Special Blog: “Systemic White Privilege,” Police Brutality, and A Theological Framework
I wanted to think about this for a couple of days before I personally decided to comment on the recent shootings of two Black Americans by police officers: Philando Castle from the state of Minnesota, and Alton Stearling from Baton Rouge Louisiana,both whom had their lives taken by police officers. In addition, there was a mass shooting in the city of Dallas, Texas. Five police officers lives were taken by a sniper, as well as seven wounded in this tragedy. After these horrific events, there is much finger pointing, and self-reflection found on social media, and other outlets. Everything from the accusation of police brutality, and systemic White privilege, and from making sure, all Americans, and specifically Black Americans, comply with their local law enforcement.
There is another angle, as a theologian, I want to examine concerning these recent events. I would hope that as the universal church we would not forget two significant points that are highlighted in all three of these events that transpired.
To those who hold to a Biblical worldview (i.e., Christians): If there is systemic white privilege, police brutality, and mass shootings, no matter where they are, these are the symptoms, not the cause. The cause of all of this trauma, found in these three events is sin.
Those who hold to a Biblical worldview understand that all the strife and hostility in the world is due to the curse of sin, and sinful man. All people are equal because we are all created by the same God (c.f. Gen. 1:26-27). In addition we also understand that men and women, due to the sin of Adam and Eve, mankind’s First Parents, were created with a sin nature. David highlights this in the Psalms:
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me (Ps. 51:5 NASB).
This is where our true problem is found. It is because of the sin nature we are hostile to God, and consequently makes us hostile to our neighbor as well. Jesus gives us some insight about the nature of God, and man, in the teaching on the Sermon on the Mount when He says,
7 “Ask , and it will be given to you; seek ,and you will find; knock , and it will be opened to you. 8 “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9 “Or what man is there among you who , when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? 10 “Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? 11 “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him! (Matt. 7:7-11 NASB, emphasis mine).
Jesus, telling the crowd that God is the giver of good gifts gives a comparison that they (i.e., the crowd He is addressing) being evil know how to give good gifts to their children. God’s good gift giving is far greater because He is without evil. The evil that resides in the heart of man is due to the sin in man. Jesus even gives even more clarity when he tells the apostles about what comes out of the heart:
And [Jesus] was saying, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. 21 “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications , thefts, murders, adulteries, 22 deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy , slander, pride and foolishness. 23 “All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.” (Mark 7:20-23 NASB).
Because we live on a cursed earth we see the symptoms of sin, which reside within us as human beings, and are expressed in these violent acts within our country, and world: In fact sin in the world is the reason why we have police officers in the first place. Police officers are part of the governing authorities who have been given this responsibility to bear the sword, punishing evil and rewarding good (Rom. 13:1-5), and there are many police officers that perform this God-given duty fortuneately. However, we must understand, because of sin, there are some who will use this God-given power, not as servants, but as tyrants to achieve their own ends. Moreover, we are all created in the image of God. However there are individuals, Black or White that can be, and are, racist because we know that sin resides in the very heart of man.
The second sobering point is understanding there were quite possibly those who died in these tragedies, who may have found themselves under the very wrath and judgement of God. They may now be in outer darkness. Believers must think about this, and not get caught up in the “now” of the moment. We must be ever more motivated to proclaim God’s mercy, found in the good news of Christ in this world. Those who were murdered in the horrific shooting in Dallas, and the tragic killings in Minnesota and Louisiana, if they knew Christ Jesus, they are in Paradise, being comforted by their Savior. If they did not know Jesus as Lord, their temporal death here is far less tragic then where they are right now. The gospel of Christ Jesus is the only thing that can bring true, lasting peace, in this life, and the life to come. It is not just about changing the political system, or simply just changing attitudes about Black or White Americans. True lasting peace comes when one is convicted of all of their sin and seeks to know a Savior who has died for those sins, becoming a new creation, and having their minds continually transformed by the word of God.
For those of us who are Christians, we must be those who stand for truth and justice. Not only because it is the right thing to do, but because our God’s nature is truth and justice, and He has created us to have these attributes. We as believers must speak out against injustice in our world wherever it is found, and we must love and serve one another by the grace God is given to us. Yet, let us not forget these terrible and tragic things we see are only the symptoms of a greater problem that cannot be fixed with more stringent legislation, marches, protests, multiple Facebook posts, or tweets. This problem is systemic: Systemic sin that resides in the heart of every human being. This can only be staved with the preaching and proclamation of the forgiveness of sins in Jesus name.
As we follow this tragedy, and pray for the families of those who lost their lives, let us also continue to see this as an opportunity to ponder these points: That we who remain think about our temporal life here on this earth. To see this world as a cursed world and that life is not meant to endure here. Let us, as Christians be ever more vigilant in our conversations, Facebook posts, and the like, to talk about the sinfulness of man and death of Christ for sinners. In hopes that some may see God’s mercy found in the gospel, repent, and believe, within this cursed world.
Until next time…
Soli Deo Gloria!