Beliefs Culture Ethics Institutions Jonathan Merritt: On Faith and Culture Opinion

It’s high time white Christians listen to our Black brothers and sisters

Eric Garner protests erupt on Manhattan's streets on Wednesday night (Photo credit: Jana Quigley)

Eric Garner protests erupt on Manhattan’s streets on Wednesday night (Photo credit: Jana Quigley)

The quickest way to a person’s heart is often through their ears.

This is a good lesson for a columnist like myself, who is rarely short on words, in the wake of a tragedy like the Eric Garner decision. I started searching for the right words since it was announced that the police offer who choked Garner to death would not be indicted. “Just wait a few days,” I told myself Wednesday night, “and the words will eventually come.” Well it’s Friday, and my dictionary’s pages are still blank.

In one sense, I don’t have to speak in such a moment because Garner has already said enough. His final pleas fell on the deaf ears of those who claimed to be his protectors: “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.”

But perhaps this isn’t the time for me–and other white Christians–to speak. Maybe we should listen instead. To people of color. To our brothers and sisters. To those who’ve been trying to tell us that there is a problem in this country. To those who know what it feels like to be Eric Garner. To those who know what it means to be black. That’s why I reached out to a few friends whose voices need to be listened to.

To borrow from Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), “it’s high time we start listening to our African American brothers and sisters in this country when they tell us they are experiencing a problem.”

Their voices ring out today. May we have ears to hear, even as we repent for so many years of tone-deafness.

Courtesy of John M. Perkins

Courtesy of John M. Perkins

John Perkins | Civil rights activist, minister, and author of “Let Justice Roll Down

It seems like our nation is out of control, and some of this is the result of our polarization and our own victimization in both the black and white community. We have not found ways to confess to each other our wrongdoings and haven’t been able to make the kind of peace that could come from having that type of conversation. We haven’t been able to take the responsibility as God’s people or as citizens.

As a nation, as individuals, and as communities, we need to start taking responsibility for our communities. As blacks, we need to take some responsibility for how we raise our children, and the whites need to take responsibility for their lack of forgiveness and imperialism and for some of the failure in our school and education systems. We also need to take responsibility for not training our police officers to affirm the dignity of humanity. [tweetable]We are all victims and have not found ways to truly reconcile to each other.[/tweetable] I think that is the issue before us, and our task is learning how to actually communicate and have conversations so we can get at some of these issues.

Courtesy of Trip Lee

Courtesy of Trip Lee

Trip Lee | Rapper, pastor, and author of “Rise

When I heard that the grand jury was close to a decision on the Eric Garner homicide (as it was ruled), I told my skeptical friends I’d be shocked if there wasn’t an indictment. Of course, this case would at least go to trial considering it was all caught on video. What more could they need? So when I heard that they would not indict the officers involved, I was dumbfounded. I was honestly shaken up for a few hours. It’s painful to watch case after case where unarmed black men lie dead and no one is held accountable. It should cause us to grieve.

As Christians, we know that God is in control even when things seem out of hand. We know He works all things for good, but that doesn’t mean we should merely sit around and wait to see what He’ll do. We should also actively look for ways to respond to these horrible events in God-honoring ways….I’m saddened when I look at the state of our world— from racism, to poverty, to religious persecution. But I’m also rejoicing, because I know God values every life and I can’t wait for Him to make all things right.

Courtesy Derwin Gray

Courtesy of Derwin Gray

Derwin Gray | Pastor of Transformational Church and author of “Limitless Life

I’m experiencing depths of sadness, pain, and confusion like I haven’t in years over the Eric Garner injustice. The man was killed by an illegal choke hold on video for the world and grand jury to see. I hurt for this man’s six children, grandchildren, and wife.

This horrific injustice reminds me of stories my grandmother would tell as little boy about how black men would be killed in the 1940’s in the deep South. Last night, as I went for walk in my own neighborhood, I found myself saying, “I need to get home before it gets dark so I am not mistaken for someone I’m not.” Thoughts like this use to be common growing up as a teenager….The only thing I know to do is partner with God the Father to teach people to love each other by being color blessed, not color blind.

Courtesy of Leroy Barber

Courtesy of Leroy Barber

Leroy Barber | Global Executive Director of World Made Flesh and author of “Red, Brown, Yellow, Black, White

Yesterday’s decision not to prosecute the officer that killed Eric Gardner is deeply hurtful. It further sends a message that my life and the life of my sons and family don’t matter. I find myself still looking for the system to work for me and for black men but, after continued disappointment, I am now convinced it won’t work for me, nor my sons. It is with extreme pain that I speak these words. May God take this pain and one day change it to joy–but for today it just hurts.

Courtesy of Trillia Newbell

Courtesy of Trillia Newbell

Trillia Newbell | Consultant for Women’s Initiatives for the ERLC and author of “United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity

If it weren’t for the video, we may not know the full scope of what happened in the Eric Garner situation. But because of the video, we have the gruesome details of an unjust death. We can’t look away, and it is horrifying. No one can deny that there is something not right about this. One thing that has come out of this situation–and over the past few years with all of these cases–is that we can all see there is still a race issue in this nation that cannot be ignored. It’s not just a black issue. We all need to be involved in talking about the struggles our nation is continuing to go through. So this validates concerns that many of us already had. We knew that there was racial tension and that America has not “arrived,” even 50 years past the Civil Rights Movement.

I am also a firm believer that the gospel reconciles. I am a firm believer that the gospel can break down barriers. So this is a gospel issue because we’re all created in the image of God and redeemed equally. To be divided by the color of our skin is ridiculous. But it happens because sin reigns in our hearts, and we can’t ignore it any longer.

Courtesy of Charles Blake

Courtesy of Charles Blake

Charles Blake | Pastor and Presiding Bishop of The Church of God in Christ denomination

I watched, as did most of America, first the video of the incident, then the report of the Grand Jury in the Eric Garner case. I am saddened by the decision of the Staten Island grand jury to not indict New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo. With no indictment and to hear and see Eric Garner, a father and grandfather, placed in a banned choke hold and repeatedly say “I can’t breathe” takes us back years in the struggle for equal justice.

We must find a way, through God’s help, to continue the work of emphatically telling everyone that will listen that, “Black Lives Matter!”

I am asking those who know the value of prayer to pray for his widow, Mrs. Esaw Garner, his mother Mrs. Gwen Carr and the entire family during this time.

Courtesy of Efrem Smith

Courtesy of Efrem Smith

Efrem Smith | President of World Impact and author of “The Post-Black and Post-White Church

Based on on the events surrounding Eric Garner, I’m reminded that we are in a reality of sinful, broken people and sinful, broken systems. And these have a more damaging effect in under-resourced, predominately African-American communities. This causes deep grieving in my heart. The church is held more captive to the matrix of race and political sound bytes than we’re ready to admit, and we have to allow God to liberate us from that. It is important for the church right now to be a vehicle of reconciliation, compassion, and justice.

Courtesy of Lisa Sharon Harper

Courtesy of Lisa Sharon Harper

Lisa Sharon Harper | Senior Director of Mobilizing for Sojourners and co-author of “Forgive Us: Confessions of a Compromised Faith

The morning after George Zimmerman was acquitted I woke up in tears. It was striking to me that because of the proliferation of Stand Your Ground laws across our nation, and the way they are embedded in jury instructions now, we are living in a pre-1964 Civil Rights Act world—a world where legal loopholes allow inequitable racialized outcomes—outcomes that allow black lives bearing the image of God to be crushed without recourse. I woke up in tears that morning. That was a year and a half ago. 

When Eric Garner died I wept, but hoped he would receive justice. It was on tape, after all, and New York is not a Stand Your Ground state. When John Crawford III died, I wept, but I had hope because Ohio is not a Stand Your Ground state. When Michael Brown died, I wept and then I could not sleep because another kind of wickedness began to reveal itself. Corruption within the “justice” system itself….As pundits predicted, the grand jury came back and pronounced “no bill” (aka no trial).  Then two days ago, it was revealed that New York prosecutor Dan Donovan copied McCulloch’s precedent in the case against the killer of Eric Garner, Officer Pantaleo, and got the same result: no indictment (no trial).

I have been raw for the past two days; weepy—able to break into tears at the thought of it. Here’s why: This is worse than 1964. At least when Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman were killed by police officers in Mississippi in June of 1964, there was a trial. Yes, it was a kangaroo court, but there was at least a trial. [tweetable]I feel gut punched. Our system is telling me: the image of God within black lives does not matter.[/tweetable]

Courtesy of Leonce Crump

Courtesy of Leonce Crump

Leonce Crump | Pastor of Renovation Church and author of “Renovate

Ramsey Orta is a name that many are likely unfamiliar with. He is the kid who filmed the horrific death of Eric Garner at the hands (literally) of officer Daniel Pantaleo. The video is vomit inducing….Yet video evidence of an officer using a banned maneuver to subdue a pleading man, which ultimately leads to his death, is not enough to at least bring this officer to trial. And simultaneously, in an ironic turn of events, the young man, Ramsey Orta, is weeks later indicted by a Staten Island Grand Jury on a weapon charge. The kid who shot the video of Eric Garner was indicted. The officer that choked Garner to death was not. I can’t rationalise this. Possessing a .25 calibre gun is indictment worthy, but a lost life isn’t?

Can it be more terribly ironic that three men cross paths in one tragic event, and the only one that ultimately walks away without penalty is the one who took a life? What message does this send? What emotions does it conjure?

I can say for myself that  this make me feel low. It makes me question my worth in my nation, though I know the biblical truth of my ultimate worth. It eats at me, and creates fear. I’ve had an officers draw a gun on me, and I left the altercation fearful, hurt, and angry, but without any formal charges. What stops the next interaction from going south and me, the pastor, educated, transcultural, non “thug”  African-American from ending up being listed as a tragedy of an officer “performing his duty?” I’m not sure. I’m grieved. I’m hurting. I’m tired of crying. I’m praying. I’m hoping that my Christian brothers and sisters will stand with me instead of try and rationalize my pain.

Courtesy of Amena Brown

Courtesy of Amena Brown

Amena Brown | Spoken word artist and author of “Breaking Old Rhythms

I work with words everyday but the past few months of the needless deaths and subsequent jury decisions that brought no justice have left me without adequate words to describe the pain, anger, frustration, worry, hurt, and sadness that these events bring up in me. I worry for my future brown children. I am frustrated that the same warnings my grandmother gave her sons to try and protect their lives from racism and Jim Crow, we may have to give our sons in a time we hoped there would be nothing like Jim Crow. It is a difficult time that brings up layers of experience and emotions that no one wants to feel, but we do. I hope to channel these feelings and use my voice and resources to join the many people who are speaking out, standing up, and standing together in community. I hope to be a part of the change.

About the author

Jonathan Merritt

Jonathan Merritt is senior columnist for Religion News Service and a contributing writer for The Atlantic. He has published more than 2500 articles in outlets like USA Today, The Week, Buzzfeed and National Journal. Jonathan is author of "Jesus is Better Than You Imagined" and "A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars." He resides in Brooklyn, NY.


Click here to post a comment

  • “choked Garner to death”

    Jonathan. I appreciate this article but I wish you would not have made this egregious false statement. Garner did not choke to death. This, although, just as bad and even worse, was likely the cause of his death:

    And now to see on video and to hear that a black female sergeant was a supervisor on the arrest is enough cause to step back for a moment and be sure our narrative is correct. That doesn’t reduce anything about this horrible incident and racial issues because they exist but before imputing all sorts of things we shouldn’t it’s important to have all of the facts.

  • I’m as frustrated as the next person by the misinformation swirling around the causes of these recent, tragic, police-involved deaths. But I don’t think that’s the point of this message. The point is that we (as White Christians) may not be listening to and hearing the hearts of our Black brothers and sisters in Christ.

    I had an “Aha” moment when I listened to a Black woman on my team at work describe how she feared for her teenage son (a good boy, but a teenager like any other) each time he left their home in a large city on the East Coast. If he had a confrontation with police, would there be a misunderstanding? Would he do or say something dumb that might get him hurt? She is a completely rational and smart woman who struggled with this completely understandable fear each moment her son was away.

    That wasn’t something I had ever had to struggle with, with my son … a young white man in a white community. It was new to me.

    We too often speak out of what we don’t know, and close our ears to the cries of those who are there, living in the pain. I appreciate this appeal to us to LISTEN. Remember that listening to others in the Body of Christ is one form of listening to the Lord. Listen and sift.

  • This is an ignorant statement obviously written by someone who has never lived in an urban community. Innocent people are harassed by police officers regularly in many of these communities.

    Tell this to the 14-year-old black teen carrying a puppy who was tackled and choked for giving police “a dehumanizing stare”:

    Please educate yourself on topics you wish to speak about.

  • Besides which, how perfectly Orwellian is it to suggest that, “Just do everything Big Brother’s enforcement branch tells you to do, without questions or resistance” SOLVES any kind of problem?? Mercy.

  • Or to me, when I was just 11 years old and was swarmed by police cars while coming out of a store after buying crazy glue for a model car me and my friend were working on. We were handcuffed, thrown in back of a squad car and bound by seat belts and being charged with “being on the wrong side of the street.” Thank God for the couple who were sitting in their car that had seen us enter the store and had the courage to step in and say something.

  • I have why don’t you?

    You are wrong about my experience.

    To make you feel better I will modify my statement:

    Obey the law and listen to the police = no problem with the police outside of the very rare mistakes and bad cops.

  • What human institution works perfectly?

    For 99.99 % of people of any color: obey the law, listen to the police equals no problem with the police. And for the .01% they still have legal recourse to show that this wasn’t true.

  • Oh grow up!

    For 99.99% of the case: obey the law and listen to the police and you won’t have any problem with the police. Investigating a crime or detaining someone who is suspected of a crime is not a “problem with police.” It’s the police doing their job.

  • It’s high time white Christians listen to our Black brothers and sisters

    Which of them is delineating for our edification the case law on what meets the standard of ‘criminal negligence’ or ‘recklessness’ under New York State law?

  • This is an ignorant statement obviously written by someone who has never lived in an urban community.

    I’ve spent 17 years of my life in central cities, including neighborhoods to which Domino’s does not deliver. For what that’s worth (which is not a whole lot). His remark is commonsensical. To call it ‘ignorant’ is non sequitur.

    And before you call other people ‘ignorant’, you might devote just a paragraph to a discussion of (or at least a reference to) the issue at hand: what sort of conduct meets the standard of ‘criminal negligence’ or ‘recklessness’ under New York State law.

  • Mr. Merritt you highlight once again by your response to Frank, the tone, substance and title of your article that you aren’t interested in a dialogue but a monologue. Agree with me or your “ignorant”. If my experience is different than yours, my point of view is dismissed. Honestly why should I engage with you. You have already determined he “correct” meta-narrative from these unique cases and circumstances, it’s all so obvious to you.

  • “I had an “Aha” moment when I listened to a Black woman on my team at work describe how she feared for her teenage son (a good boy, but a teenager like any other) each time he left their home in a large city on the East Coast.”

    Aha! Your co-worker suffers from irrational risk assessment. Some people do.

  • Because we are indeed referencing Christian leaders, perhaps it is appropriate to include the Bible in the dialogue. We are not experiencing anything new to scripture and the apostle Paul, divinely inspired by God, gives us some insight into how we, all men and women of every shade, should respond to authority in our communities:

    “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.” Rom 13:1-5

    This may be hard to digest but God said it, not me, so if you disagree please direct your dissent to God. Just say’in…

  • No. I just don’t like it when people say things that aren’t true. Frank said that if you obey the law you’re good. That was his opinion. I gave him a story–there are many–which contradict the statement. He amended his statement and then created fake stats that aren’t verifiable. Holding people accountable to speak responsibly and accurately is not the same as being uninterested in dialogue. As the saying goes, everyone is entitled to their own opinions but not their own facts. If someone comes into this forum and leave a comment, I expect them to speak truthfully and accurately. Such an expectation is the basis of dialogue, not the antithesis of it.

  • Curtis,

    I’m always curious why people leave proof texts in comments as if that is the Bible’s complete word regarding a matter. The Bible also has more than 2,000 verses on justice. I’d like to know why you chose Romans 13:1-5 and ignored all of the others. Are you unaware of them or do they simply not fit the reality you wish existed?

  • As an aside, Romans 13 is not tantamount to “might makes right.” If the government bears the power of the “sword” history tells us that the sword then must often be wielded against itself. Which is to say, Romans 13 may indeed apply to this situation–just not in the way which you assume.

  • False stats? Is it scientific? No. It’s it true? Yes.

    If you value truth you might want to stick with it yourself..

  • My heart is breaking reading these comments… Jonathan Merritt never said, “black people are right” or “black Christians know more about God’s heart so agree wholeheartedly.” He simply said, “listen.”

    I am a singer-songwriter and as a bonus to my ridiculously fun job, it’s my full time gig to travel the world and not only sing songs, but sing songs about Jesus. #awesome.

    With my job, I cannot step into it thinking I fully understand the culture in every venue or city that I play in. I primarily play concerts in areas that are predominately white, with people who have different life experiences than I do. Even though I’ve worn cowboy boots my whole life, was raised on Southern Gospel music and have more of a twang than some Georgians do those things make me Southern – not white. I have to listen to the hearts of those around me to fully understand the culture that my job takes me to every weekend.

    To be honest, this is my first time hearing about Jonathan Merritt but as a Christian, who happens to be black, I was so blessed by this post.

    All Jonathan Merritt is doing is asking that as Christians, we listen to the hearts of those whose lives are hit by these stories more than others. Much like the comment left by Larry Short, there are times we really won’t understand someone else’s perspective until we LISTEN. Even as a black female there are things I didn’t comprehend until I chose to listen to Trip Lee (quote above) and Lecrae (see his Facebook), both black males.


    Just. Listen.

    Thankful for the platform Jonathan Merritt has given these leaders, some of whom I have personally done ministry with. Encouraged by some of the responses. Unfortunately, some have left me broken as well.

    “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger…” James 1:19

  • Jonathan, I find it interesting that you chose not to respond to the verse in question, but instead deflected to “2,000” other verses on justice? Still, I’m happy to offer further explanation of why I chose Romans 13:1-5, but I suspect you will not bother to digest it. Additionally Jonathan, if I have missed judged your intentions please forgive me sir. Either way, here you go: 🙂

    Regarding the context in which the text was written: I want you to make sure you understand the times that this was written. We are living in a day in which we are breeding disrespect for authority by one thing or another. It may be through the media, but we are breeding in our young people disrespect for authority. That is tragic when it gets into the church, be­cause we have got to remember that we don’t live in times like they lived in during the times the Scriptures were written. Biblical times were very difficult. Jesus Christ was born into a society where political corruption and autocratic rule were common. Merciless and murderous tyrants were everywhere. As a matter of fact, human slavery was the norm of the day when Jesus walked on this earth. In some accounts, the historians say that in the Roman Empire they had three slaves for every free person.

    You remember the ruler, King Herod, who ruled most of Palestine, including Judea and Samaria, with horrible cruelty. Matthew 2:16 cites one account, when the Magi tricked him about the whereabouts of Jesus. It records in Matthew 2:16 that he became very enraged and with absolute callousness, sent and killed all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all of its bordering areas, from two years old and under. Now we don’t live in a day when that is happening in America. Yet we have a lot of people who disrespect authority.

    Taxes were outrageous. The governor approved overcharging and extortion by tax collectors, which placed a tremendous financial burden on the people. The Jews of that day were not much more than an underprivileged and oppressed minority. They had no voice in any level of government and they had little legal recourse for injustices. For 50 years they had been under Rome, enslaved to Rome. Before that was Greece, before that was Medo-Persia, before that was Babylon, before that was Assyria and before that was Egypt. They were always in bondage to somebody. But even though they outwardly submitted, you have got to see something. Inwardly, they always were rebellious towards any Gentile authority. Outwardly they might have submitted, but inwardly they did not have the heart to submit.

    This is clearly evident in John 8:31: “Jesus therefore was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’ They answered Him, ‘We are Abraham’s offspring, and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, “You shall become free?”’”

    What! Never been enslaved to anyone? I just listed how many nations had conquered them and put them in bondage. But you see, you have to understand something. The nature of flesh is to rebel against any authority. Understand that that is sin in you, in me, and in Israel. They submitted, yes, but really inwardly they never did.

    It’s like the little girl who was in the closet. The Mother put her in the closet and said, “You just go in there for a while. I can’t think of anything else to do with you. Sit down.” About three hours later, the Mother went back and checked on her, and she was sitting there in the chair in the closet. She had that look on her face. Her Mama said, “What are you doing?” She said, “Mama, I am sitting in this chair, but inside I am still standing up.” That is exactly the way Israel saw authority.

    I want to tell you something Jonathan. If that is your view of authority, then you need to go back to Romans 12:1 and get your heart right with God and let His Word renew your mind, because you are way off base in your Christian walk. That should never be your view of authority.

    Well, even in spite of all the heavy restrictions, Rome granted all kinds of freedoms to the Jewish people. For instance, they were free to maintain their priesthood and their temple and to support these institutions with their offerings. They were not required to worship Caesar. I thought that was interesting. Their Sabbath was safe-guarded by the Romans, along with their ceremonial and dietary laws, even their desire to rid themselves of any idol, especially images of Caesar. They were allowed to take images of Caesar out of their practice except on their coins where his head was imprinted on the coins. Now, many of the Christians at that time were considered by the Romans to be a sect of Judaism. So they were allowed the same freedoms.

    But the Jews in the midst of all this, to show how rebellious they were, rebelled against Roman authority. They formed a group called the Zealots and they re­fused to pay taxes and engaged in terrorist attacks against their rulers. They used Scripture to justify what they did. The verse they used was Deuteronomy 17:15, “You shall surely set a king over you whom the Lord your God chooses, one from among your country-men you shall set as king over yourselves; you may not put a foreigner over yourselves who is not your countryman.” Now, they took that and said any Gentile ruler is a sinful ruler and it is a sin to bow before him. Some of them became assassins, even to their own countrymen if their own countrymen would not side with them. They would kill them, saying that these countrymen had become traitors.

    Now this is the government and the situation during the times that this was written. It is very important that we understand that. The result of Israel’s rebel­lion against authority was horrible. In 70 A.D. a holocaust, only to be exceeded by the one under Hitler, occurred. 1,100,000 men, women and children, all Jews, were massacred mercilessly by the Romans who were getting them back for what they had done. You see, that possibly could have been completely pre­vented had they understood that authority is something God ordains.

    Obviously Israel is the picture of the vine of flesh in the Old Testament and we need to learn from them. My flesh does not want to submit, but the Spirit of God in me teaches me to submit to authority. This is a very delicate subject and I want us to really understand that it was written in times much worse than anything you think you are going through in America today. Yet in the midst of all of that, the words that we are going to study were written.

    The Lord Jesus was disappointing to the Jewish people, because He never made any call for political reform or social reform. As a matter of fact, He said quite the contrary in Matthew 22:21: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.” Can you imagine how they heard that? They didn’t want to render anything to Caesar. “We render everything to God.” He said, “No, sir. It is not that way.” Matthew 23:2 says, “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses.” These were wicked people. And Jesus said, “therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things, and do not do them.” In other words, do not do what they do, but do what they tell you to do. “But, Lord, they are wicked!” Do what they tell you to do. Don’t do as they do, but do what they tell you to do.

    Nowhere in the New Testament did Jesus ever advocate that His followers were to rebelliously change the form of government or even try to reform society. His purpose was clear. He did not seek to reform society from without, He sought to reform souls from within, to transform them from within.

    Now I want to tell you something, when I am surrendered to Him and His heart is in my heart, then His purpose becomes my purpose. I am not so much inter­ested in social reform as I am in people coming to know the Lord Jesus Christ and being changed from within. As a matter of fact, if you want social reform, that is the best way to go about it. Because when a person changes from within, obviously what he does from without is going to be entirely different. So the Lord Jesus was clear. He was clear to us. He was clear to them.

    The Apostle Paul was no stranger to suffering from pagan governments, to being treated unjustly. Five years he spent in prison on a false accusation, a political hostage. No stranger to any of that, he writes these words in Romans 13 concerning how we are to live in this world that is wicked and that many times has corrupt people in authority. We are to live in it, but yet we are not to be of it. It is very important that we hear what he has to say to us.

    In Romans 13, the first thing he says is, we are to submit to government. Verse 1 reads, “Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” Now that is a powerful verse. You see, the situation in Rome would be more intense than in other place because Rome was the capital of the Roman Empire. It would be in Rome that the tendency and the temptation for believers to become militant and rebel against the government would be more there than it would be anywhere else. So it is almost as if Paul is giving them a warning in his command to not rebel, to be submissive to government.

    Now look at the verse: “Let every person.” The word “every” is the word pas. It means each and every, and the whole when you put it together. Now what is he saying? It is not just for lost people, but it is also for Christians to be submissive to government. Christians do not have an out when it comes to government. We are to be just as submissive as anybody else. He says, “Let every person be in subjection.” The word “subjection” is hupotasso. It comes from huper, which means under, to be under something, and the word tasso, which means to or­derly arrange yourself under something. So orderly arrange yourself under the authority that God has established.

    The word “authority” there is the word exousia. It means right and might. I am to orderly arrange myself under the ones who have the right and the might over me. Now notice, it doesn’t say to orderly arrange yourself under the authorities who love Jesus and always do right. Don’t you wish it said that? Somehow we interpret it that way. You see, there are no exceptions given for a ruler’s incompe­tence. He may be immoral, he may be cruel, he may be godless, it doesn’t mat­ter. We are to subject ourselves under his authority.

    Then he goes on to explain, “For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” Now, there is no authority except from God. God appoints all authority. He says, “and those which exist are established by God.” The word “established” means that God appointed or arranged them the way He wanted to appoint them and arrange them. That is amazing to me. “Oh, come on, you know there are wicked people in authority. God wouldn’t put them there!” Oh? In the book of Daniel it says that God raises up kings and establishes kingdoms. He is the one who tears them down and He is the one who puts them in office.

    What Paul is saying to these believers in Rome, the capital city of the Roman Empire, is very similar to what the Apostle Peter said to the believers in Asia Minor back during the persecutions that came from a person by the name of Nero. Nero was the most deranged Roman emperor who ever was. He burned Rome and blamed the Christians for it. The Apostle Peter is going to be a martyr himself, but he is writing to them to encourage them. They have already become scattered because of this persecution. It says in 1 Peter 1:1, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,…”

    Now, Peter writes something to those who were scattered everywhere. The persecution was rampant. Asia Minor was another place under the control of Rome. What was going on in Rome now had spread over there, and Peter is writing to them. He is writing to people whose friends have been dipped in boiling oil, have been nailed to poles, have been set on fire and have been human torches while the Romans had their orgies around them. He is writing to people whose friends had animal skins put on them and animals came and ate them in the front of cheering crowds. I mean, this is a very, very difficult time. Folks, you think it is bad in America? Oh, come on, this is a piece of cake compared to what these people were going through.

    Listen to what he says to them in 1 Peter 2:13-17: “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bond slaves of God. Honor all men; love the broth­erhood, fear God, honor the king.”

    You may say, “Well, they didn’t understand what I am going through.” Are you kidding? This is one of the worst times ever in Christian history of persecution. Peter says in the midst of it, “I don’t care if they are pagan. I don’t care if they are immoral, you be model citizens regardless of how they live.” As Peter said in 1 Peter 3:17, “For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.”

    When will we ever learn! Somehow we have taken government in and tried to wrap Christianity around the government. We have come up with this idea that we are going to reform the world with our thinking. Nowhere in Scripture are we told to do that. We are told to honor Him and seek out the lost and to allow His Holy Spirit to use us, not to change people from without, but to change people from within. That is the heart of God. It has always been the heart of God.

    Somehow we have tried to wrap Christianity around government. Be real careful! That is not what God is all about. Now thank God for those great and wonderful politicians in our culture who are Christians. I mean, we have godly people within the law of our society. We have a culture in which we can put people in positions where they can bring about change. Thank God for that. They didn’t have that back when Paul was writing this. But these men are doing what they are doing under the law, to see that laws can be changed and change can come about in our society.

    But nowhere in Scripture is it ever allowed for me to become militant to any form of government in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I don’t care where I live. God does not allow that kind of attitude. As a matter of fact, you know what He tells me to do with government, besides obey them? He tells me to pray for them. Do you have the government authorities on your heart when you pray? Isn’t it great to go some place and just sit around and gossip about what you think about this person and that person? All of us do it. Then God whispers through 1 Timothy and says, “Pray for them.”

    As a matter of fact, I want you to see what God commands us. Now this is not an option. This is something every one of us is responsible to do. The next time you want to criticize a politician, the next time you want to criticize somebody in government authority, be real careful. Don’t open your mouth if you haven’t prayed for them because God says that if you are surrendered to Him, He is going to change your mind towards them and He is going to quicken within you the desire and the energy to pray for them. First Timothy 2:1 says, “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.”

    Look over in Titus 3:1-2. Titus is on the island of Crete and he is appointing elders in the churches and says, “Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authori­ties, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be uncontentious, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.” You see, we are to live a quiet, respectable life with integrity.

    Go over to 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12. I am breaking in the middle of a sen­tence: “and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business [quit worrying about everybody else] and work with your hands, just as we commanded you; so that you may behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need.”

    Somebody is going to say, “Well, wait a minute. If we are to obey authority, doesn’t it matter if they are pagan? Aren’t there exceptions in Scripture?” Yes, there are. But we are not talking about the exceptions. We are talking about the rule.

    There are exceptions. Any time a government authority tells me to do some­thing, orders me to do something, that God’s Word will not allow me to do, I am automatically exempt. With respect I am to say, “I will not obey you for you have asked me to do something that my God will not allow me. I must take whatever punishment I need to take, but I do it in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” You do it with integrity, not with militant rebellion. You do it with total submission, remembering that God has told you something else. And you take whatever comes to you as the result of it.

    You ask, “Where is that in Scripture?” Well, how about in Daniel? The book of Daniel is probably one of the greatest books in Scripture that talks about author­ity and how to handle authority. That is when Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian empire came and took over Israel. Of course, they took the young men out first. There were three sieges on the city. The first one was when Daniel was taken out.

    As soon as he got over there, the king said, “You guys are strong, good-looking guys, obviously educated. I want to feed you to the fullest so that you can be as fit as you possibly can be.” The diet he prescribed went against the Mosaic Law as to what they could or could not eat. They were in a dilemma. Daniel did not walk in and say, “Hey, big boy, who do you think you are?” No, the scripture says he sought permission even to speak to the king.

    Nebuchadnezzar liked Daniel. You can’t study the book of Daniel and not see that. He liked him. I tell you what he liked about him. He liked his attitude. He liked his heart, his integrity. Daniel went in, and God had given him a creative alternative. He said, “Nebuchadnezzar, I’ll tell you what. You have asked me to do something that my God will not allow me to do, but if you will just give it a test. Let’s go for about six weeks and let us eat what He tells us to eat instead of what you have said to eat and if we are not more fit in six weeks, then we will do the other.” So the king agreed. Sure enough, God honored it. Boy, in six weeks they were ready. The king changed his mind, you see. There was an exception there.

    We find other exceptions in the book of Daniel. In Chapter 3 we find the king saying, “Listen, I want you to bow down to this statue I have made of myself.” Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came forward and said, “King, we can’t do that. We cannot do that.” He said, “Okay, we will throw you in a fiery furnace.” They threw them in the fiery furnace. Did God honor it? God honored it and God got in the furnace with them. Their hair wasn’t even singed and they didn’t even have the smell of smoke on them. The only thing that burned was the things that bound them. So, therefore, you see again that there was an exception.

    We see in Daniel 6, Daniel in the lion’s den. Darius foolishly made a rule, not realizing what it was going to do to Daniel because he was close to Daniel. He made a law and said, “You cannot worship any other God except me. I am God.” Well, Daniel couldn’t abide by that. Daniel had been very faithful. Daniel prayed in the morning, prayed at noon, and prayed at night. Of course, they found out about it and put him in the lion’s den. He had to because he made the law, and the law was sovereign. So they put him in the lion’s den. Did God honor it? Oh, yeah, He just shut the lions’ mouths and put them to sleep. Boy, that did a work on Darius, too, when God brought him out.

    Yes, there are exceptions. But you see, a lot of people build their theology off the exceptions. You don’t build your theology off the exceptions. You build your theology off the rule and the rule is, you submit to authority. Period. It doesn’t matter who they are. It doesn’t matter whether they are like you or do the things you do. You submit. You pray for them. You live quiet lives with integrity.

    Now, Paul has a second word for those who tend to not like this and tend to resist authority. What about those who would resist this and say, “Oh, you are off the wall. That was written a long time ago. That doesn’t apply to today.” Well, Paul has a word for you and it is found in verse 2: “Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.” Now, if you want a lot of pain and sorrow from people who are in positions of government or leadership, policemen or whatever, then you just decide that you are going to rebel against the laws that they are there to uphold.

    First of all, you need to realize that if you disobey authority—now listen to me very carefully—if you choose to rebel against authority, you have chosen to rebel against God. Do you understand that? Do I understand that? When I choose not to do what authority, what law tells me to do, civil law, I have chosen to rebel against God. The word “resist” comes from two words, anti, against, and tasso, which means to ordain, set. It is the same idea of disobeying, when I stand and I say, “No, sir, I will not do what you tell me to do.”

    The word “oppose” is anthistemi, which means to stand against. It has the same meaning as the word for “resist.” You have just looked at God and said, “God, I will not present my body to You. I will not let you renew my mind. I will not let you change my character. I won’t do what you tell me to do.” That is exactly what you have just said. You have taught everybody that you do not love God and you are not a person who seeks to walk after God by that attitude.

    The word “ordinance” is the word diatage. He says, “You have opposed the ordinance of God.” I know sometimes these words don’t mean anything to you. It comes from the verb diatasso. The word dia means through or thorough, when you do something thoroughly. The word tasso means to arrange something very carefully, thought through, you put it there. Okay? When someone determines the proper arrangement of things or situations, then he orders or commands that such arrangements be executed.

    The word “ordinance” is more than a mere command. God didn’t just say, “I think I will just make them feel bad. I will put this command on them.” No, He carefully thought it through. It is very purposeful and it is absolutely thorough in His redemptive purpose to mankind to give us the command that we must obey authority. For me to reject the authority is to reject Him, to reject His purpose, to reject His thinking. To reject His intent in my life is to take the law into my own hands and to prove myself rebellious. As a matter of fact, if you are rebelling against some law, some authority, then Romans 12:1-2 does not have anything in your heart. It has no place in your life. You have chosen not to walk and be surrendered to God. If you are illegally doing anything, stealing from the govern­ment, whatever you are doing that is against the law, you have made a choice, “I will not walk with you, God. I will do my own thing.” That shows that you are not presented, your mind is not renewed and your life is not transformed. This is a powerful principle here.

    Then Paul goes on to say, “and they who have opposed will receive condem­nation upon themselves.” The word “condemnation” is krima. The ma on the end of that word means the result of something. The result of a judgment; in other words, the punishment. What he is saying is, it is not punishment from God, you are going to get punishment from the people who are upholding the law that He has put them there to uphold. They are going to cause you a lot of pain.

    When you break the law, what have you just done? You have invoked the penalty and punishment that goes along with that law down on yourself. That is the condemnation that he is talking about. You are not going to be condemned by God in that sense. You are going to have a lot of pain because you have broken the law that God has set up Himself.

    Then Paul explains in verse 3, “For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil.” Now let me ask you a question. When you ride by a State Trooper with a radar gun, what is your first reaction? You immediately hit your brake to slow down. You do it quickly and fearfully because you just saw that State Trooper. If you are fearing authority, what does that mean? It means that you are not doing what authority has told you to do. Paul says that authority is not to be feared by those who do good.

    You don’t fear the law if you are doing what is good. People live in fear of authority. Why would you live in fear of authority? If you are seeking to obey God, you are going to obey authority, which removes the fear. That is what Paul is talking about here. He says, “For rulers are not a cause of fear.” Then he says in the rest of the verse, “Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.”

    Anytime you find somebody afraid of authority, look out, there is something wrong somewhere. What does it talk about over in Psalms? “The evil flee when no one pursues.” It is something that you have inside of you when you are not responding and respecting authority. Paul says, “Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.”

    Only in notable exceptions have believers had difficulty with authority when they chose to obey God and live in submission to Him. Yes, there have been exceptions but this is the rule. The one administering the law is in effect a minis­ter of God to you for good. Look at verse 4: “for it is a minister of God to you for good.” The word “it” should be translated “she” or “he.” It fits the context much better to translate it “he.” It doesn’t change a thing and I think it is a much better translation: “for he is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword for nothing; for he is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil.” In other words, he becomes an actual servant of God to keep the peace down here on this earth.

    Paul goes on in verse 4 and says, “But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword for nothing; for he is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil.” The word “avenger” there is the word ekdikos, one who executes that which is right. He brings wrath, orge, which is the word here that means punishment. Now all Paul is saying is, “Guys, guys, settle down. If God appointed the authority, then God is in charge of it. Now if you are going to obey God, be submissive to the authority. Live lives of integrity. Let your witness be the fact that you are willing to submit to them. Treat them with respect. Treat them with honor.”

    This message somehow needs to get to the hearts and lives of young people today who say they love God but have absolutely no respect for people in posi­tions of authority whether it be civil authority or family authority. This is talking about civil authority, no respect for it whatsoever. It automatically shows you that you are really not surrendered to Christ and you are not living a life that He is pleased with because if you were, then you would love His commandments and do whatever He tells you to do. His Spirit would enable you to do as God leads.

    In verse 5 Paul adds something very, very important. He says, “Wherefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience sake.” Do you know what he is saying? He is saying, “Listen, don’t go out of here obeying the law because you are afraid of what they might do to you. No, anybody can do that.”

    He said, “for conscience sake.” “Conscience” means the inner witness that God puts within you that determines the motive of what you do. In other words, on the outside you can obey the law, but you are doing it like Israel did it. You are standing up on the inside while you are sitting down on the outside. But what he is saying is, because you so love God and respect Him, your whole purpose is to honor Him by submitting to these authorities. It is such a beautiful, beautiful picture.

    What is your view of authority? What is your view of somebody who has a badge on? You know, when a person has a position like that, you better remem­ber that if you respect God, you need to respect them. Some of the meanest letters I have ever received have come from people who in the name of Chris­tianity did certain things that were totally an embarrassment to the Christian community and their integrity. They would go against the law and want me to join in with them. I wouldn’t do it, even though I believed exactly the way they be­lieved, because I respect something of the Word of God and the Word of God tells me to properly and orderly arrange myself up under the authorities God Himself has placed over me.

    Let me tell you what a witness this does and how God uses it in your life. Over in Romania there was a church that wanted to build another church. They had a bad place to meet in. It was falling apart. They wanted to build themselves an auditorium. So they got all their people together and raised as much money as they could and started building that little church.

    Well, the mayor of that town came to them and said, “Folks, you are going to have to shut the project down.” The preacher said, “Why? I thought we were doing what was lawful.” He said, “No, you don’t understand. You have to have permission to build this from Bucharest and you don’t have that.” The preacher said, “Oh, no. I didn’t realize that. I apologize. I am sorry.” So they backed off the project. They didn’t rebelliously build it anyway. They got together and prayed and God gave them wisdom.

    He went back to the mayor and said, “Since we can’t build our church, we have a lot of good people here who are hard workers. What projects are you doing in the area that we could come and work for nothing to help you out?” The mayor said, “Are you kidding me?” He said, “No, sir. We respect you.” He said, “Well, I have got this and this and this.” They went out and began to work.

    About six months later the mayor came back to him with tears in his eyes and he said, “I have never seen the kind of work ethic your people have had in help­ing us. Our people do not have this. Where do you get this?” The pastor was able to say, “Well, that is the Lord who lives inside these people. They are not like people who don’t know the Lord Jesus Christ.”

    The man said, “Because of what you people are and the way you live I am going to personally give you permission to build your church.” The whole thing happened as a result of people’s testimonies under pagan, godless authority believing that God said it. Because they loved God, they would submit to that authority.

    Something has got to happen to America, folks, and especially to Christians to get us back to this understanding. We need to realize God said it, it is very pur­poseful and if I love Him and His purpose, then I will love His commandments and will do what He tells me to do. What is your attitude towards authority?

  • If only the people who tried and convicted the police before the factS we’re out and then refuse to accept them listened to James 1:19

  • I find myself wondering how many of those criticizing this article actually took the time to read (listen and sift) all the comments of those brothers and sisters in Christ Mr. Merritt interviewed? Did their perspectives mean anything to you? Scripture says, “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.”

  • I gave him a story–there are many–which contradict the statement.

    There are 308 million people in this country. There is no end to the ‘stories’ you can gin up. Prudent living is not derived from giving weight to every conceivable scenario, but by taking account of the regularities of life and planning accordingly.

    Here’s a story:

    You really would not want people to arrange their daily business as if this sort of thing was quotidienne, would you?

    You would not if you were smart. In a typical metropolitan region (Omaha is an example), there might be one non-justiciable homicide a year on average. It is not that common to have dubious cases like the one under discussion.

  • He simply said, “listen.”

    OK, I’m listening. What of value is being said? J. Merritt has offered opinions in this forum which are flagrantly silly. How long are we obligated to listen to that?

  • Would you say you suffer from irrational risk assessment if you worry about your daughter when she has to leave work late at night and go into a dark parking lot?

    It is a skill to be able to listen to another person and accept that they are telling the truth. Saying they are ‘irrational’ with so little evidence to back it up may mean you are part of the problem.

  • Do you know there are phrases you hear in minority communities, which speak a truth with grim humor?

    Do you know that people are pulled over for ‘driving while black’ or DWB?

    Do you know that people are challenged or frisked for ‘walking while black’?

  • There you go making up statistics again. Show me the study or quit using numbers. It is an attempt at seeming authoritative but is really just exposing ignorance.

  • Your statistic of 99.9 is not reality in minority communities. Minority citizens are stopped more often, arrested for lesser offenses, treated less respectfully. That is what you will hear when you hear the heart of a minority person.

    If you have experienced that 99.9 percent of the time you are treated fairly if you cooperate, that is wonderful. That is not the experience for black citizens, even if they are a pastor, business owner or college professor.

  • “died from compression of the neck, the medical examiner said Friday.” Not “and”…. just “of the neck”. But all this doesn’t matter. A man lost his life that didn’t need to.

  • These are highly sensationalized situations. The media has used them to create the perception that they are everyday occurrences. The statistics tell the true story. Do your homework. These issues are isolated. They are tragic and should be dealt with accordingly but they are not daily problems. Most police officers are honorable public servants. This nation has 300+ million residents. One, two or three of these issues a year does not mean there is a rampant problem. You have a better chance of winning the lottery than you do of being abused by a police officer. Keep it in context. Yes, let justice prevail in these cases but don’t make them out to be a national chronic problem. The facts speak for themselves.

  • Would you say you suffer from irrational risk assessment if you worry about your daughter when she has to leave work late at night and go into a dark parking lot?

    There are hundreds of thousands of robberies and sexual assaults every year in this country and 16,000 homicides. The number of non-justiciable homicides by police officers is between 260 and 400 depending on which source you consult. Not all of them are young blacks, not all of them are dubious, and the share of victims just minding their own business is indubitably small. There are elephants in her drawing room and she’s worried about cockroaches under the radiator.

  • Sam, you have 1,000,000 people employed in law enforcement in this country. I think roughly 600,000 are uniformed police. They work 240 days a year and have encounters with scores of people every day. The number of people shot dead by cops each year is in the low three digits. The number of cases you can make a stink about is likely in the two digits.

    You’ve just had a great public hoo-ha over one such case and now that the evidence is on the table, combox blowhards whose knowledge of law enforcement practice is nil are reduced to making a claim that some other hypothetical cop would have subdued Michael Brown, Jr without blood because they cannot argue that Ofc. Wilson’s conduct was not within the law. You’d think your kind could at least gin up a case that does not fall apart on inspection of lethal police abuse was all that common.

  • Frank and Art Deco – I understand your response, because for many years I felt the same way. But can I humbly suggest that you take time to listen – really listen. Whether you agree with Jonathan or not, he has put the words of 10 Godly men and women in front of us. Each of these people is mourning and grieving. If you were sitting in front of these men and women as they poured out their hearts, would you really respond with, “There’s no problem here – get over it”. Whether you agree that the system is broken or not, there are a lot of Jesus followers who believe it is. And as part of the community of Christians, it’s our job to listen, support, encourage, learn – and then hopefully become a part of the solution.

  • I have listened for quite some time. My official position is disagreement. I disagree that race was a factor in these situations. If anyone can offer solid evidence to the contrary (aside from assuming you know what was in someone’s head), please go right ahead and do so. Frankly, I haven’t seen or heard any to date.

    Let’s look at these situations rationally and objectively. Police are going to interact with the public, regardless of color. If a person acts in an agitated manner or presents a risk to an officer’s safety, the cop will be reactive. I’m not a cop, but I would imagine they are defensive to stay alive. It seems clear to me that many of these police interactions in the media show poor training (at best) and dangerous handling of situations. But again, please offer tangible proof that race was a factor.

    It is unfortunate that many people can only see racial differences, and thus make any injustice one of racial iniquity. That doesn’t make it true.

  • Where to begin…….

    Our country and its people need to embrace true racial equality.

    That means those who are white must be able to look a black person in the eye and say, if only to themselves, “You are my equal and I will treat you as such.”

    During the days of the civil rights movement, the most lethal white opponents of racial equality were Jim Crow segregationists. They believed black people were inferior and exploited them for it.

    Today, the old racism lingers, but there is a new racism that is more insidious but equally real. Some of the most lethal white opponents of racial equality are radical leftists and many of their liberal allies. They, too, believe black people are inferior. That is why they refuse to treat black people as adults by holding them accountable to the same standard of behavior as white adults. It is demeaning and degrading to black Americans when whites seek to make excuses or turn the other way when a black person engages in behavior that the same white person would never tolerate with his or her family members.

    Let’s think this through. If bad behavior is intolerable for members of our own family, why is the same bad behavior not intolerable for members of someone else’s family? Are we not racists if we say that if the other family is black, it’s not the same thing? Is it not racist to set up two standards of behavior, one for white people and the other for people of color? Are we not saying that people of color are inferior to us when we buy into two separate and decidedly unequal standards?

    We must make a choice. Either we believe or we don’t believe in the equality of all people, regardless of race. Either we believe or we don’t believe that there is one and only one set of rights, and one and only one standard of behavior, for all people, black and white. Either we believe or we don’t believe that our black fellow citizens are just as smart, just as capable, just as worthy, and just as responsible as we are.

    If we do, it’s time to start acting that way.

  • It is high time that people on all sides listen to each other.

    White leftists, for example, need to listen to black moderates and conservatives. Some of the worst racism I have seen and heard comes from the mouths of white leftists who hurl vicious insults at black voices that dissent from what white leftists think is acceptable black opinion.

    There is no group of people that is immune from hatred and bigotry against “the other,” and if we are serious about fighting all forms of this, we must all transcend our biases, political and otherwise.

  • David, if someone’s fears are not based on an accurate assessment of risk, there is nothing wrong with noting this. It would be wrong only if we showed no compassion or empathy for it.

    Perfect example: Many people, especially since 9/11, have had a heightened fear of flying in planes, and would rather drive in cars instead.

    Is their fear understandable? Of course it is.

    But is it an accurate risk assessment? If we focus on actual statistics, no it is not. Even if terrorists blew one passenger plane per week out of the American skies, people would still be far more likely to die in a car than on a plane.

  • Jonathan is correct in one sense and negligent in another sense.

    He is correct that blacks are more likely to be stopped and hassled than whites. One of my friends, a well-dressed, well-educated black gentleman who went to the same school (an Ivy) as I did and has advanced degrees which I don’t have, was harassed by the police one night during the time he was a public official. Obviously they didn’t know who he was at first.

    He could have gone public with it but didn’t. And he never told me about it until years later. I trust his word completely.

    So I do believe that innocent black Americans are more likely than innocent white Americans to encounter problems with the police. If my friend can harassed, nobody’s immune to it.

    Jonathan is correct about that.

    Unfortunately, though, Jonathan’s article fails to make a critical distinction between acknowledging this and saying that blacks have to fear for their lives and safety when dealing with law enforcement.

    Statistically, the chances of a black (or a white) person being killed or maimed by a cop are extraordinarily small.

    It is crucial that we make a distinction, therefore, between two different types of risks — the risk of being stopped by a cop when innocent and the risk of being harmed by a cop.

    To fail to make that distinction, especially in a world where cynical race hustlers like Al Sharpton are spouting terrible lies about a non-existent epidemic of mass killings of black people by the police, is to tell only half the truth.

  • What troubles me is the disproportionate focus on a problem that, while all too real, pales in comparison to the biggest problems faced by black Americans in poor urban neighborhoods.

    Most black Americans in inner cities have far more to fear from criminals than from cops.

    It is dismaying that there are no articles on this web site that deal frankly with this problem and question.

    I would like to see articles published here from black Christians like Ben Carson and JC Watts who address both the racism question AND this question.

  • Meet me half way and give me something to listen to which does not consist of either attitudinizing or pap.

    By the way, I’m not your therapist, or your pastor, or your mother. (Or anyone else’s, for that matter).

  • The compression lasted all of 14 seconds.

    He was subject to a fairly unremarkable tackle by police officers. He suffered from asthma, diabetes, and morbid obesity and his system responded very differently than would an ordinary 43 year old man’s.

  • Looking at the comments above by some of those who claim to be christian makes me very glad I’m not, and that I don’t get my morals from your book.
    I wonder, if your jesus came back to L.A. today and got beat down by the police for just being black, which if he even existed, more than likely was, would you still not understand? For some, I doubt it.

  • I’m deeply sorry that Jesus has been misrepresented to you. Though my life is far from perfect, He brings me joy and peace and I pray you’ll experience that through Him:) Have a lovely December!

  • Earold, if Jesus came back to LA today as a black man, preached that people should love their enemies, and then was called racist, bigoted, degrading names, including the “n” word, by white leftists, would YOU still not understand?

  • Will someone — Jonathan, perhaps — kindly explain why we don’t hear on this web site from black Christians who are moderate-to-liberal, moderate, or conservative, and who passionately believe that the key to black progress is for white people to treat black people as true equals by endorsing equal responsibilities as well as equal rights?

    Why treat them as though they are invisible?

  • Absolutely – would you like to talk statistics? How about these – in 2013, New York City police made 191,558 stop-and-frisk interrogations. Of those, 89% of people stopped were completely innocent. 56% of those stops (104,958) were African Americans (who make up 25% of the NYC population). 29% of the stops were white people (who make up 45% of the NYC population). Innocent African Americans are 3.5 times more likely to be stopped and frisked/investigated than an innocent white person.

    The African American (particularly men) that I know are good people who get really tired of being pulled over by police officers, tired of being looked at by store owners who think they are going to rob them, and tired of society being suspicious of them. While it’s easy to say that people should just cooperate if they have nothing to hide, when people are continually suspicious of them for no good reason, it gets really hard to turn the other cheek every single time.

    I don’t know the specifics of the Eric Garner case, but from what I can see, he was cooperating with the police. There was no reason for the use of force. And I don’t blame the African American community for getting angry and protesting – how do they know that they won’t be next?

    Here’s the deal. Most police officers are good people. But there is a system of built in suspicion and prejudice that takes a toll on both sides – and sometimes things go horribly wrong. And when they do, we need to listen to the voices that are telling us that there is something broken.

    I look forward to hearing your thoughts. I don’t need a counselor or a mom – I just want people who are in a position of power (even if we don’t realize that we are in a position of power) to acknowledge that changes should be made.

  • I think you’re partially right. I think some of the systems of ‘charities’ and of welfare in our country can be demeaning and dehumanizing. And no one is trying to excuse bad behavior or let people get off the hook.

    I understand the things that you are saying. Our family adopted a little girl who is black, and one of my greatest fears is that her teachers in school will not push her or challenge her to the same extent that they might challenge another student, simply because of her skin color. She is bright, talented, creative, and I want her to grow into the woman that God created her to be.

    But that’s not what this is about. The voices that Jonathan posted in this story are not talking about those things. They are talking about how our society, in many subtle and not-subtle ways, demeans certain groups of people, is suspicious of them, and occasionally kills them for no reason.

  • Curtis – there is no way every governmental action is sanctioned by God simply because it is government. I’m not being anti-authority, police or government, however, eventhough civil authorities are legitimate rulers – they have limitations, and they can be wrong, mistaken and even malicious.

    If we’re quoting Scripture, Jesus says to render unto Caesar the things that are Ceasar’s, and to God the things that are God’s – and he holds up a coin bearing Ceasar’s image indicating the relationship of the mundane and temporal to government. But what bears God’s image belongs to God – and that’s us, people.

    What we have seen around America sadly, is authority mistreating what is God’s – and no earthly authority should trifle with what God loves, redeems and calls to be his family. As the body of Christ we need to stand up for all people, and call people to account – starting with those of the household of the faith. As we are the light of Christ, we can expect others will come into the light as we show it in our lives, families and communities, livingin His light, truth, love and justice.

  • So you have absolutely no space in your worldview for principled resistance to unjust laws? Or abuse of authority by police officers? Innnnteresting. *nods*

  • Great work, thank you. It’s always the comment section that confirms the truth of the statements written in the article. God have mercy on us all.

  • Why is it that none of these pastors are addressing an even worse issue, black on black crime? If they want to minimize deaths of young black people, as they should, start where the problem is truly located: according to the FBI database, 2,245 black people were killed by other black people in 2013. More than 5 times as many than were killed by police officers (which was ~400). How many of those 400 killed by the police had just killed another black person? No way to know. How many of those police officers were black or another race than white? Say Hispanic? No way to know.

    Ignoring the worse problem to highlight something else, should be called what it is, race baiting. People are trying to make these cases about race. No evidence exists which shows either was because of race, unless you assume you know the motive of the officer.

    How come none of the quotes addressed that Brown was a criminal? Or that three black witnesses corroborated the testimony of officer Wilson?

  • Wait a second, Steve. While the video of Garner was disturbing because Garner was not violent or menacing, unlike Michael Brown in Ferguson, it is inaccurate to say that Garner was cooperating with the police. Watch the video…..he was not cooperating at all. That’s how the tragedy began.

  • Steve, I think it’s commendable that you have opted for adoption and trust that your adopted daughter will be real blessing to you as you will be to her.

    All I’m saying is that the article we’re commenting on is leading us away from the really tough issues that need to be confronting. Jonathan Merritt has taken the easy way out and that is a disservice to readers and ultimately to black America.

    I wouldn’t mind talking about racial profiling and its problems if the context were an honest discussion of why it takes place to begin with and why it is a problem that is dwarfed by black-on-black crime and by white radical opposition to racial equality.

    As I mentioned in a prior post, a good friend of mine was racially profiled for absolutely no good reason, but even he has said problems of irresponsibility and the left feeding it by believing in black inferiority are far more serious problems.

  • Jack, I am not a believer because no credible evidence exists. If your messiah beamed down, up, or whatever from the place he supposedly is, raised the dead, healed the sick, fed the hungry, and all acts were verified as credible, and I saw these with my own eyes, I would fall to my knees weeping like a young girl, begging that he forgive me. And you know what? If he truly is a just god as christians say he is, he would. He would forgive everyone. Then Jack my brother, you and I could spend an eternity together. Gives you that warm and fuzzy feeling, huh?
    By the way Karla and you would have to share some space as well;-)

  • While I knew racism was far from over, I didn’t know anything about the dangers of subtle racism until my African-American foster son came into my life. I watched as adults around us reacted to him differently than my Caucasian sons. I felt confused when people around me expressed concern or seemed upset by behavior that to me seemed normal for a boy his age. I thought about Treyvon Martin and felt terrified that my foster son would be viewed with the same suspicion and fear that led to his murder.

  • Do you understand that many used that same verse to justify ignoring the atrocities of the Third Reich under Hitler? This verse does not mean that ignore the injustices of our leaders or overlook their wrongdoings.

  • Of those, 89% of people stopped were completely innocent.

    So what? The vast majority of people who walk through metal detectors at airports are not carrying weapons. Take away the metal detectors, and you get hijackings, which is why they were installed to begin with.

    Stop-and-frisk is a minor intrusion and has been integral to the success the New York City police has had in re-establishing public order in New York, which has crime rates below national means. If you have a better selection and screening system than the one currently used by police officers in New York, let’s hear it.

    56% of those stops (104,958) were African Americans (who make up 25% of the NYC population). 29% of the stops were white people (who make up 45% of the NYC population). Innocent African Americans are 3.5 times more likely to be stopped and frisked/investigated than an innocent white person.

    Heather MacDonald has been busy debunking the contention that the criteria used by police officers in New York are unfair. That aside, optimal deployment of resources consists of concentrating your marginal increment of effort where it will have the maximum impact toward maintaining public order. As is, the fundamental problems and dispositions of subpopulations differs at this time and, one expects, for a long time in the future. That may upset you, but it remains true. Why do you have concentrated deployments in black neighborhoods? Because that’s where the hoodlums are, and, in particular, the most intractable and promiscuous hoodlums.

    Pre-de Blasio, the New York City police managed to bring down the homicide rate in Harlem and East Harlem to where it was no higher than it is in Utica and one-quarter of what it is in central Rochester. Supervisors trained in the New York City police managed to do the same in East Orange, NJ, a town that 85% black. They did not do it by subscribing to shizzy social fictions but by understanding the society in which they worked and how to monitor it. People who’ve had real accomplishment in the realm of improving the quality of life for slum residents are having their work second-guessed by pretentious bourgeois fools. It’s obscene.

  • Because anyone of an orthodox disposition is invisible on “Religion News Service”, except when they’re caricatured by the staff columnists.

  • Jonathan Merritt has taken the easy way out and that is a disservice to readers and ultimately to black America. –

    It takes no more effort at the keyboard to write what is true than to write nonsense. Same keyboard, same fingers. The only thing which makes writing social fiction easier is that that’s what your employer is promoting and that’s what’s prevalent in your circle of friends. Jonathan Merritt’s problem is not indolence. It’s cranial-rectal inversion.

  • I thought about Treyvon Martin and felt terrified that my foster son would be viewed with the same suspicion and fear that led to his murder.

    Trayvon Martin walked up to the local neighborhood watch captain, punched him in the face, wrestled him to the ground, and bashed his head repeatedly on the concrete. Said neighborhood watch captain, pinned to the ground with Martin on top of him, was able to pull out a pistol and shoot his assailant. How does that constitute a ‘murder’?

  • Because the bulk of discussion of social policy in this country is a stew of socially-sanctioned aggression, evasion drills, rent-seekers and tradesman talking book, and exercises in self-congratulation. It has nothing to do with addressing social problems.

  • Why is it white pastors aren’t addressing the epidemic of white-on-white crime? According to the FBI database, 83% of white homicide victims in 2011 were killed by white assailants. Ignoring this problem in order to focus on black-on-black crime should be called what it is: race baiting.

    While the cases in question may not be directly about race, it is impossible to separate race from the equation because of the statistics showing that blacks are many times more likely to be arrested or killed by police when compared to whites who perpetrate similar or worse offenses. Add to this the legacy of racial & class disparities in this country and you have a cultural cocktail in which race is still a significant factor, and promises to be for some time to come.

    You say Brown was a criminal as if this excuses his killing. Let’s agree on that for the sake of argument. Do you feel that all alleged criminals should be treated this way (i.e., shot & killed), or do you think police should use proportionate force so the justice system – as flawed as it is – can be allowed to operate?

  • of the statistics showing that blacks are many times more likely to be arrested or killed by police when compared to whites who perpetrate similar or worse offenses.

    Nope. Imprisonment rates for subpopulations are similar to the balance of eyewitness accounts re the race of perpetrators (as revealed in victimization surveys).

  • Frank,

    I think the entire point of the article is that we need to listen. There are millions telling us there is s problem. Now you, even though you have not had the same life experience, want to disregard their perspective. Even if you feel that you get to decide how other people that have very different experiences than you “should” feel about a situation, and even if you think every single black person who speaks out about this is just being “irrational”, the first step to solving the problem is for people to listen – and to validate the hurt and pain that people of color, especially black people, feel. If you want your voice and opinion to be heard, starting off by being dismissive of someone else’s experience is not the right way to start. I have yet find a black man who has not experienced abuse by the police, and when they tell you what their experience is, listen. It’s not just about Michael Brown or Eric Garner. People are screaming because of their own experience. An experience that doesn’t just simply go away when you flippantly dismiss it

  • I listened. What I didn’t hear except in a couple cases, was acknowledgment of the reality that the problem is in the black community itself. It’s a self inflicted wound.

  • I would listen to their grief, anger and frustration but as soon as they start playing the lame game instead of seeing reality I would speak out.

  • Four cops are required to confront and bodily take down a guy suspected of selling loose cigarettes in a police state or an Orwellian dystopia, but not in a nation where constitutional rights about search and seizure and due process exist.

    Nothing about this police-state nightmare resonates as suspicious to you? Nothing about four officers of the state, armed to the teeth, bodily subduing an unarmed man and then failing to assist or revive him AS THEY HAVE BEEN TRAINED TO DO, strikes you as a disgusting misuse of government power? All righty then.

  • That’s not a law first of all. And as we see from the video he resisted arrest and was a very large man. Several people were required.

    Obey the law and listen to the police and you I’ll have no problem with the police.

  • Four cops are required to confront and bodily take down a guy suspected of selling loose cigarettes in a police state or an Orwellian dystopia, but not in a nation where constitutional rights about search and seizure and due process exist.

    Four cops were required because he weighed 300# and was resisting arrest. There is no police state, dystopia or nightmare but in your addled head.

  • I don’t understand what you’re saying here, so I’ll ask you to clarify. What do eyewitness accounts have to do with the rate of incarceration for a given subpopulation?

  • Of course, the Bible DOES make clear that Jesus never ***resisted arrest*** when they came to arrest Him.

    Now, do you want to continue trying to invoke Jesus for your argument?

  • Only if they punch out the cop and reach for his gun. If that happens, a lethal force situation IS created and there’s no use complaining.. White cops, Black cops, ANY policeman or policewoman has the right to shoot and kill the crook if that happens.

    Eric Garner did NOT attack the cop and reach for his gun — that’s why his case does raise the issues mentioned the black clergy that Merritt listed.

    But that strongarm robber Michael Brown, full of weed and anger, DID do that mess — so Brown caused his own death. Not Officer Wilson’s fault at all. The Ferguson Protesters are flat-out wrong; they better put their hands down right now and give Wilson and that Asian store clerk an apology.

  • Actually, that’s a pretty good question Jack. Specifically, I notice that black conservatives aren’t even part of RNS’s “diverse” lineup of writers, and their views were not represented, didn’t even show up on RNS’s radar, during the Ferguson controversy.

    So yes, you raise a point there. To borrow your term, it’s as if black conservatives are “INVISIBLE” to Religion News Service. They just don’t exist.

    So, I might as well toss in a link to a black conservative, a syndicated columnist named Star Parker, (who is an interesting and commonsense journalist), regarding Ferguson:

  • Sorry Jonathan the principle in the majority of cases “if you obey the law and listen to the police overwhelminly you will not end up dead. Making light of those facts is sad. Do things happen that are unjust? Yes we still I’ve in a sinful world where injustice and inequities exist. I have a black son and he will encounter these prejudices but my advice for him is not to act out but to teach people who he is. We all have that story or example we can promote and seek justice, but when criminal behavior exists like in Ferguson we need not make martyrs and ignore facts it cheapens the true injustice that does happens. I

    law enforcement meds to be accountable, I would also like to see the black ministers address the real fear in the black community and it is not police killing them but others from with in their own community, too many times we want to address the most press friendly events but lose sight the causes and orgins and place blame somewhere else.

    Jonathan, I hope you will have the courage to bring to the plight and issues that put this community in peril and not just join in the sensationalism we all to often see.

  • Don’t feed the trolls, Jonathan. These voices that you are sharing are so vital to the discussion. Thank you for lifting them up.

  • Jonathan, thank you for this article. Would you consider sharing the blogs or other online writing of African-American Christians? I’d love to begin following people and hearing what they have to say.

  • Frank and Art Deco:

    Oh, learn to read, fellas. The “crime” for which Eric Garner was detained was allegedly selling loose cigarettes. That is absurd. The force behind such a preposterous law was four heavily armed men against one unarmed man. That is cartoonish.

    But let’s say I grant that it was a good takedown for the no-doubt deadly and possibly treasonous offense of selling loosies (gotta make sure Uncle Sam gets his cut!). Let’s say the prosecutor did his job of creating a theory of the case and building a strong prosecution against a police officer as s/he is supposed to do, rather than inundating a grand jury with all the data with no judge or legal representatives to interpret it; and let’s say the prosecutor wasn’t swayed by his daily need for the favor and goodwill of the police into making a poor case against the cop.

    How massive a failure of HUMANITY is it that the police officers (who are trained in emergency procedures of every kind) simply watched as Eric Garner died on the sidewalk, offering him no assistance of any kind for seven full minutes? They are sworn to serve and protect. What part of them staring at him as he died was “serving” or “protecting”? Their responsibility does not simply stop with justifying the takedown or the chokehold or the arrest. We have to hold them accountable for their disgusting failure of human decency. And Eric Garner’s killer isn’t the only one. Tamir Rice? His shooter did nothing to aid him until an FBI agent in the neighborhood heard the dispatch and came to check, discovering to his horror that not even basic CPR had been attempted. Akai Gurley? His killer texted his union rep and wouldn’t answer his phone. A neighbor had to call 911 as Gurley bled out in the stairwell.

    We have created a hero culture among the police. We’ve told them that they are heroes simply for existing; that their actions are always courageous, always noble; that they are the defenders of justice and can use any tactic to enforce that justice. Then when they kill sons, fathers, brothers in the streets, they get to cling to that narrative — and our “justice” system looks the other way.

    That’s not the America I recognize in the Constitution. It’s sick.

  • ….”the facts”? The autopsy report says that though there was evidence of an enlarged heart and asthma, his coronary arteries were in good condition and that compression of the neck, preventing breathing, was the cause of death.

    So…that’s a fact. He choked to death.

  • Michael Brown’s death is fraught with questions, yes, and we are likely never to have an answer which satisfies everyone. Yet by nearly every account (from the witnesses) he was surrendering, and having been a police officer myself at a younger age, I recall having been trained in the use of force and proportionality. This doesn’t pass the smell test for me, especially with the grand jury proceedings as sullied as they seem to have been. In any case, it is impossible to separate Michael Brown’s killing from the larger narrative of bias against black Americans, especially males.

  • It only takes 3 seconds to kill someone with a chokehold. Try again. Even the coroner ruled it a homicide.

  • Definitely not true. Never was, to varying degrees, depending on the society. Would have jumped to obey the SS in 1939. Probably wouldn’t absolve you of the “problem” though. Likewise, lots who did obey didn’t fair quite so well.

    Let’s try to avoid being totally backward and illogical, if possible.

  • Also, Frank, the force of the “obey” command in this situation is on the cop, who by administering a chokehold, did not obey New York City law.

    The problem with pretending we’re into “obedience” is that if we fail to level the command and the standard of obedience AT THE RULING AUTHORITIES THEMSELVES, then we are not obeying the command. The nature of “rule of law” is just what it sounds like- it “rules.” In other words, every submits to it. It is not a tool that a ruling class, or an authority structure, wields against those not among the ruling class.

    It’s a problem when citizens don’t obey the law. But there’s a legal recourse for that- a justice system. But it’s nothing short of the erosion of a society’s very existence when its authorities don’t obey the law and are able to do an end run around the justice system by simply being on a first name basis with a DA, or having some befuddled politician claim that order itself is going to be threatened if we have high standards for the behavior of cops….etc, etc.

    This latter is called tyranny, and Christians don’t sanction it.

  • While I (an African American Christian) am glad that white Christians are now doing the work to center African American voices in this conversation, I am really disturbed by the way the Church has chosen to rally around Eric Garner, but not Tamir Rice (12 year old killed in Cleveland), Trayvon Martin, and more specifically in this moment, Michael Brown. It feels to me very much like white Christian organizations think that standing for Eric Garner, even though they refused to do so for Michael Brown, becomes proof that they aren’t racist. Eric Garner has been deemed a more acceptable victim than Michael Brown, and that is a problem. So again, while I applaud this effort, I want to make it clear that using a case-by-case approach to this problem won’t solve anything. We have a systematic issue of over policing and use of excessive force by police in Black communities. That is among all police, not just white police. And these ideologies of over policing are rooted in deeply held anti-black ideas about Black people’s proneness to criminality, about (irrational) white fear of Black threat. They are rooted in ideas that Black people are less human than White people. It’s why Darren Wilson saw Michael Brown not as a wounded human being, after he’d been shot multiple times, but as he said in his own words, “a demon.” Either deal with all these cases of police brutality as a systemic issue, or your calls to finally have real conversations about race in this country will still greatly miss the mark, and still be out of touch with most of the Black youth who are protesting these injustices.

  • I am amazed at the people that completely missed the point of this article. As Christians, I would think that empathy would out weigh the rightness of violently carried out “law” enforcement in most cases.
    This whole issue (history and how we ended up here) is about relationship. I think that’s why Jesus came, so that we can be one as they are one. The father so loved us that He sent Jesus so that there could be reconciliation.
    On the other hand, the pharisees disliked Jesus healing on the Sabbath because it was against the law.
    So take from that what you will but I think we are seeing a great part of the church going the way of the pharisee while the other part is becoming set like a flint to be like Jesus. Grace to everyone.

  • He was clearly alive and complaining after being tackled and the notion that the officer placed him in what amounts to a ‘choke-hold’ is dubious.

  • I am really disturbed by the way the Church has chosen to rally around Eric Garner, but not Tamir Rice (12 year old killed in Cleveland), Trayvon Martin, and more specifically in this moment, Michael Brown.

    Trayvon Martin sauntered up to the local neighborhood watch captain, punched him in the face, wrestled him to the ground, and beat his head repeatedly on the concrete. Michael Brown sauntered up to a local beat cop, slammed his car door shut preventing him from getting out, punched him on the side of the face, tried to take his service pistol away from him, and then, having run away, refused to submit to arrest and turned around and charged the officer.

    Maybe some clergyman are not interested in promoting the idea that feral young men get one free beatdown of random members of the public or of police officers.

  • I would think that empathy would out weigh the rightness of violently carried out “law” enforcement in most cases.

    What the heck does that mean? That we’re all properly subject to obstreperous youths in the name of ’empathy’???

  • At this juncture, they’re all either non responsive, throwing up a mess of verbal chaff about someone’s feelings or about extraneous matters, or making false statements. Not a productive discussion, I agree.

  • Exactly my point. You are so bent on being right that you can’t even read the article for its point. If you are a Christian you really need to deeply consider what Jesus’ position might be on this.
    Also the other guy that I I believe just referred to me as a “liberal” is a prime example of the problem. Christians who confuse politics with faith.
    For instance, gun rights, which I am fine with. “Conservatives”, I use the term loosely, will cry you can take my guns those are my right. Fine, it might be your right as far as the Constitution is concerned but Jesus cares not one flip about your “right” to own a gun. Many Christian have never though of that point. They think because they have the correct reading of the constitution it must be what Jesus would want. I don’t read any of that in the sermon on the mount.
    BTW – I am not a liberal but I hold my politics loosely when listening to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

  • If there was any questionable activity it would be ten officers standing around doing nothing while the man was dying. But race nor excessive force was involved.

    The rest if your rant is embarrassing.

  • There was no chokehold. It’s was a non lethal carotid artery maneuver that not only is not banned but preferred.

    Of course the facts don’t fit into the agenda of some.

    And the justice system has in place solutions to those that question police activity. And the GJ in both the Brown and Gardner cases found not enough evidence to even indict. And they had more information than any backseat commentator.

  • I love how the author features comments that support his own opinions even when they are not based on reality. It reeks of desperation.

  • Jack,
    You got that non sequitur thing down pat as you didn’t answer my question either. Instead, you posed another question with even more fantasy than the one I created. To top it off your insulted me and tried to paint me with a “leftists” brush.
    What will it take for people to understand that the experience of some black men (not all) with some of the police (not all) in this country is much different than their own?
    My fantasy question was intended to make you think about how your own savior may possibly have been treated if he showed up somewhere that is predominantly black, and has a history of racially profiling young black men. He could very well be beat down, harassed, or even shot. In other words what would they do to jesus? And if it is bad, would that somehow change your mind?

  • Absolutely Doc A. I have seen many videos of police officers with their knees in the back of some young black mans’ head pressing down painfully after he has already complied by getting down on the ground and putting his arms behind his back.
    You don’t want me to go all Rodney King on you do you?

  • Since one ‘featured comment’ was nearly empty of content and one was more babble about ‘listening’, I’d have to say yes. I’d agree with you. I’m not sure Jonathan Merritt or Laura Turner are capable of processing the criticisms of their approach to these matters.

  • Johnathan,

    I am a Black man and was born and raised in an urban community. I wish to address something you just mentioned in your comment:

    “Innocent people are harassed by police officers regularly in many of these communities.”

    I am a law-abiding citizen. Never been in any trouble that required the police. There have been times that I have been approached by police for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Do you want to know why Johnathan?

    Because they were looking for the Black guy who did commit the crime.

    When it comes to urban areas, it isn’t the klan, not White supremacists, or skinheads who are committing the crimes. It is other Black people. Police will oftentimes get a full or partial description of a suspect (Black guy, medium build, blue shirt–for example). So I think we can rule out Asian men with glasses, the Amish, or the old White man in the wheelchair. They are going to stop any Black male that comes close to that description. When this happens, that alone is oftentimes interpreted as “harassment”. Yes, there are cops that do cross the line and do approach suspects in a nasty manner. But for the most part, as long as the suspect does what the officers says, the encounter typically ends without a hitch.

    There was one time I was stopped by police for driving with expired tags. My family was with me. One cop told me to do one thing and another told me to do something different. When I questioned the cop with the different instructions, he got angry and was already reaching for his gun….in front of my wife and kids. So I think I know a little bit about the subject.

    But even though that happened to me, I still understood that I had to do my part to de-escallate the situation. Sadly, there are many young Black people out there who simply do not know how to do that, or better yet are willing to do that.

    A cop questioning you is not harassment. Both Michael Brown and Eric Garner had records with the police prior to their unfortunate end. In both scenarios, they refused to cooperate with the police officer on any level. And as a result, their lives were loss. This fact alone in no way exonerates any action of these officers. But it is a fact that we must include if we are going to have a real talk on the definition of harassment. Remember, these were not random guys just strolling down the street. So I personally take offense at anybody proclaiming that now ALL BLACK MEN are in danger. Law-abiding Black men for the most part are not.

    As far as the link you posted, there are some key points you left out. In fact, just go to the following link to see WHY he was approached by the cops in the first place.

    “McMillian also faced three other charges: strong-arm robbery for pushing a child off his bike and taking it, burglary of a structure for entering a fenced-in yard and taking a puppy, and resisting arrest without violence for the incident at Haulover Park in May. (There’s no confirmation that the puppy he was carrying during the Haulover charges is the one he’s alleged to have taken.)”

    So Johnathan, I do have a problem with cops who cross the line. But you know what, I am really HOT at the real criminals (who are oftentimes Black) who, because of their actions put me at risk for being considered a suspect.

  • Beyond the details of whether it was murder or not, I guess my bigger question is should we being seeing this whole tragic event as a race issue in the first place? Where is the evidence that had Eric Garner been a white man that the police would have handled him differently? Did the police approach him in the first place because he was black? Did they choose to arrest him because he was black? I’m sorry, but I feel that these questions have not been answered. And yet, there is the assumption that this event was yet one more piece of hard evidence of racism in our society.

    Don’t get me wrong. I believe that racism is alive and well in our society. Racism is wrong, but the assumption of racism is equally wrong. Peace.

  • Brittany,
    Over policing is not so much a race issue as it is a matter of reality. My son is a white police officer in one of our largest metropolitan cities. He works in a well known high crime area of town that just happens to be predominantly black, but we have similar areas that are white and Hispanic as well. Police officers “police” according to the area they work in. That is the reality of the the streets, it’s human nature, and it’s what they feel they need to do in order to protect themselves and the good people in the areas they work.
    Over policing is more a matter of the nature of the area not the skin color of the people. Peace.

  • The problem with the article is that the Garner takedown had NOTHING to do with race. Here are the facts. His family said it had nothing to do with race including his wife and daughter. A black female sergeant was directing the takedown. He was in no way targeted for his race. Why isn’t anyone complaining about the white man that was killed in Ferguson by four black men with hammers yelling “Kill Whitey”? He was clearly targeted due to his whiteness. Honestly, what black and progressive folks need to understand is that you are driving the race relations in the wrong direction. Sure there is racism as there will always be racism. Racism is part of the human story and will not be rectified until Christ returns. To be fair, the officer’s technique was terrible on his takedown. He never should have done what he did and his poor execution of the technique did lead the death of a man that should not have died. I am a blackbelt in Brazilian Jui Jitsu and the police need better training on how to take a suspect down. The neck and windpipe are easy to smash. It only takes 3 seconds to knock someone out with a choke hold and you can kill them if they are in bad health very easily.

  • David Fine knows a lot about “minority communities.”

    Trust him……

    He sees them every day on the commuter rail.

  • In other words, any call to obey authority is, in Nate’s mind, a call to blind obedience to Nazis.

    He apparently believes that (1) all obedience is blind and (2) all authority is Nazi.

  • So Earnold, in other words, you’re demanding the Creator of the Universe come down on demand & perform magic tricks for you.

    I have a more sensible idea. How about you exercise the intellect He gave you and investigate fully the evidence for or against the miraculous claims alleged in Scripture?

    Read everything you can get your hands on — for and against. Find the best writers in each camp and then do some rigorous thinking on your own.

    But you won’t do that, will you…….

  • Earold, you are avoiding my point — which is that the worst racism I see today is that of white radical leftists against black conservatives. It is absolutely disgusting. You cannot speak about race relations without dealing head-on with this explicit, unmistakable racism.

  • Apparently, JC, you didn’t read about the witnesses who did not say that Michael Brown was surrendering, but that he was charging at the officer and/or fighting with him in his car for his gun.

    If you’re going to put forth a “narrative of bias against black Americans,” you could not have chosen a weaker case than that of Michael Brown.

    Those who have made this choice have made abject fools of themselves before the nation and world.

  • And he was fighting and struggling and would not relax and hold still. and they tightened their hold and demanded he stop fighting them. A terrible cycle but he had just as much ability to stop it as they did. and he didn’t.

    Don’t fight with the police. Cooperate. The other kid with Michael Brown obeyed the cops and went home intact and alive. The two guys with Rodney King sat down on the curb when told to and went home alive and intact. I hope you are not deliberating obscuring those facts.

  • I myself do wish some of these cases were handled far different, but when the Ferguson one is turned into a loot fest, and the DOJ finds the officer ‘innocent’ (and you know they did all they could to find something wrong, Holder and his group wanted it so bad) and we still deal with ‘it’s a lie, the guy did have his hands up, it diminishes the spirit of true problems.

    We all need to band together when they are wrong, and band together when they are right. Until both sides can be honest about things, and change their hearts toward the injustice ‘on either end’ we will keep going round and round.