Black lives. White police. Brown Syrians.
It’s typically unwise to provide wide-ranging social or political commentary right after a horrible tragedy. The challenge however, is that in our current “tragedy-a-day” world and with 24 hour “news” coverage and social media blaring on our ears non-stop, waiting until things quiet down, might mean, never. So here’s my take on recent events in America.
Neither the cause nor the effect fit on a bumper sticker. They also won’t fit into 30 second sound bites on our favorite news channel. Nearly everyone has an agenda, or at least a bias. Some more obvious than others. Prejudice, racism, bigotry and hatred are often couched in politic-speak making the commentator sounding much wiser and thoughtful than they are. We must read, watch and learn with open minds and open hearts. Don’t jump to conclusions quickly.
There are some things I’m sure of (most things I’m not, but these things I am):
1. We have to have our theology of humans correct (understanding how God views people) before we can pass judgment or make recommendations.
All lives are equal. The worst is still created by God. In his image. Known and loved by him before that person was even born.
God is pro-life. From womb to tomb. There is no place in God’s sociology for violent reaction – period. Ever.
2. And yet, we must acknowledge the evil does exist. It’s real. Some have given themselves over to evil and are not willing or even able to have reasonable dialog. The first point doesn’t work unless we acknowledge this second point. Otherwise we’re just weak-minded feel-gooders hoping to have a kumbaya sing-along. We must recognize evil for what it is – the work of sin and satan in this world – and fight it the way Jesus taught us to. By doing good. Prayer. Blessing. And love. We do not fight evil with evil or return an eye for an eye. That is the way of the past. The new way of Jesus is much more difficult but much more effective.
3. There are reasons why some Palestinians throw rocks at Israelis, stab them with knives, or lob katusha rockets, when they have a chance. It doesn’t excuse the violence – not even one ounce – but it does help explain it. (And yes, we can explain without excusing). And there’s a reason why black anger roils over on American streets when the fifth unarmed black man gets shot in a month by a white police officer. And why Syrians and Iraqis are killing each other in droves. And why some Somalis take to piracy and why white people are afraid of black people and vice versa. And then fill in the blanks from here – it can go on and on.
There are reasons. And there are answers. Actually a one-word answer. Hope. All the sub answers can be summarized in that one word – hope.
Three types of hope required: economic, education and eternal.
A. Everyone wants/needs a job. We can debate how to best provide or earn those, but we all surely agree that everyone needs to work and wants to work. To be productive and have a clear purpose that work often provides. Economic disparity may be as clear a common denominator in all of these cases of violence. It’s the” have-nots” wanting some of what the “haves” have. It’s the Shi’ites of southern Iraq or southern Lebanon wanting some of the power and opportunity that comes with that power, that the Sunnis have. It’s the Palestinians looking over the fence (if they were able to look over it) and seeing the European and American Israelis with jobs supported by the west, and wanting some of that. It’s the inner city black man looking out at the suburbs, where he could never afford to live and wondering what kind of “white-collar” job that guy must have to afford such a house and car.
B. Have you spent time in an inner city school? Have you ridden the bus through the south side of Chicago or driven through cities of Aleppo or Mosul and observed their schools? What we do with educational inequality might be the single biggest political and social reformation needed. There isn’t an easy quick fix solution, but there are solutions. Government and private incentives for better teachers in inner city schools and an increased desire from the private business sector to fund high-quality charter schools in the poorest neighborhoods would be good places to begin. If educate with our worst, and hope for the best – well, it’s just not gonna happen. Tell a Palestinian he’s a terrorist and guess what. Tell a poor black kid in the inner city he has no hope and….guess what.
C. Finally, (and I won’t say “most importantly,” but I sure want to), is the question of eternity – which begins now. The ultimate hope we can all have is the hope that only Jesus provides. “He who has the Son has life. He who does not have the Son does not have life.” There is nothing that compares with giving ourselves to and following Jesus the Messiah from Nazareth. He conquers evil and only he brings final eternal hope.
But any one of these without the other two are incomplete. The difference between a poor Palestinian farmer mourning the loss of his land and the black man selling CD’s to pay the bills on the streets of Baton Rouge are slim, if any. The answers are the same as well. The three E’s. Economics. Education. And eternity.
Let’s stand together against simplistic bumper-sticker solutions that don’t address all three of these. And let’s commit to working together to provide them; For any underprivileged person on earth – who God created and loves.