Disclaimer: This is an honest post about real and current issues (sorry, no poem with this one). I am a young Caucasian male that holds Christian beliefs and primarily conservative political values. While I believe that neither ethnicity nor sex nor age nor political/religious view etc. should ever silence one’s opinion on a topic (we are, after all, allowed and expected to opine incorrectly on occasion), I realize that there are those who don’t share that belief and that I might not be allowed to weigh in on topics of discrimination on the basis of my sex and ethnicity. Though I am primarily an outside observer or have second-hand knowledge on institutional biases, supposed or actual, I personally believe such a position gives discussions a different perspective, not an invalid one. Actually, I have experienced pro/anti-religious institutional biases firsthand. And when it comes to my twin on the autistic spectrum, I have first-hand knowledge and experience of educational and social discrimination, yet I’ve never barred someone from discussing topics relevant to him because they didn’t have someone close to them on the spectrum. Regardless, if I have saved any dissenting opinion-holder from reading this post, you may quickly scroll to the comments (or comment, let’s be honest here) and thank me for my courtesy.
George Floyd’s death – what appears to be murder at the hands of the state without a semblance of due process – has me shaken. Perhaps it’s the culmination of 2020’s challenges that have altered my mood, maybe it’s the fact that I’m older and have diversified friend-groups and have learned a couple things about how the world works. This case of police brutality has a stark difference from some others I’ve observed over the years – besides that everyone has been locked inside for 2 months and is itching for something to do, some way to vent mounting frustration – and that is that the law enforcement side is left with minimal-to-no room for counter-argument. In certain past cases, either side was liable to blow their own justifications out of proportion or try and negate the evidence that the other side offered, leading me and many others to confusion in “which side to choose,” sadly allowing many (myself included) to live in ignorance of the very real pain these instances can and do create. And while the ironically ignorant phrase “check your privilege” still rings between my eardrums, I have to relax and realize that I do not live the same life that others do, even if they choose not to hear why I believe what I believe. In George Floyd’s case, we’re left with multiple camera angles, and like so many other cases there is but one sure verdict: tragedy.
As I somberly reflect on that devastating video with him gasping for air, I should feel like an impostor, for I shouldn’t be privy to a man’s last moments I’ve never met. But his last moments were anything but tender or reflective, and I’m sorrowfully thankful that there is a video that one can watch and judge for themselves, all agendas cast to the side. My heart shatters for George Floyd, for his family and friends and those connected to previous incidents of excessive force. My heart also breaks at the division in this country that seems only ever to be on the rise. I grieve that police officers that risk their lives daily to respect their office and the lives of those they protect must again bear the face of the callous oppressor, something that constantly shades my own skin color. I’m enraged that this has happened yet again, as if America didn’t have enough racial embers in the tinderbox that is the 250 year experiment of a democratic republic. Furthermore, I’m beyond saddened that many protests have been hijacked by violence and destruction, and that the original issue risks being lost in the firefight. Cities already stretched fiscally now have immense damage, some irreparable; people have lost businesses and even their lives in pursuit of “justice.” We’ve seen the issue of police brutality disappear in the metaphorical gun-smoke before, and that was when NFL players were kneeling during the U.S. national anthem. The issue then transformed into “when and where” they’re protesting instead of “what” they’re protesting. I believe it even transformed again as the NFL owners spun it into an issue on team unity. Say what you will, but I understand people’s hesitancy to join in something that is looting and rioting in cities, or looks like it’s protesting the flag and national anthem, at great angst to those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for this country or are in position to to so now. Thus the rage and outcry to be heard – descending into ruination as the rage increases, which further turns people’s eyes and hearts (and pocketbooks) away from the “real” issue – becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.
I placed “real” in quotation marks because ending police brutality, racialized or not, is not necessarily the center of this issue. Don’t misunderstand me, it’s a noble and overdue pursuit to scrutinize the ways that law enforcement has inadequately trained its officers to deal with a public that has every legal (and moral) right to a presumption of innocence by the state, or moreover to study how power has been abused to disenfranchise others, attempting to make lasting change through such endeavors. Yet we’ll all be sadly, even grossly, disappointed if we put our hope of real change on the hinges of the criminal justice system, the government, or the superficial spread of tolerance under the masquerade of love. Instead, I believe that this world is wracked with a very real spiritual disease – or virus, if you will – and that police brutality, ignorance, and prejudice are all symptoms of that underlying virus: sin. And unlike COVID-19, there’s no home test needed to prove that everyone has it. Reforming laws and institutions is a great start, but unfortunately that will never change the hearts of man, no matter how much I wish the converse to be true.
Nevertheless, Brandon Heath has a song called “Give Me Your Eyes” that is so compelling. The chorus goes like this:
Give me your eyes for just one second
Give me your eyes so I can see,
Everything that I keep missing,
Give your love for humanity.
Give me your arms for the broken-hearted
The ones that are far beyond my reach.
Give me Your heart for the ones forgotten.
Give me Your eyes so I can see.
He’s talking about asking God to let him see people as God sees them. I think it’s so relevant at this time in our lives, especially this week. As I reflect on the lyrics, I know that I, like all humanity, have a great capacity for evil, and to ignore those in intense need around me. It’s so easy, almost inevitable, to get swept away in fear, in anger, in grief, in ignorance, and admittedly I’ve had a hard time finding “joy in all trials” at this time in our lives. I want to hate that police officer and that arsonist protester, but is that seeing them how God sees them? In the same way, how can I look at them with God’s eyes if I choose comfort and refuse to look at all? God says in his Word multiple times that He cares for the oppressed; the orphans, the widows, the poor, to name a few.
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
defend the rights of the poor and needy.
This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.
He upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the foreigner
and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
The Bible says that our battle is “not against flesh and blood,” not against persons individually, but against the spiritual forces that oppose God, forces that (for instance) enjoy perverting seeking justice into seeking an outlet for intense emotion. Justice when misguided can morph into revenge, and without the set standard God gives, what constitutes as justice becomes murky and a clash of our desires with one another. Our battle as Christians is not with protesters, with police officers, with abortion doctors, with people of other faiths, with news anchors, with our president. The real battle is for souls, and Jesus Christ wants as many as he can get before the day of judgement. And oh will those that readily walked in darkness their entire lives have their ‘ways frustrated’ for eternity. Rest assured, those that have intentionally murdered the marginalized or set fire to the possessions of the innocent will have to stand before God at the end of their lives and give account for what they have done, and revenge will be the Lord’s (Romans 12:19).
The wicked will answer for their crimes when they die, and some face serious consequences here on Earth as well. Well now I can live at peace, right? Wrong. Remember, we all have that virus of sin, we all reject God, so we will also stand before an indescribably powerful creator God and give account. Were we good stewards of our time, our money, our talents? As Christians, our hope isn’t in the Rapture possibly coming before the Tribulation, or in whether or not the original manuscript records Job being restored his initial amount of possessions many times over. Our hope is in eternal life (life with God that will never end) brought to us through the perfect life and gruesome death of Jesus Christ for us. He died for our wickedness and hatred and ignorance and selfishness, for our lust and pride and disobedience and profanity, for our drunkenness, our rape, our anger, our murder. He died for everyone to have a chance to accept or deny God’s saving grace, and that includes the bigot, the prostitute, the murderer, the dictator, etc.
It’s an odd dichotomy, pursuing justice, yet also hoping God gives us mercy for our own sins. Thankfully, he does, and he does in overwhelming abundance, if you accept that gift of salvation he offers and turn from your old ways. I say this not to try to “fix” the emotional distress so many are feeling (my own is definitely far from depleted), but to offer a light at the end of the tunnel, the Only Light, the light I am commanded by Scripture to reveal to everyone I know. Know this: No matter what you’ve done, it is NEVER EVER too late to turn to God as long as you live.
Jesus is the cure to our broken world. Not only does he forgive us, but he offers to take our burdens as well. (Matthew 11:28-30) See the beautiful description of a world joined with Christ below:
26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
This verse doesn’t mean these attributes cease to exist here on Earth (though I vehemently wish and pray that racial, religious, and sexual slavery would cease to exist), but rather that they all pale in comparison to the joy of growing in the knowledge and utter mercy of the Lord and being created in His image, making us all equals. What an incredible image to strive for, even if we never see it on this side of Heaven.
In closing, those of us that “know where our hope comes from” (Psalm 121) have nothing to fear in this world. Even so, my broken heart and fervent prayers go out to people of color, to the anxious and fearful and unemployed, to cities in rampage, to police departments, to all our leaders, to our nation and this world as a whole. I’m contemplating setting aside a specific time each day to pray for these things and more, and I encourage you to consider doing the same. Although I strongly believe that prayer is the greatest tool at anyone’s disposal, I’ve also listed below a couple links that I used to literally put my money where my mouth is. No pressure, but the option is there.
Thank you so much for indulging me, and may God truly bless you!
The Bail Project: https://secure.givelively.org/donate/the-bail-project
Floyd family’s gofundme page: https://www.gofundme.com/f/georgefloyd