The first church gave aid to out-of-town protesters and activists who descended on the city to condemn what they saw as a broad societal problem. The result, several local black -leaders explain, was that violent demonstrations in Ferguson went on longer than they otherwise might have. The city was torn apart. In the end, poor minorities who live there faced destroyed infrastructure, crashing property values, and fewer resources. “If the protesters had not a place, a home base if you will, to come and set up, the movement would not have lasted as long as it lasted,” says one leader.
Steele puts it more starkly: “Ferguson payed the price for a racist murder that was neither racist nor a murder.”
The second church is in Chicago’s South Side. Pastor Corey Brooks doesn’t talk about theories or politics. Neither does a former drug dealer who now works with him. Or the young men that young man now leads. They talk about who they were when they were lost in gangs, drugs, and jail. They talk about what life is like now that they have found Pastor Brooks’ ministry, which taught them tangible life skills.
From a bird’s-eye view, it’s easy to oversimplify every headline in favor of our neat ideologies. Humility—Christ-like humility—is found in solving the seemingly small, messy problems right in front of us: a girl without a home, a child who can’t read, a young man just out of jail without a job.
Steele wonders where Michael Brown might be today if he had encountered someone like Pastor Brooks. It’s our job to try to provide the answer to that question for the next Michael Brown.