Monday, July 18, 2016

Personal Racism and Systemic Racism

I know that racism is a sin, that it's immoral and that it's wrong because I interpret the Bible, specifically Genesis 1-3, literally. I don't believe theistic evolution is compatible with Scripture. I don't believe Genesis is an allegory or that it's poetry. It's Moses describing the creation of the world and everything in it. And in this description he clearly states that it began with one man and one woman. And because Moses said that and because I interpret the Bible literally I have an extremely firm foundation on which to say: "No! There is no race but the human race. There is ethnicity and culture but there is, technically speaking, no distinction of race."

The secular humanist cannot argue from such an authoritative position. Even the intellectual Christian types who turn their nose to the idea of a young Earth will struggle mightily to oppose racism without leaving major holes in their logic. 

Yet racism still exists. There are still racists in America and racists in Canada and in Mexico and in Europe and Australia and Japan and in Kenya and in Madagascar. But here's the thing people are unwilling to admit: it's not just white people who are racists. 

Whaaat?? Tim! What did you just say??? How dare you, sir! How. Dare. You. 

If we accept what the Bible says about sin nature. If we accept the fact that we are dead in sins (Ephesians 2:1; Colossians 2:13) and that the heart is unceasingly wicked (Genesis 6:5; Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 1:21 & 2:5; Ephesians 4:18, etc) then it follows that no people group is exempt from being racist. It would seem that many evangelical leaders, both black and white, think that only white people can be racist. Interestingly enough that idea itself is actually pretty racist. ONLY white people can be racist? ONLY white people are capable of such a heinous sin? 

Intellectual discussion and debate in the 21st century is so mortified and so ignominious that the now acceptable de facto argument heaved at any dissenter is "you're a racist!" Whether the topic at hand is at all related to race is entirely irrelevant. I don't even need to cite any examples because if you've disagreed with anyone in the last 5 years about anything, then you've been called a racist. 

Racism is just the exaltation of self. You believe your race is the elite race just as you believe you are the elite person. Sin nature is self-centered. We pursue our interests first. We think of ourselves first. We think the best of ourselves. Racism makes sense to the man enslaved to his flesh. This means that black people can be racist. This means white people can be racist. This means all people, without distinction, can be racist. 

But the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ rejects that. One of the mysteries of the Gospel is that Jesus' blood paid for the sins of an indistinct group of people:

Revelation 5:9-10
And they *sang a new song, saying,Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.10 “You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.”
This is why Paul tells the Galatians, "there is neither Jew nor Greek..." And to the Ephesians he writes:

 Ephesians 2:14-1614 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15 by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, 16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.

Racism is incompatible with the Bible. I reject racism because I accept that the Bible is true. And the Bible is true whether or not anyone accepts it as such, thus racism is wrong regardless of how many people think it's right and the Bible is wrong. 

But is there systemic racism? Are the police involved in a systemic plot to oppress a certain group of people, namely African-Americans? 

Systemic: of or relating to an entire system

This is where I really, really, really lose my cool. To suggest that there's systemic racism in the criminal justice system is to suggest that EVERY police officer is involved. Unless words don't mean anything, then that is exactly what people are saying when they say there's systemic racism in the criminal justice system. It's a bit insolent to just flippantly toss that word around. If racism is tossed around too loosely, then it's increasingly wicked to add systemic to it. That's just compounding the error and heaping condemnation and judgment upon yourself. 

You can't just say there's systemic racism without facts any more than you can say "you're a racist." What laws exist today that distinguish between races? What laws give rights to one race but not to another? What laws are illegal for some but not for others? 

The only thing I can think of that treats people differently based on race is Affirmative Action. It grants preferential treatment to people based on their race. It also implies that only white people can get jobs and get into schools on their own merits. It implies that non-whites need help simply because they're not white. They can't do it on their own. People laugh when I say this but I oppose Affirmative Action because I strongly believe that it is racist. It's like patting another adult on the head. Maybe it's just my sinful pride but I'd be ticked if I got a job just because of my skin color or ethnicity. That's pretty condescending. 

What's true, whether right or wrong, is that people get treated differently based on their appearance; not their skin color. A black man smiling in a suit is going to get treated differently than a white man covered in tattoos with saggy pants and an indifferent countenance. Seriously, which guy are you going to avoid? 

The police chief in Dallas is black. He's been an incredible leader during their whole situation. He disproves the notion of systemic racism by virtue of his position. I think he's great because he speaks hard truths. I would be racist if I rejected what he said because of his skin color even though what he said was true. What's annoying is if you agree with what he says after you rejected what white officers said....because they were saying the same things! 

Any of us can be racist. I don't for a second think anyone is immune or incapable of being racist. I fully accept that there are still racist people and some of them may be cops. But do you accept that some of these racist people are involved with the Black Lives Matter movement? Do you accept that the poor relationship between the police and the black community is not at all entirely the fault of the police? Do you accept that emotional anecdotes aren't the proper basis on which to condemn an entire system of justice ordained by God? Do you accept that you look like an incorrigible idiot when you say the police are all racists as they defend and protect the protests targeted at them? Do you even know how stupid you sound? Do you care? 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Racism, Police and the Bible

You know all the news stories. You know of them all so well.
Police Shoot Unarmed Black Man

Every few months we get one of these stories that take over the news. I expect liberal non-Christians to take the side that stands in rebellion to God. What else would I expect from non-Christians? I even expect some Christians to call out the police. What I never expected was for so many reputable Christian leaders (Russell Moore, Albert Mohler and The Gospel Coalition) to be so quick to condemn those in law enforcement. 

We ALL have questions about what happened. Any reasonable person would. We don't look at a dead man and say,"ok, that's that." We all want to make certain justice is served. What reasonable and clear thinking Christians do is wait. We simply wait for the proper procedures. We wait for evidence, corroborating witnesses and we wait to make sure the officer involved followed protocol. After a reasonable amount of time we can start making some conclusions based on established facts.

Certainly, and I mean this to be condescending and harsh, a decent Christian wouldn't immediately conclude that a police officer committed a racially motivated murder. Think about that!

When you see that a police officer killed an unarmed black man and you, before the officer is even given a chance to tell his side, assume that he killed the man out of racial prejudice you are making an incredibly serious accusation. Keep in mind that many police officers are fellow believers. Do you really want to risk slandering a potential brother to score political points with the left? Really? 

Police shoot white people. A man just a mile or two from me was killed by police last year. He was white. This didn't make the news (the mainstream, big time news) because of his skin color. Blacks kill one another all the time and Russell Moore doesn't call that system out. 

There are 27 references to slander in the Bible (NASB). Some are about Christians being slandered by the world and some are about our need to cease slandering. In either case slander is a worldly virtue. Let's just look at this one verse:
2 Corinthians 12:20
20 For I am afraid that perhaps when I come I may find you to be not what I wish and may be found by you to be not what you wish; that perhaps there will be strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slandersgossip, arrogance, disturbances;

Imagine the heartbreak Paul would feel to see Christians accusing other Christians of murder before any type of legitimate trial had taken place. What a devastating idea to even contemplate. We're not talking about me accusing you of hurting my feelings because of a misunderstanding. We're talking about me accusing you of singling out  a black man, abusing your authority as a God ordained enforcer of the law and taking a man's life in cold blood. And it's not that I just harbor that idea in my heart. No, I go ahead and publish it for the world to see. 

You can disagree with the protocol police use. You can disagree with the crimes people are arrested for. You can disagree with a lot of things and I'll hear you out. But I cannot tolerate Christian leaders slandering men who put their lives on the line for you and I. 

Again, no one is saying these men deserved to die. No one thinks that stealing some money, selling illegal cigarettes or CD's are crimes deserving of capital punishment. What people are saying, and it's not to be cold, is that when you do illegal things and then don't cooperate with police you take the risk of losing your life. If I broke into your house to steal a movie and had no intention of harming you, I'm not really doing anything deserving of death, right? But when I do that I'm taking the risk of you owning a firearm and shooting me because you have no idea what I'm doing at your home. 

That's not at all contingent upon anyone's ethnicity. That's all about someone reaping what they sow. You can't be surprised if you end up in trouble if you're committing a crime. 

Also, this doesn't dismiss the possibility that police officers can be guilty of abusing their power. There are corrupt teachers, businessmen, pastors, construction workers and people of all walks of life. I don't for a second believe that police officers are any more or less prone to the effects of sin and thus I'm as skeptical of them as I am of anyone else I don't really know. So of course there are bad cops. There are bad waiters, too but I don't condemn the entire food service industry as being systemically opposed to people like me. 

This is what's so troubling and concerning about the men I listed earlier. They have to know better. They have to know that in a world as sinful and depraved as ours that there are going to be serious problems at every level. There are going to be ugly messes where 2 sinful people met and the solution is neither pretty nor clear. And they really should understand that the biggest problem facing the black community isn't systemic racism. I can think of several verifiable bigger problems: 

  1. Liberal politics 
  2. Fatherlessness
  3. Lack of Godly leaders
The last one is the most important one and also the exact same reason why white communities fall into sin and why Israel fell into sin and why churches fall into sin. All 3 are connected and feed off one another but number's 1 and 2 would be less common if number 3 didn't exist. 

The way Moore and others talk about police is shockingly similar to how racist people talk about minorities. They lump all police together. They are making no efforts to hear from the police. Just last year there was a shameful conference led by many reformed Christian leaders where they talked about white privilege and systemic racism in law enforcement. Pretty serious charges to bring against the police, right? Yet they didn't have one person from law enforcement on their panels. Isn't that weird and also really irresponsible? 

The Christian community should be a clear voice here and willing to call sin what it is. If the police officers are guilty, they're guilty. If they're not, they're not. Let's please, please, please, please wait to hear both sides before we accuse men of killing a man because of his race. Why do I need to tell men with doctorates this?