The Corner

Ferguson: When Tuning into the Media Feels like Complicity in the Violence

It’s impossible not to feel sick and sad this morning. It’s as if the nation tuned into CSI: Ferguson last night and the show the media expected was covered live throughout the night.

Turning CNN, etc., off isn’t going to end the show, but it may be begin to do so.

Since sometime last night, tuning into national news has felt a bit like complicity. The promise and prospect of the spotlight on reckless behavior (and national grandstanding) isn’t helping the people of Ferguson.

As the world saw burning shops, the archbishop of St. Louis issued a plea for peace, calling out the lie that burning down AutoZone and looting small businesses was somehow “justice” or would bring Michael Brown back from the dead. 

I implore each of you: Choose peace! Reject any false and empty hope that violence will solve problems. Violence only creates more violence. Let’s work for a better, stronger, more holy community — one founded upon respect for each other, respect for life, and our shared responsibility for the common good.

In 1979, Saint John Paul II visited the war-torn and weary nation of Ireland to decry years of violence. “Violence is evil . . . ” the pope said. “Violence is unacceptable as a solution to problems.” How true this saint’s words are. He didn’t merely condemn violence; he also aptly described the depravity of violent behavior by saying:

“Violence is unworthy of man. Violence is a lie, for it goes against the truth of our faith, the truth of our humanity. Violence destroys what it claims to defend: the dignity, the life, the freedom of human beings. Violence is a crime against humanity, for it destroys the very fabric of society.”

He urged some real responsibility — and work that can contribute to healing and human flourishing, as we say. Images last night of people praying in their churches around the area is no small thing. If you believe, this is real work, mandated work, and the not-so-secret sauce, as it were, of sanctification. As Archbishop Carlson points out, if you think Mother Teresa was something special, remember that it was that dedicated holy hour she spent on prayer each day that helped make all the difference. 

Last night, he continued in a statement: 

Drawing inspiration from St. John Paul II, one of the 20th century’s preeminent figures of hope and peace, I issue the following challenges to members of our community:

‐ Commit to learning how to truly love each other. If we do this, then we will learn to love our neighbor. Show children the path of forgiveness and we will see walls of division crumble. Your homes are the foundation of our community. If your homes are full of forgiveness, they will be temples of peace. Our communities, cities, state, and nation will enjoy a lasting, fulfilling peace only if it begins in the home.I again echo the words of St. John Paul II: “make your streets and neighborhoods centers of peace and reconciliation. It would be a crime against youth and their future to let even one child grow up with nothing but the experience of violence and hate.”

‐ Youth, remember that you are not only creating the world of tomorrow, but you are a vital part of the world today. St. Paul writes in his letter to the Galatians: “For whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” So, ask yourself: Are you sowing seeds of division, resentment, and discontent? These will only lead to anger and hatred. Choose instead to sow seeds of reconciliation, dignity, honor, and respect. Begin creating the world you want to see. Do not listen to those who instigate aggression. Reject violence. Embrace peace.

‐ Please pray. Pray unceasingly for peace. Pray for our leaders and pray for your neighbors. If you feel called to act, do so only after prayer. Blessed Mother Teresa knew the proper formula. She spent a holy hour in prayer every day; it was only after prayer that she would serve. So, too, must it be for us.

‐ Finally, I issue this challenge to all religious, political, social and law enforcement leaders: Join me in asking the Lord to make us instruments of peace. We, as leaders, need wisdom, compassion, and courage in order to combat the brokenness and division that confronts us. We must be leaders who help heal, not inflict hurt. We must be leaders who can come together to address issues like family breakdown, racial profiling, quality education, abuses of authority, lack of gainful employment, fear of one another, mistrust of authority, and many other needs. We must ask the tough questions and find lasting solutions.

I’m not sure CNN can water the seeds of peace. But every religious believer who tuned into news coverage last night or this morning certainly can. 

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