Leaders of faith have played an active role in the demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri. Pastor Léonce Crump, Jr. of Atlanta's Renovation Church says he’s planning to go there to connect with one of his partner churches. Rickey Bevington, host of GPB’s All Things Considered, sat down with Pastor Crump.
Rickey Bevington (host, All Things Considered): What is the roll of a faith community in what’s happening in Ferguson?
Léonce Crump, Jr. (pastor, Renovation Church): Well, I think the role of the faith community is primarily to see the injustice and connect this injustice to the gospel, and realize that every word that Jesus spoke and even the actions that he did when he walked this earth were not just to get us to heaven, but to give us a preview of the reality that should be. The reality that should be is never one where a teenager can be gunned down in the street despite what he did. We’re a nation of laws, and those laws are meant to protect us.
Rickey Bevington: I know that you’ve been very involved in keeping tabs on what’s happening in Ferguson, but how is the faith community doing in your assessment two weeks into this?
Léonce Crump, Jr.: Well, honestly I’ve been a little disappointed. Everyone is waiting for someone else to speak up, waiting for someone else to form their opinion when there are enough facts that are out to standup and say this is not congruent with who we say we are and what we say we believe. Sadly, it’s mostly been evangelicals that have been largely silent. I had a good brother of mine (who’s) a conservative, Baptist pastor, African American man who said (on Twitter) it’s sad to me that I’ve had to get all my news on this from liberals. So, that tells you where the faith community has been in this.
Rickey Bevington: Why do you think it’s so divisive?
Leonce Crump, Jr.: Because I think we politicize everything. That at the end of the day race and class are issues that are still very much bubbling beneath the surface, and we don’t want to deal with those things. We want to pretend to be colorblind. We want to continue to worship in our segregated churches, and in our segregated communities. We say we worship the same god. And all those things are antithetical to the gospel.
Rickey Bevington: May I ask how old you are?
Léonce Crump, Jr.: Yeah, I’m in my 30’s.
Rickey Bevington: So, you represent a younger generation. ..
Léonce Crump, Jr.: For the most part.
Rickey Bevington: …I’m going to use your words: ‘Liberals,’ ‘evangelicals.’ And you’re an African American man. Is there a difference between an older evangelical reaction to this and a younger evangelical reaction to this?
Léonce Crump, Jr.: To some degree, and let me make one small correction. I actually represent a broad spectrum of both liberal and conservative evangelicals, and the split has been along those lines. And so what I’ve seen in my own social media, and my own timelines, and my own responses is that those who have a liberal social posture but a very firm foundation in their faith have been outraged by this and have spoken up against and felt injustice in this and those who say they’re more conservative have really said nothing. And so there is a difference because I believe that the younger movement is starting to more readily connect the gospel to issues of social justice and issues of injustice, and desiring to see something change whereas it seems older evangelicals are content to exist in their cocoon, and watch the world unravel and preach about a Jesus who’s going to take us out of it, but not the Jesus who wants to change it right now.
Rickey Bevington: So, what are you telling young people in your congregation right now?
Léonce Crump, Jr.: I’m telling young people one that we cannot live in a world where men or boys can be gunned down without a weapon, without due process, without a trial….that two, we cannot live in a world where people of authority cannot be held accountable….and three, that at the end of the day Dr. (Martin Luther King, Jr.) isn’t coming back and that it’s up to us to speak up, to stand up, to turn our social activism into action because if we don’t turn it into action, then it’s just words and space.