Responding to Our National Tragedy

“Hey Moore, you ever need me you can always find me at Reed’s Pool Hall.”

Those were the last words I heard from my friend, W.C. Collins (not his real name). We hugged and walked away from our high school graduation. I moved to L.A. and never saw him again.

WC starred in basketball. All state, varsity, as a freshman and all the way to the midpoint of our senior year when he made a wisecrack about dating a white girl. Coach Green (not his real name either) benched our star player for the rest of the season.

The coach cost the team it’s first place standing. Demoralized a bunch of players and our entire student body. But what he did to WC was worse. The day he was benched was the night the college scouts had descended on our campus to see WC in action. So, instead of a scholarship out of poverty he was left with a potential career hustling at pool.

An injustice was done and stood.

The whole school knew about this, certainly it never escaped the administration. Yet, no one did anything about it. Justice eventually prevailed more than 20 years later. One of WC’s teammates was elected to the PTSA. An African American, himself, he protested loudly when Coach Green pulled a similar act. The man was fired and justly so.

My problem is that everyone knew of the coach’s racism. He even joked about it and almost certainly told racist jokes in the teacher’s lounge like he did in the classroom. Yet, nothing was done.

When the man was eventually removed it fell on the shoulders of a black man to do something about it.

Questions You Should Ask

My question: “Why was a police officer once investigated by a grand jury over racist behavior allowed to remain on the job?” For that matter, why did the owner of the bar where he worked off hours as a bouncer keep him even though he now describes the man’s racist behavior to news media in the aftermath of the horrid destruction of life?

One of my friends had this to say on Facebook yesterday…

 Reading the unhelpful and frankly un-Christlike posts and blogs from so many of my “fellow evangelicals” – I’m convinced that the title is now sullied beyond repair.

     Christians, take the position of Christ and empathize, just for a moment, for those who have endured for too long while those who knew better remained silent. Evangelicals, if all that you can muster is some culturally biased self-justification, now is your time to remain silent.    

     Please, Christ-followers, intercede on behalf of the marginalized, the persecuted, the invisible. Speak less, much less, and listen more. Much more. Jesus’ Kingdom has never been on the side of the religiously comfortable.

He’s more than right. I despise the violence that has overtaken our nation. There is no justification for it. Whether I’m right or wrong, I believe peaceful protestation got hijacked by organized evildoers. It is wrong and not to be tolerated. I also have a hard time with some of the not so peaceful demonstrations and harsh words that came from Christ-followers over the “horrors” of churches being closed along with gyms and bars due to COVID-19.

To quote a few good people, “We’re better than that!”

Fatherless Unprincipled People

One friend on Facebook went on quite grandly about “these fatherless, unprincipled people wreaking havoc on our nation.” He never put himself through college working for LA County Social Services. I did. That job taught me that for decades a man caught living in a home with a woman who was receiving welfare would be arrested—so much for raising a culture of people without fathers in the home.

I agree that a couple of generations without fathers begets a culture without healthy values. But scripture tells us to, “Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked” (Ps 82:3-4 NIV).

Poverty, oppression, poor schools and health care… No need to go on, as the list gets tiresome. Nor is a boatload of guilting white people going to do much good. What would work, however, is if we get involved.

So What Can We Do?

For starters, we can make friends. Growing up I knew a rather “kindly” racist. The man was given to the N-word and making jokes in poor taste. Yet he never met a black person that he didn’t befriend. More than befriend, he’d give anything he had because “this person is different.” Not exactly what you want from a man, but certainly better than kneeling on the guy’s neck until dead.

Now let’s go back to my friend WC. Wouldn’t it have been better for those white administrators in my high school to have taken notice of Coach Green? He should have been removed long before he damaged my buddy. In fact, maybe those administrators should have paid a price (not violence, mind you) for their part in ruining lives. Burning a police station is wicked and untenable, but what would happen if the white folks in a community demanded that a station commander be removed, or at least relocated every time something like last week’s atrocity occurs?

Blue Lives Matter – Every Life Does!

Our police are there to protect and to serve. The vast majority do. And, at great personal risk. Blue lives matter as much as black. White ones, too. But justice isn’t done or established by excellent policing or protests, peaceful or violent. It gets established only when people take righteous actions. Those acts start with paying attention and then holding ourselves accountable to these words, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8 ESV).

The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people. Martin Luther King Jr.

 

 

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12 thoughts on “Responding to Our National Tragedy”

  1. Milwaukee residents (not all) like Minneapolis, have also demonstrated its deep lawless behavior with random looting and firebombing businesses. Nothing can stop hatred and anger yet God seems to do what no man can do on his own strength and will. He gives a repentant soul a new heart of love and forgiveness. Very few bold followers of Jesus in this city in my observation. Sad but true. 😔 2 June 2020 Tuesday.

  2. Thanks for sharing your observation. Another thing that must be done is to share the gospel. This would change a family, and thus a community a town and a state. We can no longer wait for the lost to come to “the church.” We ARE the church and need to go out into the communities with the gospel. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, … teaching them to observe all that I commanded you…” Matt. 28:19-20

    1. Well said! I get it but we can’t share the gospel without actually getting to know the people who need it most. I love my church, but mine like so many others is a middle-class phenomenon. When Jesus said to disciple the nations, people weren’t thinking of New Zealand or Rwanda. The Greek term “ethne” simply means belonging to a group. We need to connect with groups of people unlike us if we’re to disciple them.

  3. Ralph, I was 15-16 years old in the late 1960’s the last time these kind of protests took place. I was suddenly awakened to the sad reality of racism, even among Christians who claimed to follow Christ. I do not condone violence and I know you don’t either. As followers of Christ we must model his heart, head and actions. I believe so deeply in discipleship and multiplication, but they are just empty methods if we are not building disciples who love others as Jesus did. Your comments are so perceptive and balanced I can only affirm your wisdom, words and challenges.

    1. Wow, Greg, You need to write something along those lines as a guest blogger on this site. Consider this an invitation…
      I’ll contact you privately, though.

  4. An injustice was done and stood.

    Ralph, those words are prophetic in nature. This latest incident reveals how dangerous it is to kick the can of injustice down the road for the next generation to pick up. When that can is kicked even if appears to effect only marginalized communities, eventually everyone will feel the consequences. It’s inevitable.

    This is a shared experience that needs to be felt with our hearts first. Jesus is the answer but at least wait to hear from those who are suffering what the question is.

    1. Thank you Antoine,
      Praying for you and your brother pastors in our African American communities this weekend as you preach a gospel of good news in a culture that has not only rejected the good news but largely excluded valuable people created in the image of God.

  5. Sean Appleton

    Thank you Ralph! Good to have an OG speak truth to us in the faith community. We need encouragement to do the right things and think the right way, which at times is different from how we’ve learned from what we’ve watched modeled from others.

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