WHY THIS FISHBOWL?
This Fishbowl is in response to the events of Ferguson and more specifically, how can we as Central Arkansans proactively address issues of race and law enforcement. Every difficulty is an opportunity to learn from a variety voices, hear tough stories, and act humanely. One big take away for myself in regards to Ferguson is that people have a different perspective on the same event. Those perspectives heavily influence how we approach solutions.
I think we have to address personal and systemic problems in our culture regarding race and law enforcement. Depending on who you ask, some persons hold firm that problems are only the result of a lack of personal responsibility while others firmly believe there exist deeply rooted systemic problems. Personal responsibility says, "What are we doing that has law enforcement zeroed in on African American males?" Systemic responsibility ask the question, "Are there some orchestrated plots to marginalize, incarcerate, and even kill ethnic minorities?" I believe answer rests somewhere in the middle. We need to sit down, have a discussion, listen, sympathize, and act humanely.
WHAT TO EXPECT?
The first hour will include interactive round table discussions which will be generated by your questions and concerns. Participants have the opportunity to shape the discussions, listen to one another, and gain greater insight. The second hour will include a panel discussion with persons who are experts in the fields of sociology, law enforcement, and community activism. Once again, your questions and concerns-no matter how difficult-will be shape the evening and this panel.
Panelist will include Dr. John Miller, Sociology Professor of UALR; Chief AJ Gary, Conway Chief of Police; Sheriff Andy Shock, Faulkner County Sheriff; Troy Braswell, Faulkner County Judge-Elect; and Charles Holloway, Faulkner County NAACP Chairman.
A FINAL WORD
I personally lament that I don't believe our local churches do enough to engage and demonstrate the relevancy of the Gospel in situations such as racial relationships. We have a powerful healing balm that can bring about a great deal of honesty, reconciliation, and peace. My ongoing hope is that local churches would pick up this baton, run with it, and lead efforts to proactively engage difficult topics that are influencing our way of life. So to all the participants I will be forthcoming and state the Gospel runs underneath this entire event. While there may not be explicit references, know that the following belief and reality heavily influences my approach.
God in Christ crushes the power of racism uniting diverse groups in him. In the body of Christ, diverse men and women become one because the walls have been broken down and abolished “that he might create in himself one new man in place of two, so making peace” (Eph 2:14-15). Christ Jesus crushes the power and principalities of racism in order that we would be in peace with each other and with God. It is the picture of the Jewish teacher sharing a drink with the Samaritan woman. It is church leaders of all ethnic stripes calling for restraint and a fair hearing for the victim and the victimized.
Finally, God in Christ crushes the power of racism in order that this unified group in Christ, who has been brought together in Christ, would extol him as God. God’s new creation work which he inaugurates at the resurrection of the Jesus, ushers us into an age where men and women unified in Christ are also acknowledged as distinct around the throne of God. “Worthy are you to take the scroll and open its seals, for you were slain and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation...” (Rev 4:9). Christ is exalted because through his blood, he ransomed distinct ethnic groups to be one people, to sing one song about the one God. Therefore, God does not eradicate our distinctiveness but uses it as a means to sing his praises.
See you Thursday evening
The vision of Think-Love-Act is to cultivate an environment in which persons can answer the question, "What does it mean to be human in a world that wants to use God given distinctions as divisive tools?" Think-Love-Act seeks to assemble people from diverse backgrounds to discuss problems, create ideas, and loving support the dignity and worth of all men and women who are made in the image of God.