Let me start by saying that I grew up about 30 miles from Ferguson, Missouri. So I'm at least somewhat familiar with the area. My wife and I also spent three years ministering on a Sioux reservation in North Dakota, so I am familiar with race tensions. While there, we were treated with disdain and resentment by many Native Americans because we were white, and we were treated with distrust and revulsion by many whites because we lived out there with “those Indians.” I do understand a little about this stuff. Maybe not much, but a little.
Still, I can't help but think that things like facts don't seem to matter when it comes to issues of race. Last night in the case of Michael Brown, an African American man, being fatally shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, a grand jury came back saying the evidence did not warrant criminal charges being filed against that officer.
The prosecutor gave a lengthy press announcement in which he reminded people that only the grand jury members had seen all the evidence, heard all the testimony, etc. That evidence showed a young man stealing from a local store, caught on tape, bullying someone who tried to stop him. The evidence showed the man being confronted by a police officer, at which time Mr. Brown was reaching into the officer's car when the officer fired a shot grazing him. Mr. Brown then walked off, was pursued by the officer, and at one point turned around, came 23 feet back toward the officer, at which point he was shot and killed. All that evidence suggests Officer Wilson was not criminal in his actions, while at least some of Mr. Brown's actions were criminal.
But those facts don't seem to matter. Neither does the fact that many witnesses who gave testimony which contradicted the evidence, later changed their stories. I once sat on a jury for a murder trial for almost two weeks. I can tell you first hand the impact of witnesses who change their story every time they find out the facts don't back them up. This grand jury decided those testimonies were not credible, and that the other witnesses, who backed up the evidence were.
Again, these facts don't seem to matter. We still have those people who are protesting, rioting, focusing all the attention on the “problems” with law enforcement. Even our President tossed out the facts when he began his statement last night saying we are a nation built on the rule of law, and then tossing that rule of law aside by saying that those who were disappointed and angry over the results were “rightfully so.” In other words, in spite of the facts, in spite of the “rule of law”, in spite of the evidence showing no criminal charges should be filed, folks are right to be angry that those charges were not filed. Thanks for that solid leadership, Mr. President. But again, facts don't seem to matter when it comes to issues of race.
We could apply the same idea to the immigration issue. The President wants to go around the very rule of law he mentioned, side step Congress and the Constitution, and single-handedly grant amnesty to millions of “illegal” immigrants. When we have this discussion, we seem to overlook the fact that we are talking about “illegal” immigrants. Because we are talking about people who are mostly Latino, it becomes a race issue and we overlook the facts again.
Our oldest daughter is spending a year in Germany. In order to get a work visa to spend that year, she had to pass a German language proficiency exam. She missed it by two points, and was not granted a visa. She was told she could enter the country on her passport for 90 days. At the end of that time, if she did not pass the test, she would have to leave. In fact, when buying a ticket, she was told she had to buy a round trip ticket, even though she couldn't use the return ticket, because if she bought a one way ticket, without a visa, customs would hold her up and possibly not grant her entry because they would wonder what someone with only a 90 passport would be doing coming in on a one way ticket. That's the law. It's been an inconvenience for her, (although I'm glad to say she did finally pass that test and get her visa!), but it's the law. These are the facts about legally entering Germany. Not once did we feel discriminated against because she's American and not German.
Yet, people by the thousands enter our country illegally, stay illegally, even receive government benefits illegally (which you and I pay for by the way), but I'm told that if I oppose this, if I suggest that those here illegally should be asked to leave or obey the law to stay, then I'm “racist.” Facts don't matter when it comes to race issues.
I agree with the President's statement. There are issues that need to be addressed. There are times when a few bad apples in law enforcement behave poorly, even immorally and sometimes even criminally. But there are also times when a young man is caught on tape robbing a store, and evidence suggests being aggressive toward a law enforcement officer, and the ending is tragic...but not criminal on the officer's part. And one problem that needs to be addressed is the people of any color need to be held to the “rule of law” and we need to stop assuming that anyone who is a minority is always the innocent victim, and those who want to uphold the law are always racist.
The real problem is the need for men's hearts to be changed. The real problem is the sin deluded heart that sees everyone else as the problem, that even sees in color to begin with. I love the fact that when we left the reservation, and came back to Missouri, our oldest daughter was in a kindergarten class at this time of the year when they were talking about the “Pilgrims and Indians.” (By the way, side note, most of the folks we knew on the res didn't object to the “Indian” moniker, and even used it themselves). She came home and asked us if we knew any Indians. We laughed and starting naming the people she knew from the reservation, and she said “Ohhhh, I didn't know they were Indians. I thought they were just people.” And indeed they are. Those are the facts.
People are people. People are sinful. People do sinful things, illegal things, which laws are intended to prevent and prosecute. And sometimes those in charge of the law do wrong as well. But in the end it's not the laws, but the hearts that need to change. And only Christ can do that. So, long story short (too late, I know!), everyone on all sides needs to stop giving passes to some because of race, stop mistreating some because of race, stop making assumptions because of race, stop ignoring facts because of race, stop ignoring needs because of race, and start preaching the gospel because we are all together a lost race in need of salvation. That's the fact.