Police Shootings

By Kersley Fitzgerald

Reactive, The Series

Mass Shootings
Police Shootings
Sensationalistic News

How we initially react to things reflects what we believe and what kind of faith we have in God. Our knee-jerk reactions usually come from our hearts, not our minds. To have godly reactions, we have to build godly hearts.

Believe it or not, it was Gabby Douglas that put me on the road past sympathy to something deeper, like identifying. Olympic trials, July 10th. Simone Biles was tearing the place apart, but Gabby was not doing well. She seemed distracted, aloof, and didn't even want her coach's sympathy after a less-than-stellar routine on the beam. Personally, I'm all for women being allowed to have the emotions they are having (and the flack she got for not "smiling enough" at the games was ludicrous). But watching her standing at the water cooler, staring into space, it occurred to me —

Maybe she's upset about the shootings.

Amidst a slew of other shootings this summer, the Olympic trials came only four days after Philando Castile's death had been broadcast on Facebook Live, the voice of a panicked cop in the background of Philando's girlfriend and daughter. And it struck me that as much as Gabby is touted as the first African-American to win the gold all-around in gymnastics, and as much as we hear snippets of the racism she's had to endure in the gyms where she's trained, we don't think of her in the larger context of race in this country.

But she has a brother, and a father. And for the first time, I wondered if recent events had made her worry about them.

There's no reason it should have taken Gabby — a woman I only know from the games and her biopic — to get me to internalize what's going on in America. But for whatever reason, it was a starting point. It made me think of my friends' adopted son; how will his parents teach him to stay safe? He's seven, he loves Tae Kwon Do and his sister. Why should he have to live in this world so differently than his white parents? Or my other friends' son, Nate. He's only one-quarter African American — will he face the same challenges? Or JT's friend from the elementary school bus stop, thanks to his parents, waaaay too tall for his 15 years. Is he already making allowances and taking precautions?

That made me think of Andrew; when he's stopped for speeding to his daughter's soccer game or to rescue his Norwegian mother-in-law's horses from a fire, does the world see a retired lieutenant colonel in the Air Force, current pilot for a major airline? Or a large, tall black man? Or Luke, Nate's dad. Currently, he's at Oxford, getting his doctorate. Shouldn't that, and his Air Force uniform, matter more than his skin?

I have far too many friends, otherwise reasonable, thoughtful people, who will respond to a police shooting of an African American man with, "Well, I'm not going to make a judgment call until I get all the facts." Sitting in that statement is some kind of assertion that, if the man was ever arrested or did drugs or wasn't a "good Christian boy" in every manner, the shooting was justified. I recently read a Facebook post by blogger Luvvie Ajayi that says in part:
...You want the Black man who was killed by cops to have never been arrested before....

People's full humanity should not depend on how perfect they are. And if we keep sitting back, waiting on the perfect victim before we speak up, our mouths will stay wired shut. Which will mean we stand by idly as people get their lives taken unjustly. Which means we're saying it's okay.
We are all sinners. And if we think someone's background of a dozen traffic tickets or shoplifting or drug use means he and his grieving family don't deserve our compassion, that's insane. And unbiblical. And to say that in the presence of others who are closer to the issue is cruel.

Brant Hansen is a popular Christian DJ who currently combines his radio gig with work for CURE International. His producer is Sherri, an African American with a big laugh and the unique ability to work with Brant. They have a podcast on #BlackLivesMatter from July 12th that's pretty phenomenal. The parts that struck me were when Sherri talked about her brothers, and how she lives with a constant, underlying fear for them — and how she feels when that fear is dismissed or criticized by other believers:
It's incredibly painful to be dismissed by people you love...I can't verbalize what that pain feels like, that you like me and you love me...and all of that until I tell you...until I tell you I hear my mother crying in the living room, pleading to God to protect her son...My brother, who you know, who is a college graduate, and takes care of his family, and takes care of his community — for you to tell me that my fear for his life is really unfounded — it's hard for me to explain what that feels like....

The silence is hard, but I almost prefer the silence to the implication that my brother or my cousins had it coming.
This isn't an either-or kind of thing. One of my oldest friends was a cop, and got the PTSD to prove it. A sheriff lives down the street from us, and we're happy to have him. I'm just thinking about our initial reaction to other people's politically-charged tragedy. Far too often, we hold back sympathy until we get the facts that show if it's worth our emotional burden. That's ridiculous. Paul didn't say, "Mourn with those who mourn and are completely innocent." He just said, "Mourn with those who mourn" (Romans 12:15). Jesus didn't love and forgive and show compassion to and die for individuals once the video was posted and the police records were released. He had compassion for entire crowds with completely different agendas than what He'd come for (John 6:15). The father didn't wait until the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) justified his actions — he just had compassion. The Samaritan didn't scold the Jewish victim about his unwise travelling choices — he just took care of him (Luke 10:25-37).

Very few of us are called to make a judgment call in such a situation. The closest many of us will call is jury duty. Discernment is good, and it may be helpful to uncover facts to determine how violent situations can be avoided in the future and justice can be upheld. But "waiting for the facts" shouldn't be our initial reaction. It should always be sorrow. Frustration at the fallen world. Sympathy for the victim's friends and family members. Prayer for those involved. Maybe even love.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Image Credit: kim; "Candle 1447"; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Controversial-Issues  | Current-Issues  | Hardships

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Published 10-6-16