In the recent weeks, I along with millions of other citizens have been frustrated, angry, and burdened by the recent deaths of young black men by the hands of a few police officers. I have understood the protests, and sympathized with the families, the marches, and my brothers and sisters in the black and Latin communities nationwide. I have wrestled with how to respond to cases of injustice, and even how Christians should dialogue about such issues especially when race is a dominant factor in the dialogue. It is fair to say that people of color even among their christian brethren see things much differently than their majority counterparts. This shouldn’t be too strange because the communities really for the most part live different lives and have completely different experiences in America. They more often than nought go to different schools, different churches, and live in different communities. I am by no means saying that all blacks live in urban communities, or go to black churches, but a large percentage of blacks and whites don’t mix on a regular basis. This is probably the greatest reason why there is such a polarization in issues, but especially when it comes to race related matters.
Coincidentally, this same polarization can be seen in how the church responds, because churches often are more segregated than their local communities. However, that is not what this post is about. What this post really is about is how can the church, but more specifically the black church simultaneously protest for change, and yet not isolate and marginalize the regular police officer who is putting his life at risk to serve their community?
Ironically, the same problem that is affecting blacks is now inflicting police, and that the whole group is being categorized and lambasted by the mistakes of a few. Most blacks are not criminals, yet many are perceived as criminals just because of how they may dress, or look. Not all police are crooks, or racist, or have power trips, In fact most police are good men who are seeking to provide for their families and who put their lives at risk working with the most vile and despicable characters in the community.
The problem that police have is that many of the people of color that they interact with daily are actually criminals. Police are not hanging out with black lawyers, doctors, businessman, or educators, they are targeting drug offenders, domestic violence offenders and gang members. I don’t care how much training you have but if you already have a certain disposition or prejudice, and then your experience confirms that prejudice, it will be hard to change your perception. On the flip side, blacks who are not criminals often find themselves being looked at as a criminal because that is the image that has been blazen in the minds of certain cops, so many times their perception of the abusive and racist cop is also confirmed. These things work hand in hand and often feed into each other.
So what you have is a citizenry angry and riled up at police and a system that is continually overstepping their authority by harassing, violating their civil rights and even killing those who did nothing to deserve such treatment. These police once again are shooting tear gas at you for no reason, arresting you for walking, strong arming you, they are dressed like they are going to war, when all you are doing is protesting someone who died from one of their hands. From a police perspective you have an agitated, hostile community who appears to hate you, and not appreciate that you are putting your life at risk to rid their communities of the vile elements who are poisoning their own neighborhoods. Here they are screaming at you, throwing bottles, calling you pig, and then overturning one of your cars and burning down buildings. Talk about confirmation bias.
Meanwhile the devil is feeding off of all this, using negative images from both sides to fuel anger, hatred, and disgust. Which ever side of the spectrum you sit on, disparaging thoughts probably flooded your mind, mouth or heart. Without realizing that we are getting played by the master of deception, who is using the media as his puppet to confirm our already deep seated biases and prejudices.
He’s been using these same tricks for years, pitting people against one another. He does it with gangs, he’s doing it in Palestine, in Syria, Lebanon, Nigeria, India, Pakistan,Iraq, in our inner cities, schools and even in our homes.
I do not want to oversimplify the issue, because as I said there are practical steps in achieving change, but we have to realize that we are all getting played by the devil. That he will take advantage of our own deep seated resentments and use events to magnify and stir up hatred and divisiveness. Even if you don’t believe in a devil, history shows that when passions are riled lots of violence and fighting occurs. Its so easy to demonize the other, when in fact often times the person on the other side is a regular person who just sees things differently. The problem occurs when we never actually hear each other, or speak to each other except when we are mad.
So bringing it back to Eric Garner, Michael Brown, the black community and police. I believe the church leaders in every community especially urban communities should continue to and in some cases begin to coordinate prayer vigils with and for the police and their local community.I think it would be a wonderful thing if black pastors and some congregations would hold prayer services for their local police force and that God would call more godly men to serve. We can never have enough godly police officers, and captains. We need to pray for our police forces, and we need to pray for our inner city communities. I can’t end this discussion without mentioning our Lord. Jesus had to deal with some serious policing issues in his day. Often times common Jews were roughhoused, forced to carry cargo for royals, beaten, and sometimes even robbed and asked for bribes.
This is what Jesus has to say concerning the police brutatlity in his day
38“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic,h let him have your cloak as well. 41And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
Love Your Enemies
43“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47And if you greet only your brothers,i what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Jesus commands us to go the extra mile. To obey when it hurts. To love the man in the uniform and the one without one. This is not saying that we shouldn’t protest. What it is saying is that we have to be lawful. What really irks me, is that i know that their are prayer vigils, there is contact between local pastors and local law enforcement but these images are not being shown or written about enough. We are being fed only the images of protesters clashing with police which is not bad in itself, its simply not the whole story,but believe me the media likes to instigate and play on peoples fears and emotions. It makes good television.
I want to close with a word to examine our own emotions, thoughts, and words. Its okay to get frustrated, to protest and to get angry, but we are commanded to exercise self control to forgive, to love and to pray. I have a problem if you are protesting and not praying. I have a problem with those judging the protesters and not praying. I have a problem with those who don’t give others the right to express themselves in a non violent form. I have a problem with people who stereotype all police as corrupt and pigs, and protesters as people with entitlement issues, Palestinians as terrorists, and every leader that speaks up for justice as a charlatan. Sometimes we need to turn off the tv, or Instagram and Facebook. Pray for our police. Pray for our youth. Lets communicate to those police who are doing well that we appreciate their service and hard work. Let us continue to press for change and improvement as well.