Friday, August 15, 2014

Meet Me in St. Louis

Since the national media is in furor over the tragic shooting of an 18-year-old black man in a St. Louis, Missouri, suburb, I might as well have my two cents worth. Maybe more than two cents worth.

In some ways, I echo what RESPONSIBLE leaders—black and white together—have said as fervently as they can: calm down, keep the heat down, lower the shouting and rhetoric, don't rush to judgment, and let's wait for the evidence to come in. One positive note that I've seen is that most people are now beginning to roll their eyes when Rev. Al Sharpton shows up to throw gasoline on the fire.

On the outside looking in —and keep in mind, I have to base this on media reports, which I am learning to hold in a lot more skepticism these days. It does appear that the Ferguson Police Department leadership could have handled this a lot better. However, I do have some sympathy for them when you're suddenly ground-zero in a national media spotlight after violence and looting breaks out. I'm sure the investigation will reveal lots of mistakes made and things that should have been done differently. On the other side, it does appear that the young man who was shot to death by police isn't quite a choir boy. Even if so, that is no reason to shoot an unarmed young man to death, and all the more so if his hands were raised in surrender. But the officer was also treated for injuries, which signifies some type of scuffle. This particular young man was 6'4" and weighed nearly 300 pounds, and video allegedly shows him roughing up a convenience store clerk much smaller than he.

The long and short of it is that we just don't know at this point. As Christians, we should pray for the truth to come out and for true justice to be done.

All that to preface my real concern.When things like this happen, right away the worst possible people show up on the scene. When the New Black Panthers show up, or when Al Sharpton shows up, and yes, Jesse Jackson, I think there's good reason to be suspicious of why they're there. I don't see that they're there to calm things down, bring reconciliation, and encourage true impartial justice. They fly into town and manipulate the emotions of a grieving city, again, throwing gasoline on the fire. It's loathsome to me. I wish there was a way to keep them out. As noted earlier, I think more are waking up to Sharpton. But he's Sunday school compared to the Panthers. Any group walking around outside of polling places with batons to intimidate voters is not a positive contribution to society.

Another concern. I have no doubt that Michael Brown's family are truly grieving and outraged, as are their loved ones. They want answers. They want justice, and I pray they will get true justice, and that said justice will be based on the truth—what REALLY happened. But we also had a lot of street thugs who used this tragedy as an excuse to go wilding. Looting and burning stores, smashing up glass, throwing molotov cocktails. Those lawless actions deserve a police crackdown and they belong in jail. As Romans 13 makes clear, the state bears the power of the sword to restrain evildoers. Force needs to be proportional to the incident, and yes, police can go too far. Police tactics nationwide need strong review, and to be brought back under constitutional restraints. But it's the job of police to maintain order, and they will do what they have to do to maintain order.

There are peaceful ways to resolve things like this. The Lord Jesus said "Blessed are the peacemakers." The black police captain who was on the scene last night (a native of Ferguson) was the hero last night and he handled things in exactly the right way. Many could learn from him. Maybe he should give some lessons to Sharpton and the other firebrands.

In the end, pray for the parents and loved ones of Michael Brown in their grief. Pray for the investigators to be able to determine the truth of what happened, and pray that people's hearts will be able to accept the truth—no matter what it turns out to be. Pray for peace, and discernment—the ability to see clearly what is really going on outside of the media and rabble rouser fog. Pray for the Lord to restrain those who would use this tragedy for cynical, evil purposes, or for their own aggrandizement. Pray for the churches in the region, that they would be lighthouses for the Gospel, which is the only true solution. You have to get the hate out of the human heart for there to be lasting peace, and the Gospel is one sure way to help make that happen.

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