UPDATE – My editor has suggested that I revise some of the language regarding the police, especially in light of last night’s events. The concern being that it may come off as overly biased towards cops. However, I have decided to leave it unchanged. The post isn’t about police. I’m trying to explain my experiences, and these were the thoughts we had. It sets up how we interacted with and thought about cops. The main point is that my views, due to my life, are vastly different than those experienced by others (see linked article at end).
Very little, if anything, about last night’s actions are good. They are clearly bad for the cause and were acts of hate. This is not how we change to world for the better. Paul tells us in Romans the way we need to follow – Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Also, go read Russell Moore’s latest on how preachers can react.
I’m not even really sure how to write what I want to say. There are so many odd reactions to the recent shootings of black men by the police, Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, that it is tough to know where to start. No surprise that race would be an issue, though it is disappointing that it is also turned into a political issue, almost of as one side supports police shootings. Worst of all is the reaction I hear from fellow Christians. It especially bothers me when they are the supposedly libertarian/limited-government types whom should be suspicious of the government. From the Christian side (though, it’s not just Christians), I tend to hear one of two things – that they shouldn’t have been doing anything wrong to be stopped by the police or that ‘all lives matter.’
Philando was stopped for a broken tail light. Think about that. We are saying that the loss of his life is his fault. That a minor traffic infraction is punishable by death. I don’t care if they found 10 kilos of blow in his trunk, that’s not a reason to kill someone. Mrs. MMT drives a baby blue Mazda 3. She had a tail light out for a bit once, but she didn’t get pulled over. Let’s not pretend that was really the only reason he was pulled over.
Relevant has a great article up about the Problem of Saying All Lives Matter. (That author has another article up that is also worth reading). Jared C. Wilson of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary recently tweeted – The reactionary “all lives matter” is like telling the mom grieving loss of her baby “all babies matter.” True but unkind. Romans 12:15b. I felt this was an interesting and compelling argument. While it’s true that all babies and all lives matter, that’s not the current issue. And this is an issue. This is a major issue that all Christians should care about right now.
I want to talk about justice. The problem of black men being shot by police is a justice issue. There are plenty of verses and chapters in the Bible dedicated to justice, but I’ll highlight two:
He has told you, O man, what is good; and
what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
Micah says that this is what the Lord requires. We must do justice. We most love kindness. What is happening and what has happened this week does not show justice nor kindness. As Christians, we should demand justice. The second verse is from James, and while it doesn’t specifically discuss justice in the OT since, there is the call to love your neighbor and to not show partiality.
8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.
This problem was also discussed recently by the Gospel Coalition. Christians should care, because the victims are made in the image of God, just like us. It shouldn’t matter that they are poor, or black, or even if they are criminals, because, as I said earlier, a traffic infraction is not worth someone’s life. We should also be outraged because this is a justice problem. It is a problem that in 2015, roughly 25% of police shootings were of black people, who only make up about 12% of the total population. As you can see on the home page of the above link, it’s hard to track the stats. Some people have even been denied FOIA requests. That complete lack of transparency and accountability should trouble everyone.
Look, I grew up with a mentality that you don’t trust cops. We generally viewed them as high school drop-outs who were rejected by the Army or just greedy, power-hungry people who were looking to make a good living through bribery and
theft civil forfeiture. In fact, Mrs. MMT and I would argue about this. I’d say that you shouldn’t talk to the cops and that they weren’t there to help you. She finally agreed once a friend of hers went to law school and agreed.
Obviously, that was an over generalization. Not all cops are bad. My point in that digression is that I neither liked nor trusted cops. Something else I lacked for them – fear. I’ve probably run from the cops four or five times. We were young and fit and didn’t want to get in trouble, and they were usually fat and lazy, so we ran. Even with them looking at us or knowing our names, we ran. Not at all unlike Walter Scott. It never crossed out minds that we would be shot. Maybe tased, but they’d have to catch us. Hell, there is even a Brad Paisley song about running from the cops. Of course, it’s lighthearted and funny. In the end, he gets caught. But, it’d be a very different song – one with a tragic ending – if he were black.
I was pulled over once for no reason other than driving a beat-up Ranger in a rich neighborhood, but I wasn’t scared for my life. Another time I was pulled over and forced, with my buddy, to get out of the car so they could search it. I wasn’t scared. Even the time a cop pulled his gun and pointed it at me, I was not scared. I knew he wouldn’t shoot. It was just a little manlet wanting to intimidate me. Philando Castile didn’t even get the chance to get outside of the car. In what is, to me, the most horrifying part of the video, the cop continues to point his gun as the man lay dying.
However, it’s a different story if you are black. Read as a fellow brother in Christ shares his unfortunate, but tragically reasonable, fears.
There is a lot more left to say and more that needs to be said and will be said. I hope I don’t have to write another post like this or read another story of a suspicious shooting of a black man by a cop. I’m a betting man, but I would take the over if you set it at a month. I’d ask all Christians to honestly look at these situations and pray. Ask God for this to end and to not enter your own bunker. To not view it as an “us” or “them” issue. We are all one in Christ. There is no longer Jew or Gentile. Our brothers across the country are being treated differently than us, based solely on their melanin. This is not acceptable to God, and it certainly shouldn’t be acceptable to us. Black Lives Matter.