The Lord gives us a future and a hope!

What is happening?

By Dr. Norman Wise

As we see riots break out over many cities in the United States, we have to ask ourselves the question, “What is happening”? These are my prayerful reflections over the last few days and I share them with you.  I know we may have to agree to disagree in an agreeable manner, but I felt led to share my thoughts.

Most of us are confused.  What is happening and why? 

On May 25th 2020, George Floyd died.  This was after former police officer Derek Chauvin put his knee on his neck for eight minutes while being knowingly being filmed.  The officer is now charged on second degree murder charges along with four other officers, all of whom have been terminated.  The original charge was the accusation that Mr. Floyd had passed a counterfeit 20-dollar bill.  [1]  It is not clear he was guilty of this accusation.

The reaction to his death has sparked peaceful protests, rioting, vandalism, and looting in many cities.  

“George Floyd protests, started on May 27 in Minneapolis, Minnesota after the killing of George Floyd. He was killed in Minneapolis by police officer Derek Chauvin. Chauvin was fired four days later and is facing murder charges. The riots nevertheless spread to many cities across the nation. Thus far, thousands have been arrested and many injured. Hundreds of millions of dollars of property have been destroyed or looted. The National Guard has been called out to some cities, as many police stations have been abandoned and burned by the rioters. Currently, riots are still occurring in places. The killing of George Floyd has garnered international condemnation.[2]

“Floyd’s girlfriend asked for the community to respond to his death in a way that honors him. She said: “You can’t fight fire with fire. Everything just burns, and I’ve seen it all day – people hate, they’re hating, they’re hating, they’re mad. And he would not want that.”[154]

Floyd’s brother, Philonese, called for peace and said, “Everybody has a lot of pain right now, that’s why this is happening, I’m tired of seeing black people dying.”[151]

On July 1, 2014,  Eric Garner in New York City also died after police officer Pantaleo placed his arm around his neck, going unconscious, dying at a local hospital. [3]  The Richmond County Grand Jury decided to not indict Officer Pantaleo.  There was an out of court settlement by the city of New York of 5.9 million dollars to the Garner family.  The U.S. Department of justice declined to bring criminal charges and only on August 2, 2019, was Officer Pantaleo’s employment terminated.  Eric Garner was charged with selling cigarettes. 

These events have become a rallying cry for many in the non-white communities that they believe the police are unfair in their treatment of minorities especially blacks.  For many in the white community it is a mystery of why there are such large protests and rioting over tragic deaths caused by what would appear to be significant excessive force by individual police officers in particular situations.

This is because there is a totally different view of the police by the majority of people in in the black and white communities. 

According to Pew Research 64% of the black community did not believe that local police treated blacks and whites equally while 71% of whites believed they did.  In addition, 57% of the black community felt that police forces did a poor job of using the right amount of force while only 23% of whites question excessive force by the police.  Even more important 70% of the black community the authorities did a poor job of holding officers accountable for misconduct compared with 27% of whites.

There is a growing amount of objective data that the perception of the black community may be true in many cases.   Language analysis taken from body cameras seem to demonstrate that police in Oakland California treat whites better than blacks. [4] 

In addition 26.9 percent of those killed by police in the line of duty were blacks while they are only 13.2 of the population.  Whites did make up about 50% of those killed but represent 77% of the population.  So, the concern is that some police in some situations are using excessive force mainly against blacks does not seem to be an illusion.[5]

Our emotions are created by the perceptions we have. 

For many blacks the majority of police seem like the oppressive army of the “Peace Keepers”  we see in the movie “The Hunger Games” while for most whites they see the police more like Ponch and Jon from the T.V. series “Chips” or even Sheriff Andy Taylor from “The Andy Griffith” show. 

While 48% of whites think that a lot of progress dealing with racial equality since 1963 only 32% of blacks have this perception. 

So, there is great fear, concern, frustration and a feeling of oppression by many blacks in our nation especially regarding how the police approach and deal with their community.   

So, when black people die from excessive and cruel police force it can easily ignite a fire of protest and riots.   When people lose hope in the system, they become desperate.  Desperate people do desperate things.

Only when that perception is changed by very careful and hopefully prayerful actions of building bridges between the police and the communities, they serve will we be able to find a more stable society. 

Some police forces have attempted to show empathy for the peaceful protests and attempted to listen to people in the black community.[6]   When this is done in an honest attempt to understand the problem, it has normally led to a peaceful expression of concern and not riots.   It would appear that “turning the other cheek” as Christ Jesus teaches has some practical advantages   In, other cases, in my opinion it would appear that police may have used excessive force to handle the situation.  [7]  These actions only deepen the impression that the police force is an oppressive army of occupation instead of being there to serve and protect the communities in  which they serve. 

While some point to the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. as evidence of the failure of peaceful protest and resistance, it seems clearer that peaceful protests are effective in bringing about political and social change[8]  Social change through nonviolence would seem to be the best application of the Sermon on the Mount that Christ Jesus taught. 

I suggest you read Matthew 5-7 to understand the teaching of the LORD Jesus on this matter which includes forgiving, serving, and loving our enemies.

I highly recommend you watch the video on the biblical view of Justice by the Bible project to place this in a worldview that represents consistent Scriptural thinking. (See https://bibleproject.com/explore/justice/ ).  This short video clearly defines the biblical view of justice and how the only ultimate answer to justice is to be found in the person and work of Christ Jesus.

Also, we could gain insight from Pastor Timothy Keller’s book Generous Justice to get a full understanding.  It is important that we carefully and prayerfully process these problems with a renewed mind. 

We have to attempt to fulfill the vision of Israel’s prophets.

[Mic 6:8 NASB] 8 He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you;  But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?

So, what should the disciple of Christ do in the 21st Century facing such hard issues?  

I base my thoughts and opinions on the following assumptions.

  • The vast majority of police officers do not use excessive force and simply because they are police officers does not make them “racist” or people who would want to kill people because of the color of their skin.
  • There is some evidence that the FBI and others have been concerned that members of white supremist groups such as the KKK and Neo-Nazis have purposely infiltrated police forces to get military level training and to promote a race war in the United States. [9]
  • A very small minority of police are unstable, excessively violent, and some have strong racial prejudice.  They need to be identified and removed from their position as officers before they do things that cause more harm than they have already. 
  • The vast majority of the protesters have been peaceful according to law officials.[10]  They are not attempting to overthrow law and order.
  • There are some youth people that are vandalizing and stealing randomly for a variety of reasons from frustrated rage to just acting out because they can without fear of consequences because of the chaos. 
  • There are a very small group of violent protesters who want to have a race war and attacking police and setting fires.
  • There are some people just taking advantage of the chaos and stealing.
  • It has been reported that there may be white supremacist groups purposely infiltrating into the protests (which have both black and white people involved) do set fires, encourage violence, and vandalize in the hope to fuel more fear between blacks and whites.   If this is true, then it would make sense for these groups to do this.  (How many white supremist are there in the country?  About 500,000 is a conservative estimate [11])

My idea of a balanced and loving Christians response

  1. The church is to be a house of prayer for all nations, peoples, and groups and should call their members to intense prayer seeking humility and repentance.  Our prayers need to be those confessing our sins, the sins of our nation, and restoration of a just peace between all communities in our nation. 

[2Ch 7:13-14 NASB] 13 “If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, 14 and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

  • The church should resist all calls for violence and destructive actions and call for honor and respect to those God has called to rule.

[Rom 13:1 NASB] 1 Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.

  • Peaceful civil disobedience is allowed if obeying the government promotes injustice or demands disobeying God.   We must pray that God will use such peaceful protest as a way to make us a more sane, stable, and spiritual Republic.  

[Exo 1:15-17 NASB] 15 Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other was named Puah; 16 and he said, “When you are helping the Hebrew women to give birth and see [them] upon the birthstool, if it is a son, then you shall put him to death; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.” 17 But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live.

  • The Church should weep with those who weep over the death of the innocent as the result of police brutality.

[Rom 12:15 NASB] 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

  • We are to be ready to help, protect, and support people who are oppressed by those in authority as the ambassadors of Christ and the kingdom of God.

[Isa 58:6 NASB] 6 “Is this not the fast which I choose, To loosen the bonds of wickedness, To undo the bands of the yoke, And to let the oppressed go free And break every yoke?

  • We should not fear human conspiracies or become focused on speculations on “hidden agendas” but focus on the reality that God rules over all events and will use them for the good of HIS kingdom.

[Isa 8:11-13 NASB] 11 For thus the LORD spoke to me with mighty power and instructed me not to walk in the way of this people, saying, 12 “You are not to say, ‘[It is] a conspiracy!’ In regard to all that this people call a conspiracy, And you are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of [it.] 13 “It is the LORD of hosts whom you should regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, And He shall be your dread.

  • We should boldly witness in word and deed the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ making disciples of all people through preaching and acts of love.  This is a risk we must take even if we are persecuted for the sake of the gospel and righteousness.

[Mat 5:9-12 NASB] 9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. 10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when [people] insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

It is important we protect the right of all people of all colors to be treated fairly and in a just manner by those in authority.  We should do this because this is the will of God but also because failure today to stand for protection under the law for one group may eventually mean I don’t have any protection under the law. 

This is what one pastor said about Nazi Germany

First, they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Lutheran Pastor Martin Neimoller

We must also be careful about giving up our freedom of speech and peaceful protests out of fear.

Tyrannies always come in to “save” people from some threat.  We trade our freedom for security.   Tyrants who take over Republics ruled by constitutional law or manipulate democracy to gain absolute power do so by generating fear that causes people to surrender their rights to be safe. 

In light of what is happening today reading the book of Judges in the Bible would help for it shows us what happens when “everyone does what is right in their own eyes” and this brings about a desire for an absolute king like the other nations had to rule them.   Social chaos normally leads to tyranny.  Social disorder leads to more oppression being justified so that “Peace” can be established.   The Apostle Paul warns us:

[1Th 5:3 NASB] 3 While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape.

It would appear that we may be entering into a “New Brave World” and in this we must trust God’s total control over the course of history and define how we are to walk by faith in the Lord Jesus in such troubled times.  Now let us be sane, stable, and Spirit led believers seeking to demonstrate truth, love, and mercy in all we do.    Let us learn to effectively be the salt, light, ambassadors of God’s kingdom, and agents of love that we have been called to manifest in this generation. 

[Jos 1:8-9 NASB] 8 “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. 9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

We need to follow the LORD Jesus boldly, intelligently, and without fear of what human beings can do to us.  We can only do this as we are instructed in HIS WORD and filled with the HOLY SPIRIT.    

Watch this video by Pastor Eric Ludy that calls us to take on our role as God’s answer to the problems the world now faces.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cNjoTNxe-WU&feature=emb_logo

Closing Prayer

Great heavenly Father who bankrupted heaven by sending God the Son to become the Son of God for the purpose of paying an infinite price to forgive us our sins, adopt us, and send us into the world for the purpose of expanding the company of those who believe from every nation, culture, and tribe; hear our desperate cry to YOU Redeeming Creator:

Purify us from hypocrisy, fear, and secular thinking.  Provide for us wisdom to know what to say, do and express an attitude of love in all things.  Make our nation more just, wise, and compassionate.  Raise up a generation of police officers that will be of the most excellent character and conscience.  Raise up community leaders who want to seek peace and not destruction.  Save us LORD from ourselves.  Create in YOUR people a house of prayer for all nations and help us humbly turn from our evil ways.  Forgive us!  Heal us!  Save us!  YOU are our only hope.  YOUR hand is not short so that it cannot save!  Reach out now and turn back the plans of Satan to divide, create hate, and produce chaos.   Let YOUR truth overturn every lie.  Unite us in YOUR love, give to us compassion for one another, and bring a stable order into our daily lives.  YOUR will be done and YOUR kingdom come on earth as in heaven!  Amen

Resources

In addition, the following films make important points.

  • A Face in The Crowd – How media can manipulate democracy
  • The Shoes of the Fisherman – The need of the church to use love to stop social disaster
  • The Siege – How fear of terrorist and chaos can take away our freedom
  •  Amistad – About a slave ship, extreme oppression, rebellion, slavery, the law
  • Amazing Grace – Movie how William Wilberforce, changed the law to end the slave trade in England after a two-decade battle.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Killing_of_George_Floyd#$20_bill

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_incidents_of_civil_unrest_in_the_United_States#2020

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Eric_Garner

[4] https://www.pbs.org/newshour/science/police-respect-whites-blacks-traffic-stops-language-analysis-finds

[5] https://www.diversityinc.com/police-deaths-blacks-whites/

[6] https://www.huffpost.com/entry/police-support-protests_n_6419220

[7] https://www.businessinsider.com.au/police-george-floyd-protests-excessive-force-2020-5

https://www.vox.com/2020/5/31/21275994/police-violence-peaceful-protesters-images

[8] https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/peace-protests-dallas-response/

[9] https://www.smh.com.au/world/north-america/in-the-us-white-supremacists-have-infiltrated-police-and-military-to-get-weapons-training-20180209-p4yzs5.html

[10] https://abc13.com/protesters-antifa-white-supremacists-george-floyd-protests/6222958/

[11] https://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/exactly-how-many-white-supremacists-are-there-in-america/