THERE ARE TWO KINDS OF PEOPLE reacting to news about police officers killing unarmed black men and boys:
- Friends of the living.
- Friends of the dead.
I got some pushback from the article I wrote on Friday, Christians doing nothing for nobody. It was a short feature that reflects a feeling many Americans have been expressing in recent days: confusion over why predominately white grand juries are refusing to indict white police officers who kill unarmed black men.
One reader named Ranger offered this suggestion:
Your Bible, my Bible, OUR Bible says in several places to respect authority and it says this with no qualifiers. In the majority of your cited examples if this was only followed what a different outcome.
My first thought about blindly obeying the authorities: Holocaust.
“Do as you’re told and die like a good Jew.”
Let me turn Ranger’s suggestion into the Bible Question of the Week:
The Bible says, “You must obey the authorities. Then you will not be punished. You must also obey them because you know it is right” (Romans 13:5). Do we really need to do whatever the police and other authorities tell us to do, even when we think it is wrong?
Coming quickly to mind are two reasons many Christians would answer no. Three if you count the Holocaust.
- It was a letter to someone else.
The rule that Ranger seems to suggest should apply to everyone in all situations was written by one man to one congregation.
Paul probably had no idea his letter was going to end up in the Holy Bible, as an add-on to his sacred Jewish Bible. Had someone told him that, Paul may have said, “Holy Moly.” Then he might have edited his letter. Who knows?
Paul’s advice to Christians in Rome made sense at the time. He was trying to get Christianity up and running as a legitimate religion. He didn’t need to make an enemy of the Roman Empire and their leaders, who had the authority to outlaw religions – and eventually did outlaw Christianity.
But to argue that Paul’s advice to a church in Rome 2,000 years ago should apply to us today – well, that’s a stretch, many Christians would say.
- In the United States, citizens are the authority.
At least in theory this is a democracy, though some would argue that until we get some election reform it’s closer to a plutocracy – a nation run by the rich Sugar Daddies for the rich Sugar Daddies.
Aside from the bribing influence that wealthy people exert over our elected officials, we are still the ones who cast the deciding votes. With occasional but notable exceptions in Florida.
If the people we place in authority seem to be stinking up the joint, the Constitution that guides us as we govern ourselves grants us the authority to clear the stink.
Certainly we are Christians. As Christians, we should conduct ourselves in a way that reflects the character of Jesus. But we are American citizens, too. As Americans, we are allowed to speak our mind.
Ranger suggests that if the black man and the black boys in the recent news stories had done what the white policeman told them to do things would have turned out better.
Maybe so. But I don’t see how, after watching two of the videos.
The 12-year-old black boy playing with a toy gun in the park got himself gut shot the moment the police officers swung open the doors on their squad car. The doors go open, the boy goes down.
The man who died in the chokehold was complaining about being harassed by the police when suddenly the police lunged on him and choked him to death while he pled to the officer choking him to loosen his grip: “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.…” I counted the man saying that a dozen times before background noises drowned him out while he died.
Should we submit to our authorities in every situation?
Let’s send a news reporter over to northern Iraq to ask that question of Christians getting beheaded by ISIS.
We’d have to ask quickly, while they still have a head.
That said, every cop I know personally seems like a wonderful human being. They have helped me and they’ve helped my kids.
I’ve not had a bad experience with any of them, with the single exception of that jerk who stopped me for speeding when I was in high school.
“Dude, all I did was ask where the school zone started. And it doesn’t make you less of a tyrant to call me Mr. Miller.”
Happy as I am in my personal experiences with cops today, I just don’t know if I’d feel the same way if I were black. Some of my black friends certainly don’t.