My Thoughts On The Baltimore Riots

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[a photo i took in Baltimore in 2007]

20 minutes north from where I grew up, on streets I used to drive on to go to the inner harbor, or walk to work for a summer job, there is utter chaos.  I saw a video this morning of the national guard lining the streets with rifles.

The first thing I think of about this whole situation is this:

I don’t trust the main stream news media.  They always have an alternative agenda when they are telling their story.

The LA Times had a whole section about what the potential 2016 candidates think.  Really?  Let’s use this tragedy to push presidential candidates and politicians into the spotlight?  That wasn’t very subtle.

I do NOT condone rioting and looting.  However I do believe that a peaceful protest is a right of the American people under the first amendment.

I would love to know what percentage of people who are out on the streets are actually rioting and looting versus those who are peacefully gathering.  Because the news that I’ve seen is making it look like the majority is out there being violent.

We play a role in what media is made popular too.  Are we seeking for truth or are we simply reposting whatever is most sensational?

I’m glad for social media because I’ve got some facebook friends that are on the streets now and are keeping us updated.  To which I just got updated that their peaceful protest just turned violent:(

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I see people posting videos of people getting arrested after rioting and saying things like “he got what he deserved” and other name calling.

What bothers me more than looting and rioting is the lack of empathy from people sitting behind a computer screen observing this all as if it were entertainment.  Again, I don’t condone rioting and looting.  I saw someone post on facebook that they were mad that the Orioles game was canceled.  I also saw someone post “Baltimore. Really?”  I am not sure if that was a condescending “are you seriously rioting”  or if it was a, “is this really happening in my backyard?” Or a combination of both.

Is it this lack of empathy, the fact that we would rather be entertained than think about those less fortunate than us, the reason why people in Baltimore are resorting to rioting?  Could it be they don’t feel like their voices have been heard?

This news story seems to think so.  When chanting black lives matter, drunk baseball fans chanted back we don’t care.  And just like we cannot judge the protests in Baltimore on those that are rioting, we cannot judge those that are not protesting by the drunk fans.

Is it wrong and destructive to riot.  YES.  Is it a correct way to go about having your voice heard?  NO.  But are we listening?  Are we investing?  Are we loving the poor?  Are we coming up with solutions and strategies to end systemic poverty?  Is the church leading the charge?  It seems like this pastor is doing his part.

And this video of 500 pastors gathering to peacefully protest made me tear up.

My heart for the poor has increased since I moved to Hawaii.  Where in high end Waikiki you’ve got millionaire tourists and shops that cater to them that I’ve never heard of, and then homeless people living on the streets.  It was easy for me, to subconsciously think of the homeless as less than human.  But that all ended once I got to know their names, and hear their stories.

As I read through the prophets, God’s judgement against Israel is because of their lack of concern for the poor, and their acceptance of violence.  Is that still on God’s heart for us to not allow those things?  If poverty is all these people know, how are they ever going to break out of that cycle?  Missions is best done cross culturally when you have an understanding of the other persons world view.  We want everyone to think like us, but that is not just the case.

I can imagine that someone reading this is saying that I’ve turned into a bleeding heart liberal.  I’m not taking a political stance.  I’m asking what OUR role as individuals is with the poor?  Not the governments role.  We all know that throwing money at a situation and walking away does not always help.  And thats why human relationship is important.  Relationships take time, investment, sacrifice, conversation, understanding, even frustration.

If you are white, you will never know what it’s like to grow up black.  If you grew up privileged, you will never know what it was like to grow up poor.  The only way you can start to gain understanding is through conversations.

I appreciate that an art teacher I used to work with in Maryland is facilitating conversation about what is going on in Baltimore.

I appreciate that my friends who used to live in Baltimore even though they were busy professionals made time for an after school tutoring program.

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My friend Rachel posted this on facebook last night:

Tonight, I can’t just pray for peace in Baltimore. That’s not enough.

I pray for peace, yes, but I pray just as hard for a society in which people aren’t subjected to systemic oppression, racism, discrimination, dehumanization, state-sponsored violence…

If you find yourself tonight condemning the violence of the riots in Baltimore but you haven’t taken the time to learn why such anger and violence is being poured out over that city right now, then I invite you to pause. Take a deep breath. And have a conversation soon with someone in your life who sees these things differently than you.

Peace without justice is not peace. Peace without the difficult work of reconciliation is not peace. Peace without making the effort to listen to your brothers & sisters who see things differently than you is NOT peace. The peace that Jesus preached was never a cheap or easy peace.

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Lest we forget what these riots are about.  It’s about Freddie Gray.

And we can’t isolate this just to Freddie’s case.  People in Baltimore are not out on the streets just because of Freddie, but because of all of the injustice at the hands of government officials all over the nation recently.  Can we empathize with that?

A friend of mine that is a police officer in the county I grew up in is most likely getting sent to Baltimore tomorrow.  I don’t want anyone getting hurt.  I don’t know what it’s like to be a police officer either to have to make split second life and death decisions, to be judged by the minority of bad cops out there.

So when the dust settles, and I pray it settles soon.  Will we, who have been blessed by God, be initiators, will we seek to understand the plight of those who are less fortunate than us?  Will we move to help them make change?

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Here’s some of the good stuff out of all of this.

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Photo Credit: Nikki Bass Instagram @furryfoofaraw

“It would be a great story to say that through a successful social media campaign we all came together and cleaned the streets of Baltimore. Admittedly, we followed the updates and wanted to be a part of this effort but when we got there (hours before the clean up start time) we saw something unexpected. The community residents had cleaned up almost everything. I saw a mother telling her children why it was important to take care of the neighborhood. I feel compelled to share this story because this is a testament to the power of walking out of your front door and doing something. People online were still busy talking about logistics and the job was already done.”

Here’s a twitter video of some guys trying to calm the situation down. (I would link directly to his twitter but it’s had so much traffic that the server couldn’t handle it)

And you’ve probably seen this mother disciplining her son.

What do you think about what’s going on in Baltimore?  How will this event bring change in your own life?  Let us know in the comments.

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Faye Engelen MooreApril 29, 2015 - 9:48 am

It is hard to see what is going on there or anywhere there is conflict. I agree that we do have the right to protest but I DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE RIOTING AND LOOTING. What does it sovle or say? Many I know, that don’t live there, are praying for the situation and answeres. We aren’t all in the situation of poor or well to do, but as people on the whole, we need to have empathy and compassion for another human being. Please don’t let our country turn to Marshall Law solutions. THAT WOULD DO OUR COUNTRY IN !!!! Good job, Jim. I will pass it along.

Faye Engelen MooreApril 29, 2015 - 9:54 am

It is hard to see what is going on there or anywhere there is conflict. I agree that we do have the right to protest but I DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE RIOTING AND LOOTING. What does it sovle or say? Many I know, that don’t live there, are praying for the situation and answeres. We aren’t all in the situation of poor or well to do, but as people on the whole, we need to have empathy and compassion for another human being. Please don’t let our country turn to Marshall Law solutions. THAT WOULD DO OUR COUNTRY IN !!!! Good job, Jim. I will pass it along.

Faye MooreApril 29, 2015 - 9:59 am

Like other places that I have heard about that there is rioting etc. More than likey it isn’t even people that live there, but instigators that come in for (from other places)the purpose of causing panic and crowds.

Faye Engelen MooreApril 29, 2015 - 7:48 pm

It is hard to see what is going on there or anywhere there is conflict. I agree that we do have the right to protest but I DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE RIOTING AND LOOTING. What does it sovle or say? Many I know, that don’t live there, are praying for the situation and answeres. We aren’t all in the situation of poor or well to do, but as people on the whole, we need to have empathy and compassion for another human being. Please don’t let our country turn to Marshall Law solutions. THAT WOULD DO OUR COUNTRY IN !!!! Good job, Jim. I will pass it along.

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