The world is divided on nearly every front. We see sharp divides in the different solutions offered on issues like immigration, trade and Middle East policy. In the United States, Americans have a choice between two candidates for president who each are widely despised—and supporters of either sling insults at supporters of the other. They are divided on policy issues, social welfare programs and taxation, as well as moral issues like gay marriage and abortion.
Cultural norms are shifting in real time every day, with the tone of the conversation about these issues being molded above all by political correctness. Issues like transgender restroom choice and gay marriage are framed as civil rights—and those who oppose these on moral grounds are painted as backward and filled with hate. And the troubling specter of racial hostility is beginning to crescendo once again.
What’s behind all this division, what’s a Christian to think and what’s the way forward?
What is the way forward, then? We must turn to God and come to understand His great love, care and concern for all peoples.
First, it’s critical to realize that the increase of division is driven by a spiritual force—Satan the devil. Satan is the author of lies (John 8:44). He incites hatred. He is the accuser of God’s people (Revelation 12:10). His purpose is to thwart God and His followers at every turn. Whatever good things mankind might do, whatever peace they may create, you can be certain Satan is there seeking to tear it down.
In our world today, you can see his influence in the dramatically shifting attitudes about morality over the past half-century. As God’s moral standards are ignored, the casualties are strong families, respect for the rule of law (both civil and religious), and basic human decency toward our fellow man. The result is a spiral downward of crime, violence and death.
With this in mind, we must assess what’s going on with a grounding in the truth, a heart for understanding and a conviction for being agents of change for God’s purpose.
Black Lives Matter protests
The recent Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum in the wake of what was touted as a proliferation of shooting deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police. The prevalence of high quality smartphone video cameras and the instant publishing capability of social media means these incidents can be shared right away and spread virally.
Many responded with alarm at these videos, and protests began, with calls for indictments of the officers involved. But when indictments often didn’t come, or officers went on trial and were acquitted, many decried this as “the system” protecting its own, and any involved in the movement who might have had more rational and peaceful voices were all but swallowed up in the more divisive elements.
The loudest and most radical voices command attention with extreme rhetoric, turning protests into riots while spewing vitriol and hate. In city after city, protests have turned violent, with protesters transformed into rioters.
One of the most shocking disasters was at a rally in Dallas in June. One attendee, Kellon Nixon, described the protest as being primarily peaceful, with police officers joining the protesters: “We marched peacefully . . . the police and the people were unified.”
We must open the pages of our Bibles and earnestly seek God’s way and His wisdom in dealing with the great issues of life.
But it was suddenly thrown into chaos as army veteran Micah Xavier Johnson opened fire from a nearby building, killing five officers and injuring more. He was ultimately killed in a firefight after law enforcement surrounded his position and he refused to negotiate or surrender. The Dallas Police Department quoted him as saying he “wanted to kill white people, especially white officers.”
Nixon, a 34-year-old black pastor, explained that he worried that the shooting would be used to justify worse, more racist and more violent actions on both sides of the racial divide.
When asked what was going through his head during the attack, he recalled thinking, “What is this going to prove? . . . Any amount of progress that we may have made from marching, from assembling peacefully . . . we just set ourselves back, because now the racism increases, now the hatred increases, now the segregation increases, now there is a sense of proof that this group is this, and [that] group is that.”
He worried about both sides, that both would use the attack to justify their prejudiced views (video street interview with Craig Melvin, MSNBC, July 8, 2016).
Peeling back the bias
As more protests have turned riotous since then, and as the rhetoric on both sides becomes more divisive, it’s important to stay grounded in the truth.
Journalist Heather Mac Donald, author of the 2016 book The War on Cops, analyzed federal crime statistics and The Washington Post’s police shooting database. She found that of all black people who die by homicide, only four percent of those are caused by police officers—compared with 12 percent for whites and Hispanics—debunking the claim that the shootings are overwhelmingly racially motivated.
We must surrender our way of thinking to submit to His lead in every aspect of our lives.
She also clarifies a common claim: “But isn’t it a sign of bias that blacks make up 26 percent of police-shooting victims, but only 13 percent of the national population? It is not, and common sense suggests why. Police shootings occur more frequently where officers confront armed or violently resisting suspects. Those suspects are disproportionately black” (PragerU.com, “Are the Police Racist?” September 2016).
The sad fact is that, according to Bureau of Justice Statistics, violent crimes are committed by black people seven to ten times more often than white people, and black people who die by homicide are overwhelmingly killed by other black people—93 percent.
Given these facts, why are things so bad? If it’s not what the current narrative tries to suggest, what are the reasons for this surge in riots and the breakdown of race relations? Economist Thomas Sowell, a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, explains: “We are told that such riots are a result of black poverty and white racism. But in fact . . . black poverty was far worse, and white racism was far worse, prior to 1960. But violent crime within black ghettos was far less.
“Murder rates among black males were going down—repeat, down—during the much-lamented 1950s, while it went up after the much celebrated 1960s, reaching levels more than double what they had been before. Most black children were raised in two-parent families prior to the 1960s. But today the great majority of black children are raised in one-parent families.”
Dr. Sowell also lays blame at the feet of welfare programs that are designed with good intentions, but which have the negative effect of rewarding wrong behavior. For instance, for many young women who get pregnant out of wedlock, it may be financially in their best interest to stay unmarried—as they receive more assistance from the government.
I have witnessed this happen personally in more than one instance. This makes it easier for the man who gets a woman pregnant to evade the responsibility of providing for his newly created family and to continue living whatever irresponsible lifestyle he wishes. Many get multiple women pregnant, never owning up to their actions.
Black lives absolutely do matter, and it is imperative that we get at the root of the problems facing the black community—and work on solving them. As Dr. Sowell writes, “You cannot take any people, of any color, and exempt them from the requirements of civilization—including work, behavioral standards, personal responsibility, and all the other basic things . . . without ruinous consequences to them and to society at large” (“The Inconvenient Truth About Ghetto Communities’ Social Breakdown,” National Review, May 5, 2015).
What’s a Christian to think and, even more, do?
We must remember and be encouraged that the largest advocates for equality and social justice in history have been people who worshipped God and believed His Word, the Bible. They have been in the forefront of efforts ranging from abolishing slavery, to helping addicts turn their lives around, to providing help to the homeless.
As Christians we must continue that tradition. We must continue to strongly advocate for the sanctity of life. We must expand the definition of the work of the “pro-life” movement to continue beyond birth—black lives, white lives, yes, all lives matter.
We must continue to advocate for a strong family, for children to be born to a mother and a father—beginning with rejecting divorce ourselves—and demonstrate how to have strong and godly marriages.
We must be listening in order to hear the needs of those we may know or come in contact with who are in perilous situations. We must allow our hearts to be open to serving them with our time, attention and love. We must be a demonstrable force for good—through our examples, through mentoring, through volunteering.
And we must advocate decisively for the rule of law. Not only for maintaining civil law and order, but for the law of God to be written on our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33), which happens when we come under the New Covenant and receive God’s Spirit (Hebrews 8:8-13).
However, if we allow ourselves to be drawn into the divisive spirit many are agitating for, we stop being agents of change for good.
If we allow facts and statistics that dispel the loudest narrative of black oppression to harden our hearts against the more urgent and consequential scourge of single-parent homes, a culture of crime and the grind of cyclical poverty, we have lost the meaning of what it means to be a Christian. One of the sins for which God condemned Sodom was that the city’s inhabitants “were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy” (Ezekiel 16:49, New International Version).
Kellon Nixon poignantly described how in the turmoil of the Dallas shooting, he defaulted to a mode of self-preservation: “You start to think ‘It’s me against the world.’ With that type of mentality we’ll implode as a people . . . I was thinking, ‘maybe it’s not black lives matter or all lives matter, maybe it’s just my life matters. Maybe it’s just my family’s life matters.
“I had to recover from that spiritually. I had to be reminded that God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, love and a sound mind. I had to be reminded that love conquers all. Because if I let that mentality overwhelm me, then who can I help and how can I teach [my son]? How can I raise him?” (MSNBC video).
We must come to understand that Jesus Christ shed His blood for all—white, black, brown and every other color. In that capacity, we must be part of the solutions to the problems of racism, inequality, injustice, crime, and cyclical poverty. Truly ending all those problems will require the intervention of Jesus Christ at His second coming, but that does not abrogate our responsibility to do good to all in this age (Galatians 6:10).
What is the way forward, then? We must turn to God and come to understand His great love, care and concern for all peoples. We must open the pages of our Bibles and earnestly seek God’s way and His wisdom in dealing with the great issues of life. We must surrender our way of thinking to submit to His lead in every aspect of our lives.
May we all follow King Solomon’s wise advice in 1 Kings 8:61: “Let your heart therefore be loyal to the Lord our God, to walk in His statutes and keep His commandments.”