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When Violence in America Was Affirmed & Praised:  Understanding & Solving Racial Injustices

When Violence in America Was Affirmed & Praised: Understanding & Solving Racial Injustices

One man’s violent anti-government protests

is another man’s just war. 

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? 

The Heart 

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.” 

The Behavior 

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: 

What if… 

   … 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. 

The Shoes 

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 

Summary 

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 
A Second American Revolution: Defeating The Enemy Within

A Second American Revolution: Defeating The Enemy Within

A Second American Revolution And The Enemy Within

When our founding fathers penned their names in 1776 to perhaps our nation’s greatest document, the Declaration of Independence, they attempted what we now know was a glorious and courageous feat. Singling out King George as the object of their contempt was viewed by many of their contemporaries as not only foolish, but it would likely cost those 56 men their “lives, fortune and sacred honor.”  

Two hundred and forty years later, we marvel at the resolute and unsurpassed character of our founding fathers and the thousands of others who rose up to revolt against Great Britain, their formidable enemy.

Following a brutal and what oftentimes appeared a hopeless cause, George Washington and his ragtag group of soldiers, realized a miraculous and no doubt, Providential victory. As the thirteen colonies concluded their Constitutional Convention in 1787, a lady asked Benjamin Franklin, “Well Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?”  To which he replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.

“If you can keep it…”

This has always been the challenge to every American citizen over the last 240 years, keeping our Republic. Of course there have been many instances over these many years where we have faced enemies from without, foes that at the time were no doubt powerful and threatening.

Today though, with the ever increasing threat of terrorism, some would suggest that Islamic terrorists have now become our greatest enemy.  Others would argue that Russia or China, both nuclear nations which seek superpower status, are our nation’s greatest threat.  

Looking closer to home, some would suggest that a President who looks with contempt at the people whom he represents as a serious threat.  Others point to our Congress as the greatest threat, as Senators and Congressmen continuously erode our liberties with each passing year.  Still others, concerned with the expanding role of the SCOTUS, view our nation’s men and women in black robes as the greatest threat to the permanence of our Republic.

No doubt all of these threats represent real and present dangers to our nation’s survival.   

But today we face an even greater enemy than those just enumerated.  While each preceding generation has stood resolute as they were tested by the enemies of their time, I fear that the present generation, yours and mine, is not only failing to overcome our enemy, but worse, we lack the will or discipline to do so. 

It was Sun Tzu who declared 2500 years ago in The Art of War, “if you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear a hundred battles.”

Today we do not know the real enemy we face.  That enemy is within.  And that enemy is you… and me. 

We are the greatest threat our nation faces. 

As a populace:

  • We are uniformed and disengaged, caring little about the affairs of their government.
  • We devote more time to our favorite pastimes, hobbies, or reality shows, than to holding our governmental representatives accountable, at all levels.
  • We are engrossed in the statistics of our favorite sports team but know virtually nothing about our nation’s exploding and threatening national debt.
  • We spent 10x more on lottery tickets ($70 billion) in 2014 than we did in the previous Presidential election year.
  • We care little about the character of our representatives, whether in Congress or in the Oval Office, preferring their promises over their principles.
  • Our voter turnout trails nearly every other developed country in the world, with a measly 53% in 2012, and we engage at an even lower rate in local elections.
  • Our moral, religious and ethical standards continue to slide at ever increasing rates.

Consequently, as you and I have chosen to be distant, apathetic and careless toward our government, we have seen that same government become dysfunctional, corrupt and an ever growing threat to our “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” 

As a constitutional republic, the United States is dependent on its citizens to select men and women of exceptional skills and character to lead their nation. And it’s incumbent on those same citizens to make the necessary corrections when their leaders veer off course and threaten our nation’s future.  

Just this week we witnessed corruption of the worst kind when the FBI, an agency of the Department of Justice, exonerated Hillary Clinton from the admitted criminal violations she was involved in with her illegal email scheme.  And yet, it’s highly likely this corruption will be rewarded with the keys to the Oval Office in November.

So what is the answer?  And what is the solution?  First and foremost we are beyond “political solutions.”  You cannot solve a heart problem with a political strategy.  And we are informed of this truth by this verse, “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?”  

To restore the foundations, we must restore our hearts.  And the restoration of our heart begins with the bending of our knees. 

Our sixteenth President, Abraham Lincoln, understood this truth all too well when he published this solemn challenge to all Americans, and it’s one we would do well to heed today:

Whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.

“And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of the civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People?  We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven.  We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity.  We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown.  But we have forgotten God.  We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.  Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!

“It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.

And so there it is, the formula to overcome the enemy within and launch our nation’s Second Revolution:

Humility. Sorrow. Prayer. Confession. Repentance. Dependence. Assurance. Hope. Blessings.

Mark