UPDATED 7/8/16 8:00 AM
(This post was originally posted just moments before the news broke in Dallas last night. I have edited the first paragraph to include this shooting as well)
This week I saw the news report about an African American man who was shot and killed by a Minnesota Police Officer. This followed a similar shooting in Louisiana the night before. Now we have a retaliation on Police in Dallas where several police officer have been shot and killed by those acting out of vengeance.
First, the apology. In the instant that I heard the news from Minnesota and the seconds that followed I made a judgment that “another law-breaker was probably running from the police and was shot only after attempting to pull a gun on the officer.” My original feelings were cavalier. My thoughts were undoubtedly driven by my love for law enforcement. I believe we should have laws and that people should obey them. I believe law-breakers should be punished. I believe that law enforcement officers have a very difficult job and are both underpaid and under appreciated. But I watched the video. Although it doesn’t show what happened leading up to the shooting it appears evident that this man was shot and killed in front of his 4 year old daughter and his fiancé without merit. I am so sorry about that.
I am sorry that I made a snap judgment when I didn’t know the facts. That is wrong. I am sorry that I am thankful to be white every time I get pulled over by the police. That is wrong. I am sorry that this man died in front of his family in such a brutal way. Any way you cut it, That is wrong. I am sorry that no one offered him medical help while he passed away right in front of an officer. That is just plain wrong! I am sorry that so many white conservatives, like me, have such a coarse view of this. As a pastor, I am sorry that I didn’t instantly weep for his eternal soul.
Secondly, the acknowledgement. Something is broken. If you are a black man your chances of having a negative experience with the police are much higher! Let’s face it, if the man in the car would have been wearing a white dress shirt and tie do you really think he would have been shot so quick? The answer is NO. We have a problem and we must acknowledge it. Why? I don’t know but that is a problem. Actually there are lots of problems. We have a problem in the minority community with broken families and absent fathers. Most shootings in the African American community are not from Police Officers they are from other minority males. Does this contribute to the original reason for this post? I don’t know but we can never fix a problem until we admit we have one. And we have problems on both sides.
Finally, Answers. I wish I had an easy one. But it is impossible to even attempt an answer without falling into one of the two extremes in these discussions. Either we are pro-police or pro-thug. If you question the actions of the law enforcement officers you are viewed as pro-crime. If you challenge the moral deficiency in the inner-city, African American community you are a racist and don’t understand the plight of the oppressed. Is it possible to embrace traditional values, love the rule of law and defend a black man who was shot during a traffic stop? It should be, but it is difficult.
We have proven the answers are not within us. When we lean on ourselves we divide, fight and drive both sides further into our own biased holes. Each night we gather our best pundits and have them scream it out on TV News shows. This is no answer, actually it is part of the problem. There is no political answer. Noble ambition that we will all wake up and come to our senses is futile. A problem this big needs supernatural help.
We need Jesus! We need to fall on our face and repent of our arrogance, we need to cry out for mercy for our lack of concern for the dying. We need to beg God for forgiveness for our lack of respect for authority, our bitterness and rebellion. We need to earnestly seek divine intervention for our broken families and culture. This would open us to His grace that when extended melts heart, changes minds, restores lives and makes friends out of enemies. Without this kind of transformation we can only expect another protest, more name-calling, even greater polarization around faulty premises and most of all more senseless deaths. God help us… God help me!