Points of Interest (2020-06-17)

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George Floyd and Me / Privilege Matters, Part 1 / Stop Preparing For The Last Disaster / Defund the Thought Police / Invisible insulation

Shai Linne – George Floyd and Me (The Gospel Coalition)

“So when I watch a video like George Floyd’s, it represents for me the fresh reopening of a deep wound and the reliving of layers of trauma that get exponentially compounded each time a well-meaning white friend says, ‘All lives matter.’ Of course they do, but in this country, black lives have been treated like they don’t matter for centuries and present inequities in criminal justice, income, housing, health care, education, etc. show that all lives don’t actually matter like they should.”

“For me, ‘life as usual’ means recognizing some people perceive me as a threat based solely on the color of my skin. For me, ‘life as usual’ means preparing my sons for the coming time when they’re no longer perceived as cute little boys, but teenage ‘thugs.’ Long after George Floyd disappears from the headlines, I will still be a black man in America.”

Rut Etheridge III – Privilege Matters, Part 1 (Gentle Reformation)

“’Black lives matter!’ is, in itself, not only an innocuous claim but a statement of absolute, ontological, moral truth. It is a claim implicitly made on page one – page one! – of God’s holy word (Genesis 1:26-27). The foundation upon which this value claim properly rests and rises, that every human being bears God’s image, is stressed throughout Scripture (Genesis 9, Exodus 20, James 2 and 3). So what does it tell us when, as Bible believers, our first or strongest response to the statement is defensiveness, reacting as if we or other kinds of people have been insulted or excluded?”

Stop Preparing For The Last Disaster (Farnam Street)

“After a particularly trying event, most people prepare for a repeat of whatever challenge they just faced. From the micro level to the macro level, we succumb to the availability bias and get ready to fight a war we’ve already fought. We learn that one lesson, but we don’t generalize that knowledge or expand it to other areas. Nor do we necessarily let the fact that a disaster happened teach us that disasters do, as a rule, tend to happen. Because we focus on the particulars, we don’t extrapolate what we learn to identifying what we can better do to prepare for adversity in general.”

“In the aftermath of a disaster, we want to be reassured of future safety. We lived through it, and we don’t want to do so again. By focusing on the particulars of a single event, however, we miss identifying the changes that will improve our chances of better outcomes next time. Yes, we don’t want any more planes to fly into buildings. But preparing for the last disaster leaves us just as underprepared for the next one.”

Doug Wilson – Defund the Thought Police (Blog & Mablog)

“And so it is not whether we will have police, but rather which police we will have. Not whether certain actions and words will be policed, but rather which actions and words will be policed. The choice is between a police that is generally accountable to elected leaders, who in turn are accountable to voters, or a police force who are accountable to no one except themselves and their own disordered ideology.”

Seth Godin – Invisible insulation

“It’s almost impossible to make a list of all the things I didn’t have to worry about yesterday. We need to work overtime to make that true for more people.”

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Points of Interest (2020-06-10)

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Unmasking Racism, Starting with Me / Is physical distancing over? It sure seems to be / The Treason of Epidemiologists

Gene Joo – Unmasking Racism, Starting with Me (The Gospel Coalition)

“We’ve learned in the past few months that COVID-19 is such a formidable threat precisely because it so efficiently spread through asymptomatic hosts. Similarly, racism, under the cover of plausible deniability, makes it that much more difficult to definitively identify and eradicate. What does it take for any person to admit that he’s a racist, when he compares himself to the obvious culprits from the antebellum South or Jim Crow America? How many people today will honestly see themselves as perpetrators of racial injustice?”

Rex Murphy – Is physical distancing over? It sure seems to be (National Post)

“The paradox here is not without poignancy. Civil authorities have kept people from their closest loved ones in times of the greatest emotional stress. You cannot visit. There are limits placed on funeral visitations. Daughter has not been able to visit mother, and forced to lip-speak through a window — and even that pathetic gesture has been frowned upon (Ottawa briefly banned it altogether). All in the name, I note again, of a greater good. We must not spread the virus, and if that means real pain for individual people, we’re sorry for it, but it must be the case. But protest marches fall outside these rigours?”

“This is certainly no condemnation of protests, but the logic behind the authorities who blithely and silently simply dumped or ignored their own rules. If they have a reason for doing so, let us hear it. Explain the different treatment. Justify the departure from the rules…. Is the pandemic over? Or, does its rage stop when people gather for a noble cause?”

Jonah Goldberg – The Treason of Epidemiologists (The Dispatch)

“We spent the last couple of months being hectored by public health experts and earnestly righteous media personalities who insisted that easing lockdown policies was immoral, that refusing to social distance or wear masks was nigh upon murderous. They even suggested that protests were somehow profane. But now that the George Floyd protests are serving as some kind of Great Awokening, many of the same are saying “never mind” about all of that. Protests aren’t profane, they’re glorious and essential—if they agree with what you’re protesting about.”

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George Floyd, Lament and Racism in Our Churches

When a person is murdered by someone in authority who has sworn to protect them, we should be filled with grief and anger and we should take time to lament. If your first response to recent events is not to lament but to figure out “which side” you’re on, your priorities have been shaped not by the wisdom of God’s word but by the rantings of – take your pick – CNN or Fox News reporters.

One who promised to serve and protect instead did fatal harm. This is injustice, it deserves our attention, and it demands that we become more attentive generally to violence and abuse of authority in our society, and specifically that we seek to understand and eradicate violence that is racially motivated.

Lawlessness of All Kinds

This act of cowardly and cruel lawlessness has ignited riots and looting that must also be described as lawlessness. Some looters may admit to simply taking advantage, but most seem to have deeper and more complicated motives. We respond to the unlawful violence of a police officer abusing his authority with outright condemnation. How should we respond to the violent acts committed in response? Clearly, unlawful violence can never be condoned or justified, but we should make a fervent attempt to understand why it is happening. 

From years of talking to people as a pastor, I can tell you that people behave in unconscionable ways every day. But in order to love such people well it is important to both call out sin and at the same time seek to understand what cultivated and ignited such behaviour. The rioters and looters are sinning in stealing and destroying property and, in some cases, brutalizing bystanders and store owners. We can call all of that sin and at the same time look behind the sin and try to address whatever that pursuit of knowledge reveals. The first thing we see when we look closely at what is happening is a lot of anger.

Righteous and Unrighteous Anger Leads to Lawful and Unlawful Violence

Both peaceful demonstrators and violent rioters are consumed with a hot anger that has accumulated over time as images of one killing after another come to our attention. Within that hot anger is a mixture of righteous and unrighteousness anger. How can you tell the difference? Righteous anger rarely leads to violence, but when it does it can be lawful violence. When righteous anger leads to lawful violence, it is always a restrained violence – so restrained, in fact, that it barely passes as violence. In John 2:15 we read this about Jesus: “And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables.” Jesus took physical, some would say even violent action in the name of restoring the honour of God’s house. 

Could this type of action have saved George Floyd’s life? What if a bystander, filled with righteous anger, had attempted to intervene in the name of preserving the dignity of a human being created in the image of God? Could that subsequently have led to the death of the one trying to intervene? Yes, but “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) Would I be willing to lay my life down in such a situation so that George Floyd’s life could be spared? I’d like to believe that I would but, honestly and sadly, I would probably reason my way out of that opportunity.

Righteous anger can lead to a lawful and justified, but restrained and purposeful violence. Unrighteous anger, on the other hand, often results in unlawful violence, violence that has nothing to do with restoring the honour of God’s name or protecting the dignity of those made in his image. Derek Chauvin used unlawful violence; now rioters and looters are doing the same. In both cases we must condemn the violence while seeking to love well the violent offenders.

A Distorted View of Lawful Violence 

It’s worth noting that the violence that’s happening in American streets right now all fits perfectly within the ethos we’ve trained ourselves to believe by watching innumerable Hollywood movies. Many have come to believe that all that’s needed to justify violence is violence done to you or one of your loved ones by someone deemed inherently and irredeemable evil (I’m looking at you, John Wick… also, almost every movie Liam Neeson has done in the last decade). This is not a biblical view but it is commonly accepted as true, and this is what is playing out in the streets. 

We passively absorb this philosophy and while it may not automatically make us into violent people, it seeps into our our foundational beliefs and distorts our understanding of justice, blurring the distinction between lawful and unlawful violence. We cannot condone or approve of any unlawful violence – not the unlawful violence a police officer placing his knee on the back of a man’s neck, nor the unlawful violence of angry rioters destroying, burning, and looting in response. 

We can, however, join with and support peaceful demonstrators in concrete ways. Let me emphasize – IN CONCRETE WAYS. The last thing we need is the faint commitment of virtue signalling, which is merely a promise written with disappearing ink. Such easily issued words are just as easily forgotten.

Let’s Talk About This

As a church leader, what concrete actions can I take? Speaking out is only a first step. We need to have this conversation in the church, but how? It is said that Sunday mornings are the most segregated times of the week. That observation, which doubles as a condemnation, is a valid one where there is racial diversity in the community but racial uniformity in the churches. Specific to my context – and maybe yours too – living in a town with almost no racial diversity, how do we show by word and action that we believe racism is unbiblical and therefore evil?

Please chime in either in the comments below, by email, in the Facebook comments or any other avenue you might want to use.

This Will All End

This all has me longing for the fulfillment of the promises of Revelation 21:3-5:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

We will someday stand together with people of all races and nations in the presence of God and there will be no anger, no violence, no rioting or protesting. There will be no need for the mediation of law enforcement. Strife will have ended and unity will be the law of the land. Until then, we must continue to seek God’s kingdom in this life as we bring as much of it into this world as we can – by word and by action.

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