Sports and Scripture Inspire Unity
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Aeneas Williams needs no introduction to NFL offenses. The eight-time pro-bowler is a Hall of Fame defensive back! Fitting that Pastor Aeneas Williams is also on-point to tackle racial unrest and reconciliation – again! It was six years ago and just a few blocks down the road from where his church was then located, in the very heart of Ferguson, Missouri.
Question: “Aeneas, what do we learn now from Minneapolis that we failed to learn out of Ferguson?"
Aeneas Williams: “It’s in question – the training of our officers! Each situation ended up escalating instead of deescalating. I met with the Chief of Ferguson, Chief Jason whose a member of my church just recently and he talked about during his training he learned “verbal judo” to deescalate something with one’s words and control the momentum of the engagement.”
Question: “Aeneas, what is it that you take from your football career, that you would borrow that helps you navigate through some of these issues?”
Aeneas Williams: “We’re on the same team! We have different positions, but we have the same goal. Everyone in the room no matter offense, defense, special teams, we all are in a collaboration to make sure we win! So how I would relate to this is to remind officers and community, each are citizens, one’s part of the community, the other is serving the community, but we all have the same goals.”
Question: “Your estimation – riots rise from what?”
Aeneas Williams: “Many have quoted riots are the language of the unheard and I would go to scripture and to the book of James and I would say, riots are result of anger being displaced. Instead of going out and tearing things up, take that same passion and systematically begin to engage law enforcement as well as council meetings, all of those things that create policy changes that also hold elected officials accountable, as well as law enforcement to have community policing, meaning we’re a team together.”
Question: “Aeneas, for so many the conversation of diversity will be uncomfortable, awkward, maybe even avoided. How then do we become comfortable being uncomfortable?
Aeneas Williams: “Someone needs to first open up by saying, ‘the goal of this conversation is to genuinely hear from each other’s perspective. Because everybody’s perspective is different! We’re not here to judge your experience. We’re only here to hear from your viewpoint so each of us could have a better understanding of what you feel when you see lights flashing behind you.”
Question: “Laws, programs, initiatives, may change things. What is at the core of forgiveness to sustain it?”
Aeneas Williams: “Love and the ultimate thing that’s only going to change - love does a whole lot of things, love overlooks insults, always making sure what’s the right thing to do regardless of how the other person is behaving. The reason why that is important, this Christian walk became so significant to me Tom, because I was able to have Christ’s spirit in me! I can be more intentional regardless - a parent not having a good day, sometimes it can be a child not having a good day, sometimes it can be an officer, but when we’re able to Christ’s spirit to bring ourselves under control, even though somebody’s misbehaving in a position of authority, it will at least save the life, possibly and allow something to deescalate that within as scripture says, ‘as far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.’”
Question: “What is more paralyzing, do you find in your pastoral role: the blindness of white privilege or the certain resentment that comes from the community of color that wants to correct it?”
Aeneas Williams: “Wow! I’ve never thought of that – the way you’re asked that question. To train bank tellers they make them consistently, repeatedly, study the real bills! Study them! They don’t bring a whole bunch of counterfeit bills that come across and have them study the counterfeit. So, as a pastor, our goal is to share the gospel with love, but also put the real - the truth - he says, ‘you should know the truth, right? And the truth will set us free!’ Set us free how? Number one, to know that the devil is the divider. Number two, to know that we’re unified and that we each have the same spirit in us, and different gifting’s in us. Once again, going back to my football analogy, we have the same goal! And that’s to honor our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who saw fit to put us all in the same body!"
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