The ongoing riots, protests, and rallies around the fatal shooting of a youth in Ferguson, Missouri has dominated the news for weeks now. The facts are easy enough to gather: a young man on drugs violently robbed a convenience store, assaulting the owner, then walked down the middle of the street until police pulled him off to the side. Attacking the police officers, he was shot and killed.
There were the usual "the cops killed him!" comments from nearby people whether they actually saw what happened or not, and unscrupulous lawyers descended from flying overhead on vulture's wings to take advantage of the mother's grief at losing her child. Like every mother since motherhood began, she cried that her baby was an innocent snowflake, an angel, a saint!
The difference here is that the press blatantly, openly trumpeted the mother's argument without question or critical analysis, and passed on every rumor that made the cop look bad until things exploded. The alleged expert that the family hired was never vetted by the press, who uncritically believed every word he told them, only admitting weeks later that he was not qualified and was essentially a con man.
The usual suspects showed up: Jackson, Sharpton, etc looking to make money and take advantage of the situation for publicity and personal power. And as soon as the inquest gave a not guilty declaration for the police officer, carefully planned protests popped up all around the United States. Rioting, burning, looting, and even killing took place, with even the original shop owner who the young man robbed being trashed and looted again.
The slogan "hands up, don't shoot" taken from a fictitious account by an "eyewitness" the press blithely reprinted became the talking point, with even congressmen and football players raising their hands mimicking the myth. And the New York Times and other newspapers printed the address of the cop in their national publications in violation of their written policies.
At least, that's what the conservative media will tell us. The left has another story of a racist cop who gunned down an innocent youth who was surrendering in yet another example of evil white oppression of minorities, proving that racism abounds in America and how the black man can't get a break. They say the inquest was full of lies, that the data is all nonsense, that the facts presented by the city and the police department are all doctored.
Behind this all is an unfortunate fact: sometimes people are killed improperly by police. Some cops are racist. Sometimes blacks are targeted unfairly and treated poorly because of bad police work. For example, as I type this, news broke that a NYPD cop who used a choke hold on a huge black man who resisted arrest for selling illegal cigarettes killed him. But the grand jury declined to indict the cop despite the fact that the choke hold is banned in the New York Police Department (and every department in America that I'm aware of).
So while its easy to dismiss the protests and rallies as ignorant race baiting nonsense, there's a deeper problem here that people are upset about.
It is absolute fact that more blacks are killed by blacks every year than by whites. Further its true that more whites are killed by blacks than by whites. Its true that cops have a very good reason to focus more on blacks for street crime, because most street crime is committed by black people. Whites tend to commit more white collar level crime - although that's a generalization, there are black fraudsters and white gang banging thugs.
But that doesn't negate the real concern blacks have that cops are targeting them. And it does not take more than one bad encounter to convince most people of an overall trend. Which brings us to the Christian response.
We live in a culture where increasingly people are concluding that they shouldn't pay a price for anything bad that they do, and further that anyone who catches them doing wrong or pointing that out is the real bad guy. No matter how much of a cosmic jerk someone is, if someone calls them on it, the response is usually to complain that the accuser is being horrible and fascistic.
As Christians, we have to start by realizing this tendency in our culture and fighting it in ourselves. We must recognize that we too may be led to act this way, instead of responding in humility and repentance. Christianity uniquely recognizes that all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God. Christianity recognized uniquely that even saved people are sinners and need God's grace every day. So we must be first among those around us to fight this trend and show the way of humility, grace, and repentance, not hostility, arrogance, and stubbornness.
Second, we also must be willing to realize that frustrated, frightened, and angry blacks facing double digit unemployment, growing inflation on basic goods, and overall malaise have good reason to be upset. Yes, they are largely misguided in their target and being manipulated by cold, heartless, and scheming hucksters, but their concerns are not without merit.
We should pray for and work toward a more just system of policing, a better and more scrupulous police force that strives to avoid the easy and familiar for the just and proper response. And we need to work toward a culture where the thug life, street crime, and drugs are not so attractive and seemingly reasonable a path to walk. With the grace of God and His sanctifying influence on our culture, perhaps a revival and return to Christ can sweep our culture to reverse these trends.
Certainly the grieving parents and family of this slain teen deserve our sympathy and prayers. Whether they were good parents or they are acting like knuckleheads or not is not our concern. That is between them and God. Our duty is to love and support and pray. Those living close and in touch with the family should try to guide them toward the truth and an attitude of humility and love, but for those of us outside that circle, mockery and contempt are sinful and wrong.
May God grant us a time soon when the cruel and sinful manipulation of grieving parents by con men and political agents comes to an end, and may we see ever increasing justice and cultural change through the grace of God.
Until that final day comes when Christ returns and all is made right with permanent, perfect justice, let us pray and work for God's glory in the world through love and a desire for justice, truth, and humble service.
*This is part of the Christian Response series.