After the death of George Floyd, protests, riots and looting have erupted across much of America. Where can we turn for answers during these times?
[Darris McNeely] Last week, we witnessed the horrific murder of George Floyd. In the streets of Minneapolis, a police officer violated every standard of decency held sacred by decent Americans when he pinned Floyd's neck to the pavement with his knee and killed him. The police officer who committed the horrific and ungodly act has been arrested and charged with murder. The other officers present who failed to stop him have been fired from the Minneapolis Police Force. We must trust and hope that justice will be administered in this case. It must. The riots which followed and the destruction of livelihoods in Minneapolis were tragic. While many protesters took to the streets to demonstrate their anger, indignation, and frustration at the injustice suffered by a black citizen, another group has resorted to violence by destroying private and public property, and even assaulting other citizens and officers. The road back from a national trauma, such as this is a long one and we will live with the consequences of our choices during this incendiary moment for years to come.
George Floyd's girlfriend and family urged residents to stop burning and looting in his name, saying that Floyd loved this city and would be devastated by its destruction. Progress has been made through the years, but there's still a long road ahead to reach the great society envisioned by Dr. Martin Luther King's words, "A place," he said, "Where children will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." And that's the pressing concern in America right now, the content of one's character.
A Wall Street Journal article, put it this way into an immediate perspective. Please, as I read this consider carefully what this writer, a man long experienced with these issues, what he was saying. Let's begin. I quote, "The devastation will likely continue after the ashes cool and the remains of shops and other businesses are swept away. A pattern known as the Ferguson effect..." named after the city in Missouri, Ferguson, Missouri, "...has emerged across American towns and cities racked by anti-police protests in recent years. To avoid charges of racism, officers have stepped back from fully enforcing the law. In this state of police nullification, entire neighborhoods have descended into free-fire zones where street violence and homicides have skyrocketed."
Continuing on with that article. "After the 2015 police shooting of a black man in Cincinnati, civil rights activists descended on the city to decry the institutional racism of law enforcement. When officers subsequently declined to enforce the law up aggressively, there was a significant increase in murders in one crime-ridden black district. The civil rights advocates who had led the protest didn't have to live with the consequences of lawlessness when they returned to the safety of their own neighborhoods."
You see, while the fear of backlash is making so many police officers less effective because they're afraid of being accused of race-based brutality, the fact is that some police officers are displaying this behavior is shackling the hands of those who are just trying to do their job justly. Continuing on with "The Wall Street Journal" article that says this, "Animosity toward police also makes some black people reluctant to cooperate with law enforcement. In St. Louis, Missouri, last spring, 18 children under 14 were killed by gunfire." Let me repeat that, "Eighteen children under 14 were killed by gunfire." The article goes on, "But many residents withheld information from police, and only one arrest was made by the end of the summer. Last year, 86% of police chiefs nationwide said recruitment had declined since 2014. And in many cities, law enforcement hasn't been able to respond even to desperate 911 calls. Communities like George Floyd's will feel the greatest impact of this death of law enforcement."
We really, as a people, must confront the hard facts that are brought out in this article. Peaceful protests are a legitimate part of a free society, but violence is criminal behavior. A free and open society cannot survive civil disorder. When decent law-abiding citizens cannot operate their business or shop for groceries because either the buses don't run because of fear or the stores have either been looted or are boarded up for fear of looting, anarchy then reigns. By all accounts, justice is being served in the horrific case of George Floyd. Let justice be done to everyone involved in this case of abuse, and in all other cases of police brutality, and in all criminal behavior on the streets. Let us work for the day when hatred, anger, and prejudice of all stripes ends. Every one of us should investigate our hearts for anger, hatred, or prejudice. The evil done on the street begins with the thoughts of the heart, regardless of skin color.
Let me take you to the words of a biblical prophet who was outraged at similar scenes he saw in his time. God moved this prophet to speak truth to power with the only words that can make a difference if we listen and let them sink into our hearts.
It's the prophet Amos who walked into the seat of power in ancient Israel and handed out indictments to the leaders and the people for creating in that land, at that time, a culture of injustice for the poor. Amos called out the rich movers of society and the religious leaders who failed to teach the law of God and uphold righteous morality. Amos pointed the finger at the courts, the king, and his advisors, who were responsible for a nation that allowed the rich to exploit the system to their benefit while leaving whole classes of citizens in poverty. Class envy and anger were at work on the streets of the nation in ancient Israel, the Prophet Amos took God's words of judgment to power at that time.
Let's look at a few examples. in Amos Chapter 3, beginning of verse 8, it says this, "A lion has roared, who will not fear? The Lord God has spoken, who can but prophesy?" He goes on, "Assemble on the mountains of Samaria..." Samaria was the Capital of Ancient Israel. "See great tumults in her midst and the oppressed within her. "For they do not know to do right," says the Lord, "Who store up violence and robbery in their palaces." Violence and robbery, the prophet says, echoing God's word, originated with the bad policy of the governing elite at that time. "They did not know to do right," God says. And God indicts the political leaders then, and God does today, for not ruling justly and righteously.
Let's continue on in Amos 3:14. It says that, "In the day I punish Israel for their transgressions, I will also visit destruction on altars of Bethel." Bethel was one of the sanctuaries. One of the religious centers. "And the horns of the altar shall be cut off and fall to the ground." This is an indictment against religion, false religion is at the heart of the moral and spiritual decay of the land. That's what Amos was saying. And again, God was laying heavy blame on the religious leaders of that day.
Fast forward to today, 2020, America and many other nations, false religious teaching is a part of America's problem today. Now, no one wants to acknowledge this fact, and you're not going to hear too much of that said. But watered-down Christianity and outright false teaching and practice has blinded America and the world to the face of the true God and what He commands us. We don't want to hear about the 10 Commandments. We do not want to admit religion, prayer, and godly morality into our culture. In fact, it's been driven out in so many circles in so many places in today's culture. In America, America is reaping the whirlwind of ignorance and defiance of Almighty God.
The Prophet Amos goes on. Let's look in Chapter 5 of Amos, beginning in verse 21. It says, "I hate, I despise your feast days." And this is God talking. "I do not savor your sacred assemblies." He's talking to the religion of the day. And frankly, God's talking to the religion of America today in 2020. He goes on. "Though you offer me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them, nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings. Take away from me," God says, "the noise of your songs for I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments. But let justice run down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream."
God sent Amos with a strong message, condemning social injustice for the poor, the disenfranchised, and the minority who were not treated with dignity and respect. The rich of that day in Ancient Israel, they were shielded by their wealth and privilege from the harsh impact of economic recession or shutdown. Their pay continued while others stood in line for food handouts. The rich and powerful, and the elite of that ancient nation called Israel made the laws and created policy that perpetuated their status and privilege while making it difficult for the poor to share a greater measure of security and prosperity. This picture of Ancient Israel we see in the book of Amos, it mirrors America in the year 2020. But God's words through the Prophet Amos show that social justice cannot thrive in a society dominated by civil disorder.
Reforms today will hopefully be made in the wake of these violent and disturbing events, but human nature will stay the same. And a system led by human nature will always be a broken system. True justice and order can only thrive in a society built on the law of God, the 10 Commandments. This is the missing element of the discussion in America right now. This is what all of us must take a step back and to consider as we grapple with this tragedy of this moment.
Let us all humbly pray and seek God in this moment of crisis. So, pray for the healing of the nation and pray for the communities to come together and pray while there is time for us all to make a change that matters in our sphere of influence. Humbly seek to understand each person you come in contact with and view the events around you with even-keeled discernment. Be fair and be just in your world. Do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.