“What More Can We Do About it?”

I have been surprised at how many people have asked me about my positions regarding what has transpired recently in Ferguson, Missouri, and in New York. Maybe it is because of the amount of time that I have worked in the urban parts of America, or it could be because of my role as a leader in the church. But with so many experts (politicians, athletes, media stars, and the like), sharing their opinions on the topic, I have wondered what good one more voice would add to the situation? Recently, however, I was asked the question by someone who hesitated to get involved, feeling there was nothing more he could do. He was just one voice among millions that could not solve anything. It was this question, “What more can we do?”

Mind you, I am not going to give my opinion on either case or seek to side with one or more voices. In both situations, like so many similar issues that take place regularly in our neighborhoods, it has been tragic. Although I appreciate the perspectives of different individuals who want to argue about where the problems lie, or who is at fault, what I am not hearing is productive dialogue regarding changes that need to be made; especially from the church.

Our ministry was founded in the rubble of the Watts riots in the 1960’s. Twenty-five plus years later, we as a country witnessed similar violence erupt in Los Angeles. Now almost the same amount of time has passed where we see similar situations. Yet the media reports that this comes as a surprise to many in our society. I am shocked that this type of unrest should surprise anybody. Unfortunately, our country responded to Los Angeles the same way it responded to Watts. We waited until the media frenzy and violence died down and then we forgot about it. I pray that we do not make the same mistake again.

Certainly this is a stain on a country that calls itself the land of the free, but it is an even deeper blemish on a nation that touts itself as over 50% Christian. The Church (by using the capital “C” I mean the entire body of Christ) needs to take a more active role to help ensure these situations do not continue to happen!

Now I do not want to pretend that I have the answer that will solve anything. I recognize that I am a middle-class, educated, white male and that my lens might not be able to see clearly the actions that should be taken. However, I am intelligent enough to see that our responses in the past have not worked. For some reason, the old saying “stupidity is doing the same thing every day but expecting a different result” does not apply to the handling of societal complexities. There is no doubt about it that race is at the root of the problem. Leaders on both sides need to recognize that systemic injustice and poverty are also at the heart of it.

Too often, we as Christians have sat back and waited for a government response to these issues. Don’t get me wrong; I do not want to discount the thousands of great ministries that are invested in assisting the poor, the marginalized, and the disenfranchised. Yet these tend to be local and regional approaches. Isn’t it time that the “big C” Church get together collectively to work at ways of eradicating these problems? Even more so, why do we as the Bride of Christ sit back and expect the government to handle it?

What I desire to see is Church leaders meeting to strategize about specific strategies to combat the differences in our Christian community. I am calling for roundtable discussions with Pastors from all Christian denominations, from all races, in every economic sector of society to come together with the purpose of developing a response to racial reconciliation; to determine what actions will be taken to lift our brothers and sisters in Christ out of poverty, and to answer the question of how we stamp out injustice for everyone. Again, I do not have the solution. But I know what doesn’t work. I also know that the responsibility for what is happening and what has happened falls to us as the Church.

“What more can we do?” We can collectively call for the same response from the Church. We can encourage our ministry leaders to take a more active role in being the Church in their own communities. We can open dialogue cross-culturally to ensure all voices are being heard. We can admit that we do not have all of the answers but insist that we are committed to working toward solutions of reconciliation. As Christians, we all have a voice in this. As Christian leaders, the responsibility falls to us.

Romney Ruder is the Senior Vice President and COO of World Impact.

Pictured above is a Ferguson Discussion Forum held last week at our LA Teen Center. World Impact Los Angeles City Director Peter Watts took Romney's call to action seriously and organized the discussion. The panel included a rep from the District Attorney's office, a police officer, a teacher, a pastor, and a school counselor.