To my fellow Christian Americans; my brothers and sisters:
The following article contains controversy, *graphic photos*, and positional statements that may stir up prideful defense, anger, grief, shock, or cynicism. It is intended, however, to cause us all, as brothers and sisters in Christ from all walks of life, to evaluate who we are as adopted children of the one true and living God instead of who society tells us we are based on socioeconomic status, geographic location, political affiliation, occupation, or the color of our skin. Some of what I say will be unpopular, but I assure you, it comes from a position of love. I am an imperfect man in daily need of our Lord and Savior, Jesus, the Christ who came into this world to save all those who believe in Him (John 3:16).
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
How Are We Being Fed?
For the past few weeks (particularly, the last few days), I’ve watched, read, and listened to the voices of a lost nation. Yes, I said we are lost. I have witnessed, on a large-scale, a hedonistic, profligate, overly-compromising, pretentious, detached country we call the land of the free, become a place where people choose their own form of freedom regardless of the affect it may have upon others, instead of the land in which we are meant to freely choose to do what is right. I cannot effectively express how much this breaks my heart.
I have taken in the opinions of people I love and cherish most, considered the views of acquaintances, and read judgments of folks I have never met. One thing that concerns me most is how much is based on biased-perception and how little is based in fact. Now, while I agree that we are each personally responsible for the things we do and say, this bias is not entirely the fault of the individual. Those in positions of public influence have done this purposefully since our early foundations, and they have succeeded. Whether or not we are willing to admit it, we base our feelings on a certain level of bias. We take into account things such as the color of our skin, our economic status, religion, occupation, geographic location, health, and other tangible factors. Our opinions rely heavily upon how things may affect those we love, or us, personally. Be it intentional or not, we often tend to disregard how things may affect those we do not personally know. Much of what I’ve processed has angered me and filled my heart with sadness on such a grand scale that I cannot say I have felt this way since the events that transpired on September 11th, 2001.
One thing that sticks out most to me is how often the actions of a minority tend to condemn the majority. These preconceptions permeate cultural, economic, occupational, and political boundaries among others. It’s sad to say, but the “witch-hunt” mob mentality is alive and well. I’ve been told that there is no way I can relate to a demographic within which I do not fit, and that’s correct, I cannot. Demographics I can relate to include being male, white, middle-aged (some will debate that 40 does not qualify), upper-middle class (according to socioeconomic statistics), follicly-challenged, overweight, married, a parent, an armed-services veteran, a first responder, and educator, and a student among other things, but what I would like to focus on here is being a Christian; a true follower of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Putting Out The Fire
The officer-involved shooting deaths of both Alton Sterling and Philando Castile have sparked new rage across the nation that rivals that seen in Ferguson, Missouri following the death of Michael Brown. The resultant murder of five Dallas police officers has only served to gouge even more holes in the hull of an already sinking ship. Resounding expressions heard across the wire, fueled by hate and fear, call for the immediate conviction and execution of the Louisiana and Minnesota officers before any trial can even be thought of. After reading dozens (literally) of tweets and Facebook posts calling for the mass murder of “pigs”, the killing of “every cracker I see”, accolades for “rapping pigs in blankets”, “Dallas must burn…got the message pigs”, “I condone black on white killings”, “death to all white cops nationwide”, and many more that I will not quote, I cannot help but fear for the society we are leaving to our children. I have seen the name of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. dragged through the blood-tinged mud as people ignorantly state that “he would be proud” of the shooting of the police officers in Dallas; men that were as far removed from the Louisiana and Minnesota shootings as you and I. Yesterday, the public lined up to offer hugs and condolences to Dallas officers on a city street. In this video (at the 59 second mark) a black man, after hugging a white cop, caught my eye. He wore a shirt that read God Must Matter. This brought a lump to my throat as I thought to myself, “That’s what it’s supposed to be about, right there.”
Patience, Understanding, and Support
Please do not misinterpret my position; I understand the concern within the black community. I may not be able to affectively relate to it, but I do understand it. I have listened to many of my minority friends as they provided examples of how they have been profiled by the police in the past. Through these accounts, something struck me: most stated that even though they were angry or scared, they complied with the officer’s requests/commands, thereby eliminating tense escalation of the situation. As seen in this 2015 video of Reverend Jarrett Maupin, a prominent civil rights leader who has been very outspoken regarding police shootings in the past, “shoot / don’t shoot” scenarios that officers face are much more dynamic than most realize. Something else to strongly consider is what we do not see in the mainstream media.
I am not a lawyer, a forensic investigator, or anything else that qualifies me to draw any conclusions on the Sterling or Castile incidents right now. The only information I have received is that of the rest of America: that which is inconclusive for any untrained, half-informed armchair quarterback to recklessly posit as they please. Biblically, we are taught not to jump to conclusions (Proverbs 25:8). On Thursday, Dr. Ben Carson tweeted, “We must come together & work together to make the future a better place. Take the time to understand one another, our future depends on it.” I could not agree more.
In an article written yesterday by Dr. Tony Evans, senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, he had this to say, “We, as believers in Jesus Christ, must begin to both model and apply more fervently biblical solutions to our nation’s chaos. Gone must be the days of only pointing fingers at others to fix what they may never fix. Our nation’s ills are not merely the result of corruption or racism, although these are evil. Our troubles can also be traced directly to ineffective Christians. One of the real tragedies today is that the church as a whole has failed to advance God’s kingdom light, equity, love and principles in our land in order to be a positive influence and impact for good in the midst of darkness, fear and hate. We must do better. We must unite. We must stand together and commit to one another that we will usher in a wave of change, justice, life, safety, rightness, equity and dignity for all. And above all, we must not let fear nor hatred divide us. Peace, unity, love and non-violence should be our rallying cry and the catalyst for change in our nation.”
For my friends and family within the law enforcement community, I thought about what to say in support of you all that I love, but I felt that Kristi Neace, a Christian woman (that I hold in high regard) and wife of a police officer, posted an article on her blog Behind the Line yesterday that I know will offer comfort and encouragement from the family perspective.
A Time For Self-Assessment
I believe that right now, for Christians in the United States, it is time for us to look at ourselves, as the bride of Christ, and evaluate whether or not we are pleasing to God in our thoughts and deeds. We must look at our hearts and see if they are in line with biblical standards and teachings. Where is your treasure found? In what areas of your life do you compromise your faith? If we do not first correct ourselves in such manner as to maintain our course through life down the narrow path, what hope do we have to influence change in others that will see only our hypocrisy?
Since this article was fashioned on the heels of our current societal tensions, I would like to address some issues that I believe should concern the church as a whole with reference to what we now call “racial division”; black, white, all of us.
Do you pray for your first responders? If so, do you do so in earnest? If not, why? Do you ask God to protect them? To provide them with wisdom, diligence, fairness, and skill? Do you ask God to use them, His servants, to do His will? Do you pray for their families?
We beat the proverbial drum and sound the alarm when the questionable death of a black man occurs at the hands of a white police officer, but seldom was more than a grumble heard when, in [Chicago, IL during] the first five months of 2016, someone was shot every 2¹/₂ hours and someone murdered every 14 hours, for a total of nearly 1,400 nonfatal shooting victims and 240 fatalities. Where is the outcry for these souls? These deaths continue daily at an alarming rate, yet I see no protests, no rallies, no support to clean up the city streets of this once-great nation, now plagued with poverty, drugs, and gang violence.
Veteran suicide and homelessness related to untreated PTSD? Religious intolerance of Christians? Do these not matter as much?
What about abortion? Based on available state-level data, an estimated 954,000 abortions took place in 2014. In 2012, unmarried women accounted for 85.3% of all abortions (CDC). Of minors having an abortion, 40% report that neither of their parents knew about the abortion (AGI). As Christian’s, we should be fighting this legalized form of genocide with every fiber in our being. What about the millions of black lives extinguished before they even have a chance.
Black women were 3.6 times more likely to have an abortion in 2012 than non-Hispanic white women (CDC). Among white women, there were 138 abortions per 1,000 births. Among black women, there were 501 abortions per 1,000 births. This means that although black women only represent 12% of the population, they represent 35% of aborted children! These numbers are staggering, and yet, it remains low on the priority list for so many who see it as a basic human right. If that isn’t bad enough, according to abortionno.org, women identifying themselves as Protestants obtain 43% of all U.S. abortions, Catholic women accounting for 27%, and 18% performed on women who identify themselves as born-again or Evangelical!
Does the politician you so adamantly support and voted into office support the murderous pro-choice agenda? If so, how do you justify your support and vote? Still think abortion is an acceptable choice? How about after watching this video?
Do you love your brother? Who is your brother? Would you lay down your life for Him? On April 2nd, 2015, 147 Christians, black Christians, were massacred at a college in Kenya.
In Nigeria, at least 2,000 people were massacred (with Christians being targeted) in January 2015 in a raid that lasted for days, sweeping 16 villages and displacing at least 30,000. Where was the “call to arms” for the innocents slaughtered? Men, women, and children, black lives that didn’t seem to matter to most America citizens because, well, they were not Americans. Where were the marches? Do black lives matter only if they’re American? Where was the passionate cry for these that had no voice in this world other than that of their brothers and sisters in Christ?
Dr. Voddie Baucham, Pastor of Preaching at Grace Family Baptist Church in Spring, Texas, was questioned on the Voddie Baucham Ministries Facebook page, “What’s the solution, pastor? Help us.” His response, “…the answer, as always, is the gospel! Unfortunately, most people are trying to address a sin, “racism,” with the Law… WRONG ANSWER! The Law cannot do away with sin. “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:20) “yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.” (Galatians 2:16) It seems like many Christians have given up on the gospel in these matters, and are looking to changes in policy, training, etc., as the answer (regardless of the lens through which we view the events). Crime is a sin problem. Ethnic strife is a sin problem. Sin problems will NEVER be solved by anything but the gospel. In the meantime, we have to commit ourselves to truth, and not familiar narratives. We must seek justice, wherever it leads (in other words, justice does not equal, “here’s how I see things, so justice would look like…”). And as we do, we must not view “justice” as an end in itself. Justice does not make people ‘one,’ Christ does (see Ephesians 2:11ff). In the meantime, let’s keep praying for the Prince of Peace to BE peace to and for us… all of us!”
I suppose (and certainly hope) that the point has been made. I certainly do not wish to beat a dead horse, but we must understand a fundamental truth of our faith: If we do not unify beneath the banner of Christ, as men and women, brothers and sisters, red with the blood of Christ by which we have been washed, then Christ’s message preached means nothing. Our faith will mean nothing. In Galatians 2:11-21, Paul calls Peter on the carpet, and he does so unapologetically, but he does it out of love for Peter. This should speak volumes to us. Sometimes we fallible, sinful creatures are tempted by prideful ambition and lose sight of the fact that the glory, all of it, is to be given to God. We are accountable to one another. I know I need reminding often, and by God’s grace and loving mercy, He allows me back into the fold when I stumble.
As recently as the tragedy that unfolded in a historic church situated in Charleston, SC on June 17th, 2015, the power of God’s love, among extreme racial tension and unthinking hate, can be found. A 21-year-old white man murdered nine unsuspecting members of Emanuel AME Church during a bible study. The ability of Nadine Collier, the daughter of 70-year-old Ethel Lance, to forgive her killer could only be with true faith in, and strength through the loving mercy and kindness, of God. Let our sister’s example of Christ in her life serve as a beacon for all of us that exist to serve God.
Whether or not you agreed with all, or even some of of what I have said, I would like to challenge each reader to honestly answer this question for themselves: With your actions and words, whose kingdom are you trying to advance; God’s or the world’s?