We live in a cursed and fallen world. That proposition shouldn’t require more evidence than looking around us. There is no hope for this world outside of the gospel of Jesus Christ; the whole Old Testament and the history of Israel demonstrates that you cannot change people’s hearts by law. The perfect law of God given through Moses did not change the hearts of the people. The laws of America sure aren’t going to, either. Neither will protests, riots, or elections.
I was pretty disturbed by the accounts of the shooting of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. The Castile shooting seems to me to be particularly egregious. I have learned though that you have to wait in these things to get all the details and information. Often additional details, not present in the first accounts, comes out, that puts things in a very different light, and the Scriptures always call us to be careful and not to rush to judgments. I was also very disturbed by the attack on the Dallas police department last night, which, besides the suffering and pain for those immediately involved and the city as a while, cannot but increase the tension and hostility that already exists in this country.
As a long-time conservative, I am reflexively on the side of law and order and against chaos. But there actually has to be law and order, right? Just because you call a group of people “law enforcement” doesn’t mean they actually are enforcing law, does it? And it doesn’t mean the laws they are enforcing are just. Law enforcement wasn’t exactly on the side of truth in the story of Jesus. I believe in human fallenness, in human depravity, and therefore it must be the case that some law enforcement abuse their power. I do not think we do ourselves any favors, as conservatives in favor of law and order, by turning a blind eye to injustice. I have known a number of policemen and women in my life, and many of them seemed to be very decent people of integrity. Some of them seemed to be bullies, people who just enjoyed exercising power over others. We know there are people like that, right? So why should that surprise us? And if we put people in positions of power, arm them with guns, and train them to use those guns, should we be surprised when some misuse that power for sinful reasons? I do not believe that should be surprising to us.
We as conservatives recognize the great problem when too much power and too little accountability has accumulated in the hands of government and its various agencies, but sometimes I feel we do not extend this scrutiny to our police. I think a similar problem exists with our attitude toward the military. Perhaps it is because these are two functions of government that we see as legitimate, as opposed to all the other stuff our government stupidly tries to do, and ends up doing very badly. But even if they are legitimate functions of government, that does not mean they cannot be exercised illegitimately.
Consider the existence of police unions. In other fields, like in education, conservatives have long recognized that unions serve to protect the worst examples of misconduct and incompetence from discipline or removal. But why would police unions be any different? I wonder how many police have been successfully prosecuted or removed for police brutality or other misconduct in Minnesota (where the Philando Castile shooting happened). Personally, I think we ought to be in favor of making such unions illegal. But strangely, when Scott Walker attacked public sector unions in Wisconsin, he made police unions exempt from the changes. But why? If the unions were as bad as he said, surely the police unions should have been at the top of the list. There’s that conservative blind spot, I think. We should highly respect the police for the work they do and for the office that they are given. They put themselves in great danger for the good of the community as a whole. But power always creates responsibility, and somebody is always going to be misusing power. If cops are legally unaccountable for their actions, then you are creating a major problem. Greater power should mean greater accountability. If no cop is ever found to be guilty for these shootings, you can bet there’s an abuse of power, because mistakes will happen and power will be abused. We hire cops right out of the pool of fallen corrupt humanity that we all belong to.
But laws will not address the problem. Laws will not change the heart. Only the gospel will do that. This is the major reason I am in favor of nationalism and limited government, because I do not see governmental solutions to these problems. I think our government can do some things to stop making them worse.
I do not pretend to understand the black community and its problems. I am not sure it makes much sense to even say things like “the black community,” as if it were monolithic. I am not sure it makes sense to speak of Clarence Thomas and Kanye West as somehow being part of the same community. But I know this, that they ought not look to white America as the source or the solution to their problems, to whatever degree that they do. White America has problems enough of its own. And our problem is always the problem in our own hearts. This world will be a time of suffering and injustice. Nothing will change that, for the world is under a curse. What ultimately matters is not whether I can fix the world to have justice and fairness in this life. That’s isn’t going to happen. Is there racism in the white world? No question. Of course there is. There’s racism everywhere, especially anywhere where people from different ethnic backgrounds live close to each other. But whites aren’t making black men father children out of wedlock. Whites aren’t forcing black women to abort their babies. Whites aren’t forcing blacks to misuse drugs, or steal, any more than black people are causing white people to have all their problems. The gospel calls us to righteousness and obedience to God’s law even in the face of injustice and oppression. (1 Peter 2:18ff gives great general instructions on how we react to evil from those in authority over us.)
White America is not going to be changed by protests and diversity training. It certainly isn’t going to be changed by shooting cops. Those things tend to make things worse, because if you sow to the flesh, you’ll only reap more flesh. And so it is the case that after electing our first black president, and being treated to a full-court press on issues of race, like never before, for the last eight years, there is even more racial tension as a result. If you constantly harangue people about their bad attitudes toward some oppressed group, the result is likely to be that those people will just resent that group even more.
I truly believe that black people face injustice in America. I believe that black people face problems that I do not face and cannot understand. But I know Christ is sufficient for that. And I know that nothing else is.
And likewise, whites are now tempted like never before to scapegoat minorities for our problems. I believe this is at least a part of the success of Donald Trump. But Muslim refugees aren’t forcing us to consume pornography in massive quantities. Black people aren’t forcing us to spend our lives in materialism, pride, greed and the worship of entertainment. Mexican immigrants are not causing us to turn away from Christ. Our temptation is always to think of our own needs and everyone else’s failures, everyone else’s responsibilities. We should be thinking of our own failures and responsibilities. The Bible does not call me to fix everyone else’s problem. It calls us to fix our own, or rather to recognize our inability to fix our own, and to flee to the only One who can.
Our problem is always our own heart. As my father always said, our business is always with God. We are so tempted to excuse ourselves by blaming others. But Christ showed us that a man without sin can serve God faithfully regardless of his circumstances, regardless of whatever injustice he faces. Yes, He is God, but He is also a true man, and He has sent His Spirit to empower those who put their trust in Him. Our problem is never our environment, never other people. Our ultimate problem is the sin in our own hearts.
This is the solution to the problem of race in this country- the gospel of Christ, in which there is no Jew nor Greek, no slave nor free, no male nor female, and I might dare to add, no black or white. We are all one in Christ.
In the world, there is no solution. People will amplify their differences by carnal and earthly criteria in order to blame others for their own problems, because blaming other people is always easier than dealing with our own sins. And the result is endless wars and strife. White people for the most part are not going to accept that they are to blame for the ills of black America, and black people are not going to accept a bunch of lecturing from whites about how they need to be more like white people. But in Christ, we can see that our only real problem lies within ourselves, and we can stop pursuing earthly carnal solutions to internal, spiritual problems, solutions which only increase strife and violence. Spiritual problems require spiritual solutions, and that solution is available freely to anyone who wants it, to anyone who will humble themselves enough to realize what the real problem is.