Vox Populi Vox Dei

v1In times of trouble and conflict we are accustomed to call upon the practical man. Unfortunately the opposite is needed. For the practical man can only do the things he knows and when conflict and trouble arise he has neither the means nor the aim to fix an unexpected conflict. The impractical man is what is needed. Some may tell us that the impractical man fiddles while Rome burns. We are told that he ought to go put out the fire, but what we really need is the impractical man who invents the firehose. Then we can quell the flames forever.

And this is what Ferguson needs. It needs laws that do not bind us to inaction. This country needs laws that do not allow police offices that are legally allows to shoot an unarmed teen over nine times and leave him in the street for four and half hours. Ferguson needs a state prosecutor who is not legally allowed to give out statues deems unconstitutional in 1985 and correct them three days before deliberation ends. Ferguson needs to know that justice exists. It needs to know that our country of laws values black lives and white lives in the same manner. It needs to know that tear gassing protesters and bringing in a militarized police force is imperious. It needs to know that in our country stealing cigars is not punishable by death. It needs to know that excessive force in the name of protection is a means that undoes an end.

Ferguson needs peace makers- blessed are they. It needs impractical men. Men who are willing to stand up for what is right and just and true.  Ferguson needs the most impractical, practical men. Men who judge actions, and furthermore act. Vox populi vox dei is our maxim. Our actions can only be successful when they are over, if we are to begin they must in the abstract right. My conscience rejects that an unarmed black teen deserved death for not getting out of the street fast enough. I have been to those neighborhoods. I have taught teens just like Michael Brown. I nearly became Michael Brown’s math teacher. For all of my experience it is clear that authority does not grant freedom from the law. Authority exists in the context of law, not in spite of it. If the laws allow for such a heinous action then the laws themselves are unjust. Prudence dictates that law ought not to be changed for light and passing causes, but change in the law ought not to be intractable. Mankind will suffer under the law before it changes the law assuming the law is sufferable. But when the law itself allows for the destruction of the basic tenet of existence perquisite to the law itself- life, it becomes not only a necessity but duty of the people to stand against the law, practically in the form of protests. Impractically in the creation of new laws and examination of the old law to determine the protection of all people regardless of race, religion, creed, or gender. This is what Ferguson needs. It is what the world needs. Behind this law lies the mysterious person who fulfilled the law. He is justice itself. He is what Ferguson needs more than all, for he who has Christ and everything has nothing more than he who has Christ alone.

I stand with the people of Ferguson. May Christ stand with them as well.


  1. Thanks for this article, forests. Christ is undoubtedly the key to remedying our plight as human beings. I don’t mean that in a cliche way, but what Christ has to offer us is extremely practical. In terms of race relations, as human beings we need to draw near to Christ so that he may reveal what is in the dark recesses of our individual hearts as well as the driving force behind our societal structures. Both racism and general prejudice stem from our desire to feel superior to the other for the sake of ego, economic advantage and political power. Until we take seriously the words of Christ about finding a secure identity in the Godhead, about serving rather than ruling over and about forgiving and seeking to reconcile and having compassion for one another, the human race will continue this cycle of systemic, intentional and unintentional indifference and oppression toward one another.

    Also, Ben wrote an informative article on racism within the church a while back (link).

    • Thanks, David, for reminding me of the article I wrote over 2 years ago. In my opinion, this might unfortunately might still be too delicate and sensitive of a topic to discuss in many chapters, though I regard it as crucially important if we are going to practically live out the implications of the gospel, which equalizes all people regardless of their race or status.

    • Yeah, there was a lot of good feedback in the discussion section for that article too. And this is one issue that we can’t shy away from because it is at the very core of the plight of humanity. Because of our sinfulness, we will always seek to subjugate or marginalize those who are not like us. And this does not only depend on race. The gospel is the one piece of information that seeks to undo our wrong and destructive thinking about one another.

  2. “If the laws allow for such a heinous action then the laws themselves are unjust”

    I believe Christ stands with the people of Ferguson. I would join those protests in a second. Right now I’m busy with school, but if it weren’t for that, I would. The US is a racist country. Many of my friends are not considered more than the color of their skin. I am glad that you are aware of this. I’m probably going to sound racist, but the truth of the matter is that in this country Caucasians have it easier. That’s the way it is. And the ideal way is that those with privileges would forgo their rights for the less privileged. This is the example Christ gave us.

    I watching a clip on facebook about a teacher teaching about privilege. The students were seated in row and tried to throw a ball into the garbage. Those in the front rows had it easy. It was only those in the back rows who complained. Those in the front don’t raise their voice because they are comfortable.

    Yesterday, on the CTA, I was freezing and realized that I should try sleeping on the street one day to develop empathy for my neighbor. Someone once told me only the poor help the poor. It’s only people who have suffered that help the suffering.

    Anyway this comment is just a bunch of different thoughts. Thanks for writing this forests! Whats does “vox populi vox dei” mean by the way?

    • forestsfailyou

      “The voice of the people [is] the voice of God.” Archbishop of Canterbury Walter Reynolds brought charges against King Edward II in 1327 in a sermon “Vox populi, vox Dei” in which he insisted that King Edward II had abused his authority and that the voice of the people crying out against him had the authority of God. This mean that the divine right of the King could be challenged. It was later adopted by a radical whig party in the 18th century that held
      “There being no natural or divine Law for any Form of Government, or that one Person rather than another should have the sovereign Administration of Affairs, or have Power over many thousand different Families, who are by Nature all equal, being of the same Rank, promiscuously born to the same Advantages of Nature, and to the Use of the same common Faculties; therefore Mankind is at Liberty to choose what Form of Government they like best.”

    • forestsfailyou

      I saw that video today. If you want to see something really interesting check out the John Stewart interview with Bill O’ Riley on the topic of white privilege from about a month ago.

    • I saw that too, forests. O’Riley never ceases to amaze me. I’m astounded by how patient Jon Stewart is with him whenever they dialogue.

  3. I don’t really have words to comment on this one, Forests. I appreciate the firsthand account of things, and as soon as the news started a while ago, you came to mind since you’re living there.

    I agree with the quote, the voice of the people can be the voice of God. We should learn to pay attention to outcries that reach Heaven, as this one surely did.

  4. MJ, I agree:

    “The US is a racist country. Many of my friends are not considered more than the color of their skin. I am glad that you are aware of this. I’m probably going to sound racist, but the truth of the matter is that in this country Caucasians have it easier. That’s the way it is. And the ideal way is that those with privileges would forgo their rights for the less privileged. This is the example Christ gave us.”

    I read someone’s comments elsewhere that there is only one race–the human race. That is where I want to get to, to the state of mind where I see only humans. This doesn’t mean loss of identity or differences, for we do exist in various tribes. It just means there is one race, regardless of gender or any other attribute.

    Living in Detroit has opened my eyes to see how racist I am. To be a racist is to be “a person who believes that a particular race is superior to another.” I had become conditioned by my American background to think it is natural for Caucasians to “have it better”. But this is so wrong.

    And oddly I became conditioned by ubf to think that Koreans are the superior race. This is also so wrong.

    I think we should have an article discussion racism vs. tribalism. I am increasingly ok with tribalism as long as racism is removed. We all have attributes we like and it seems healthy to find a tribe to fit into. The problems all seem to stem from tribal interactions.

    So I am starting to see one human race with many tribes who should work together for good. (Just some Monday ramblings…)

  5. Eye-opening article from a former St. Louis cop turned community activist:

    As a cop, it shouldn’t surprise you that people will curse at you, or be disappointed by your arrival. That’s part of the job. But too many times, officers saw young black and brown men as targets. They would respond with force to even minor offenses. And because cops are rarely held accountable for their actions, they didn’t think too hard about the consequences.

    Once, I accompanied an officer on a call. At one home, a teenage boy answered the door. That officer accused him of harboring a robbery suspect, and demanded that he let her inside. When he refused, the officer yanked him onto the porch by his throat and began punching him.

    Another officer met us and told the boy to stand. He replied that he couldn’t. So the officer slammed him against the house and cuffed him. When the boy again said he couldn’t walk, the officer grabbed him by his ankles and dragged him to the car. It turned out the boy had been on crutches when he answered the door, and couldn’t walk.

    Back at the department, I complained to the sergeant. I wanted to report the misconduct. But my manager squashed the whole thing and told me to get back to work.link