First, let me say I DO NOT condone the rioting and violence that is occurring across our nation, following the murder of George Floyd at the knee of white police officer Derek Chauvin. As someone who values that Jesus taught us to “turn the other cheek” I believe there are other ways we must respond, even in the face of gross injustice. But I also understand that not everyone embraces Jesus’ teachings or His example in this regard, and even if we do, we can all become overwhelmed at gross injustice and feel like our only responses to such are protests and/or violence.
Last night I broke a long standing rule I placed in effect several years ago, and I watched the news for a couple hours, viewing the rioting and protests Live as they were happening. In the two cities I watched, Washington DC and NYC, the vast majority of the protesters/agitators were WHITE, not black.
As I watched the rioting, one announcer made the point that our nation’s founding flowed out of the violent responses of its citizens to unjust laws by its government. Most white Americans celebrate and applaud our nation’s founding fathers who rejected authority, and fought back, violently, to protest and overthrow an unjust government. The Boston Tea Party was one such rebellion. I should note that the organization I founded eleven years ago in Chattanooga, took its name from that act of rebellion and violence.
When I led the Chattanooga Tea Party for nearly a decade (which I no longer do, and I no longer consider the Tea Party movement to represent me), I and other leaders often took solace in these words that were integral to our nation’s founding:
“…whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends (Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness), it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it… But when a long train of abuses and usurpations…reduces them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government…”
While our organization, and none of the other liberty movements I was associated with, ever took up arms, or resorted to violence, I can assure you that there were many in the movement who were more than prepared to resort to violence had the government stepped across an imaginary line. If you doubt this, then explain why it was that gun purchases were skyrocketing during those years? The consistent interpretation that conservatives held was that the 2nd Amendment was not for hunting or sporting but was to protect oneself from a wayward and unjust government. Let’s also not ignore the fact that even now in 2020, white men armed with assault rifles and other threatening armament have recently been marching into state capitols around our nation.
But back to violence in our protests. Let me reiterate that I do not condone or agree with the violence we are seeing erupt across our nation. As a Christian, I believe we are called to love, peace, and humility, and when others persecute us, our response should be identical to that of Jesus, and the twelve apostles. None of us will ever be as violently persecuted as the Founding Fathers of Christianity (where all but one were martyred for their faith; that is the most extreme form of prejudice one can imagine). And yet, not one of them responded violently. This is the model every follower of Jesus should strive to emulate in our lives. It’s a high bar, which I struggle with personally, in the face of injustices.
As we watch and condemn what is going on, what would we have said if we were viewing the protests at the Boston Tea Party? While there are significant differences between the two, there are also many similarities, including injustices by those in authority and with power. So ask yourself, “What would I have done or said, if I was alive on December 16, 1773, viewing the violence of the Boston Tea Party? Would I have condemned it or embraced it? Would I have participated in it?” Today, most Americans praise this act of violence and rebellion, that destroyed a million dollars worth of property.
My intent for sharing these thoughts is not to provoke anger or incite emotions. Rather, it is to challenge us to stop and think; to put ourselves in the shoes of others.
When we judge a person simply by their external actions, we either condemn them or we embrace them, based on the cause they are fighting for. If their protests and even violence affirm our worldview, then we gladly applaud them. However, if their protests and violence are at odds with anything we’ve ever experienced, then it’s likely we will condemn them and find cause to belittle and hold them in contempt.
If we are white Americans, it’s likely we’ve never felt that our life was hanging in the balance when we were pulled over in our cars by a police officer. But many of my African American brothers and sisters have always carried such fear with them. But not only is that fear for themselves, but for their children and grandchildren also. Thankfully, I’ve never known that fear personally, or for my children. But it grieves me to realize that millions of our citizens do, primarily because of their skin color.
Think about that. Then consider that there have been a “long train of abuses” in the eyes and experiences of our black brothers and sisters. Their life is not ours. So until we can figuratively place ourselves in their shoes, we cannot fully comprehend the struggle, the outrage, and the deep rooted hurts they feel each time another man with black skin dies, whether at the hands of someone in uniform, or by a white man in the back of a pickup truck, or a false accusation is called in to 9-1-1.
So what are the solutions to this existential threat to not only the future of our nation, but more importantly to the relationships we should seek to grow with those who are different than us?
I believe first and foremost the solution is Spiritual. The center of this struggle is not in the streets of Minneapolis or other cities, but rather in the center of our beings: Our Heart. God says in Jeremiah 17:9 that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know it?”
Even now, it’s possible that your response to my meager thoughts is one of outrage or rejection or condemnation. If so, I believe its possible your heart is deceiving you. Within each of us lies the potential to deceive ourselves into believing the problem is “the other guy; it’s not me.” If that’s my response, I am deceived.
Jesus said in John 8:7 “let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” He also said in Matthew 7:5 “First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”
The point is, introspection is needed, first and foremost. What part have I played, overtly or covertly, in contributing to injustices in our community or nation? If you say none, then I applaud you and I would suggest you write a book so we can all learn from you. And there is no need to read further. But if you feel any need to continue to examine yourself, here’s what I would suggest is next.
Because the heart, the inner core of our being, is deceitful and wicked, we must regularly cleanse it. This cannot be done overnight but requires a continuous effort to transform what is natural (those responses that are wrong) to the unnatural (those responses that are Christ-like). The only way to do this is through a consistent time in God’s Word. We read this in Romans 12:2:
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
As we begin to transfuse our minds with the healing power of God’s Word, our values, thoughts and behavior will be transformed. Recently I read a short Bible Plan in the Bible app entitled “How to Love People You Disagree With” and it included these thoughts:
… we exhibited patience?
… chose not to be offended?
… we quit taking everything so personally?
… we changed the degrading way we talk to others?
… we focused on what we did have in common?
… we chose the big picture?
And I’ll add, what if we “loved our neighbor as ourselves?” which Jesus reminded us is the second greatest commandment. These are a few of the fundamental behavior changes we must pursue.
Nearly a year ago, God led my path to cross with someone I had known for years, but never developed a close relationship with. Ternae Jordan is an African American pastor in Chattanooga whom God intentionally brought me to, so that God could begin to incorporate the above principles in my life. As we’ve spent dozens and dozens of hours together since last summer, my heart has softened as I’ve been able to, in a small way, “walk in his shoes.” Beginning to realize and better understand the dreams, hopes, fears, and frustrations that my brother and his family and friends experience, has softened my heart, and changed my thoughts. I’m eternally grateful for Ternae, and as I think of what God has begun in our lives, I’m reminded of this verse:
“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6
In closing, while the solutions are not that complicated, they are also not that easy. Cleansing our heart (seeking forgiveness and transforming what we think and believe), changing how we habitually behave and respond, and walking in someone else’s shoes, none of these are natural. But the history of our nation reveals that what is natural is not working. So perhaps if followers of Jesus across this land began to pursue supernatural answers to the age old scourge of racism and prejudice, we might begin to see a mighty work of God in our midst. And as we do, I’m hopeful that God will bring about healing and unity, to what has been hurt and division for more than 200 years.
Addendum: Verses to consider as we seek to “Love our neighbor as ourselves:”
“My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?” James 2:1
“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:34-35
“Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15
“Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them.” Romans 12:14
“Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18
“Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord.” Romans 12:19
“Love does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.” 1 Corinthians 13:6
“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” Romans 12:9-10
“Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” Philippians 2:4
“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” Galatians 5:22-23
There are deep divisions today in our nation that are seen in issue after issue.
But perhaps there is no greater divide, with such irreversible consequences, than the Pro-Life/Pro-Abortion battle. On one side are the voices of those who claim that the life in the womb is precious, of immeasurable value, and worthy of defending. On the other side are the shouts of those who claim the choice of the mother outweighs the right of her little one to simply live. And most recently the pro-abortion voices have embraced a new mantra: #shoutyourabortion. So a tragic choice that ended a life, has now become a movement that pridefully celebrates ending the life they conceived.
Since the beginning of time, the dominance of the stronger over the weaker has been a dreadful trait of mankind. We see the first example of this evil philosophy when Cain took the life of his brother, Abel. It’s worth rereading the short account of this story:
“One day Cain suggested to his brother, “Let’s go out into the fields.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother, Abel, and killed him. Afterward the Lord asked Cain, “Where is your brother? Where is Abel?” “I don’t know,” Cain responded. “Am I my brother’s guardian?” But the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground!” (Genesis 4:8-10)
Since that first murder, the strongest have sentenced to death millions of lives over thousands of years, with this culture of death continuing today. But there truly is no greater example of the strong taking the lives of the weak than in the loss of our nation’s little ones in the womb. These innocent lives, formed by their Creator, are tragically being silenced by their mothers. No words can adequately describe the sorrow, loss and permanence that abortion does to its greatest victim.
But, for all the words that have been written and the voices that have been raised in decrying the curse of abortion, there is one voice that has never been heard. And yet it is this voice that counts the most.
When God reproached Cain over murdering his brother Abel, He convicted Cain with these words: “Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me…”
Were God to confront our nation today about the awful scourge of abortion, I believe He would say something similar: “Listen! Your childrens’ blood cries out to me…”
This is the missing voice: The Silent Cry.
We’ve all heard the cry of a little baby shortly after birth, as it simply longs for the cuddle, caress and love of her mother. But have we stopped to hear the silent cry of the one that was snatched from the womb before she took her first breath? Have we paused to consider her voice? While her voice is silent, her message is loud, clear, and convicting, if we will be still and listen.
This matter of eternal consequence has divided our nation into three groups.
The first group is perhaps the most pressing one. If you are carrying an unwanted pregnancy and considering an abortion even today, will you stop and listen? Will you hear the silent cry of the little one in your womb, who longs to look in your eyes, to feel your embrace, to know your love, and to simply have the opportunity to live?
Before you add one more cry to the millions of silent cries that rise up across our nation, I pray you will stop and listen. Listen to your child’s heartbeat. Envision him or her in your arms. Consider the beauty of her face. Trace the outline of his features. And embrace life today.
The second group within our nation includes those women and men who have already chosen abortion. You may be one who succumbed to the lie that your choice trumped the life in the womb. If so, then you know your choice was irreversible. But your guilt over that choice can be reversed. God, the Author of life, is also the One who forgives. There is no choice that you and I have made that God does not offer to forgive — even the one that ended the life of your little one. Go to Him. Confess your sin. As you do, He promises to forgive you and to grant to you the peace that passes all understanding.
The final group within our nation is where most of us reside. We are not pregnant. We have not had an abortion. But we have a choice to make. Will we stop and listen? Will we hear #thesilentcry? Will that silent cry cause us to reevaluate our thoughts, our actions, and our choices? As we listen to #thesilentcry, will we decide to make the following choice?
“Do to others what you would have them do to you.”
As we apply the Golden Rule to the life in the womb, may our nation collectively and each of us individually do to the little one yet unborn, what was done to us by our mother and father.
Embrace life. Reject death.
“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” Psalms 139:13-16
“Today I have given you the choice between life and death… Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your children might live!” Deuteronomy 30:19
This last weekend the nation’s elite journalists came together at the White House Correspondents Dinner, for an evening of roasts and toasts, all under the guise of humor. But while the night featured laughs at the expense of others, Michelle Wolf, the comedian hosting the WHC Dinner, stooped to a new low as she belittled Americans whose crime is simply supporting life over abortion.
While Wolf’s attack was crass and deplorable, what was likely lost in her comments was an inadvertent admission that few pro-abortionists have been willing to make publicly.
It has been a long standing argument from those supporting the taking of innocent life, that the child in the womb isn’t really a child… rather it is simply tissue, just a “fetus” or some other “sub-human” entity. However, those standing on the side of life have accurately referred to the child in the womb as simply that, a child or a baby. Logic would suggest that if a child is a baby outside the womb, she is also a baby inside the womb. And since this is true, then the baby in the womb is as deserving of the right to life as she is the moment she’s in her mother’s arms.
So here’s what Ms. Wolf said:
“He (Mike Pence) thinks abortion is murder,”Wolf said,“which, first of all, don’t knock it ‘til you try it — and when you do try it, really knock it. You know, you’ve got to get thatbabyout of there…”
Webster defines “baby” as “a very young child.” By her use of the word baby, Wolf acknowledged what her own conscience had no doubt already informed her of. I have no doubt that millions of other pro-abortionists, if they were honest, would also admit the same. That little body inside a mother’s womb is a baby, receiving the same gift of life from her Creator as every other individual walking the face of this earth received.
So on this I agree with Michelle Wolf. The baby outside the womb is also a baby inside the womb. The life held in the mother’s arms moments after birth is also a life moments before, when she is held in the mother’s womb. So if we can agree on this truth, then can we not also agree that all life is deserving of protecting and nurturing?
Finally, God’s Word, the Bible, has something to say about what Michelle Wolf did this last weekend when her words spoke what her conscience knows. In Romans 2:15, we read, “They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right.”
At the end of the day, God has made each of us so that our own internal conscience affirms to us certain basic truths. What could be more basic than the truth that a baby is deserving of love and life, regardless of where she makes her home?
I remember first moving to Chattanooga when I was 18. Excited to move south, I was eager to complete my college education and then launch out into the real world.
Having grown up in Madrid, Spain, I was accustomed to pollution, given Madrid’s awful track record in the 1960’s and ’70’s. But despite this, one of the first things I noticed as I settled into my new home city in Tennessee was its own pollution. It was just a decade earlier when Chattanooga had been declared to have the worst air pollution in America, and there was no avoiding the dirt, filth and smog.
But nearly forty years later, one of Chattanooga’s claim to fame is the way in which it acknowledged its worst standing in America. As the #1 polluted city, Chattanooga put a plan in place to tackle the scourge for which it had become known. Government officials, agencies, businesses, and civic leaders all came together to lead in confronting the literal cloud that hung over them. Today Chattanooga is known for its vibrant and rejuvenated downtown and is now regularly acknowledged for the beautiful city it has become.
But in spite of the pride Chattanoogans have for the city we all love, there is another pollution that is much more serious than the smog and dirt that permeated our air just a few decades ago.
I was recently reading in the Bible in Numbers 35:33 (in the Old Testament) and I came across this astonishing statement: “Murder pollutes the land.” Stop for just a moment and let that statement sink in. I wonder how many of us have ever truly considered the impact that a murder has on a city, or nation?
Of course, murders happen everywhere. But in some places murders happen in more frequency. Chattanooga is one of those places. Sadly, in 2016, Chattanooga ranked as the #9 most dangerous cities in America for crime (in the under 200,000 population category). Much of the reason the city known for conquering its air pollution problem, sank to a #9 ranking in crime, is due to its increasing murder rate.
If murder pollutes the land, then Chattanooga is being polluted at an ever increasing rate. But unlike the air pollution of the 60’s and 70’s, the impact of murder is a permanent one. The loss of a life is perhaps the worst kind of tragedy that one can experience. The families, friends, neighbors and co-workers of a murder victim are forever changed.
Americans are known for our interest in cleaning up our environment, protecting our natural resources, and generally tackling problems until we find their solution. But to date, the pollution of murder in Chattanooga is not seen as a crisis for our city. And until it is, or until we begin to recognize that murder is polluting our land, I fear we will continue to see this scourge poisoning our lives and that of our fellow citizens.
I have come to realize this truth over the years: “That on which we focus we excel.”
To date, Chattanooga has offered much lip service to tackling the scourge of murder in our midst, but the focus has been lacking. And by focus, I mean across the board, from all corners of our community. The underlying factors that brought us to a #9 rating did not happen overnight, anymore than sinking to the worst air polluted city in America did. And just like reversing our air pollution took a multi-disciplinary approach, likewise, saving lives by reducing our murders will require the same. Government officials, agencies, courts, business leaders, churches and individuals must all come together to lead in finding the solutions. And we must continue to do so until the solutions work. Unless or until we do, the pollution of our city will continue, and likely worsen.
In the second half of the verse in Numbers we read this: “No sacrifice except the execution of the murderer can purify the land from murder.” While it may sound insensitive or old fashion to some, the truth is that prompt and commensurate punishment is a strong deterrent to crime. So when it comes to the taking of life, the way to purify the land from this pollution is to execute the one who took the life. This is harsh, but this is justice. And this is God’s remedy.
Finally, I have learned that what we see on the outside flows from what is in the inside. The murders and other crimes we continue to see proliferated through our city and nation are merely a symptom of what is inside us. Until we clean up the pollution inside our own lives, we will never clean up the pollution of murder, as hard as we try.
So what about it Chattanoogans? Or for that matter Americans, since murder happens across this land. It’s time to step up and tackle the pollution of murder in our midst.