during this time of visible racial unrest, to take it as an opportunity for displacement. This could be in the form of discussion, of prayer, of physical movement. Lean in, and let Christ guide you.

Taylor Rivers is a senior international studies major. She hopes to teach English in Japan after graduation.