We hold on to the hope of redemption, renewal, and life – abundant life – in Christ alone. The church needs to speak prophetically and clearly that all human life is sacred, every man, woman, and child has been created imago Dei and deserves of respect, dignity, and life. May God give us grace and courage in these troubled times to hold onto the Anchor of hope and to hold out that Anchor to those who are lost in our cultural storms.
If you see any social media, you’ve seen the memes (likely over and over again). Quotes from MLK, Jr., “I can’t breathe,” advice for white people who don’t understand and more. And the latest news takes your breath away as we’ve watched Minneapolis and other cities burn. Legitimate protests and righteous anger have devolved into death and mayhem as groups like Antifa and other wicked anarchists bring more death and destruction around the country. If you’re like me, many emotions have been plaguing your heart and many thoughts have been bouncing off the walls of your mind. Here are a few of my thoughts.
First, you have to know that I am the father of a mixed-race family – 4 white kids, 4 black kids (and as providence would have it, 2 boys and 2 girls in each group) ranging from 27-38 years old; and then there are 3-4 more black, Hispanic, and mixed-raced young adults who still call me and my wife “poppa and momma.” But I’m white, so there’s that against me. But I also grew up in a Navy family, moved all over the world, and never understood the race riots in the 60s while we lived in England. As a Navy kid, there was no race, there was only rank. And rank ordered relationships. Everyone got respect and gave respect accordingly. Was I naïve? Undoubtedly. But it was a great upbringing that set my worldview to be one who sympathizes with the downtrodden and quickly steps in to defend the oppressed.
Then in the 70s Jesus called me to Himself when I was in high school and everything changed again. Then as a young adult enjoying married life and ministry in the early 80s, God gave us our first child, a little girl with severe and profound mental and physical disabilities and everything changed yet again. Then in the 90s we adopted the rest of our children. So perhaps my perspective is a bit different than many. But there it is.
Eight years ago, when Trayvon Martin was killed about 20 miles from my home, I wrote a personal editorial that got published in The Orlando Sentinel. I was angry, and sad, and afraid all at the same time for my black sons and I expressed that. I received a couple of threats via anonymous letters in the mail; and I advised The Sentinel to monitor the online comments, some of which were nasty and racist and scary. (Incidentally, as a result of that article, Anderson Cooper of CNN tried to get me on camera for an interview, wanted to send a car and the whole bit – but I said, “With all due respect, everything I have to say, I said in the article. Thanks, but no.”) I understand . . . at least a little.
As a family over the years, traveling around the eastern and mid-western U.S., we received some cold stares and clearly bad service based on our family’s make up. Suffice it to say, we probably won’t stop in Rockford, Ill. again anytime soon. Then there was a Sunday mid-day, traveling home to Florida, we stopped for lunch in Forsyth, Ga. and got “the look” from church-going folk enjoying Sunday dinner after worship. I understand . . . at least a little. But that same day, as we made a quick exit from that restaurant, a black man was washing the windows inside and tapped on the glass for us to stop. He came out and as he asked, “Are these your kids?” I prepared for whatever was coming. I answered in the affirmative and he quickly responded, “Aw, God bless you man, that’s great.” Of course on the other hand, we have also received “the look” from black social workers and public school administrators who clearly did not approve of who we were as parents. I understand, . . . I think.
There are more stories, of course. Like my youngest son telling me (months after the fact) that police once stopped him in our neighborhood as he walked to a friend’s house, just to ask what he was doing and where he was going – something that would never have happened to my older white sons. And our other black son was once tailed for miles by police on the interstate coming home from college. We figured they ran the plates and saw the car was registered to a white woman. But my son feared for his life worried that they stopped him. They finally pulled away, and we think that after maybe running a search, the police officer saw there was a black young man with the same name and address as his mother in the drivers’ license database. So yeah, I get it.
Second, in the wake of George Floyd’s death, I am angry like many people. There is virtually universal condemnation of this monumental injustice. But I’m also angry for different reasons. I’m angry about Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” social welfare act in the 60s. Prior to that, in the first half of the 20th century, the black community had a 25% out-of-wedlock birthrate and considered that number a crisis within their community. But within 20 years of Johnson’s act, that number exploded to 75% because the government encouraged women to have children with no father in the house to increase their monthly benefit. Johnson famously said to someone, “We’re gonna get the n***r vote for the next 50 years” and sadly he was right . . . for all the wrong reasons. His movement created a new plantation and a new kind of bondage and I seethe with anger over the detrimental chaos that welfare program has wreaked upon the black community in America. (For more on all this, see Larry Elder’s interview here.) I lament that the black community still votes overwhelmingly for a political movement unified by the practice of abortion, a scourge that has decimated the black community in the last 50 years. It’s no mistake that 90% of Planned Parenthood abortion centers are located in or on the border of black communities across our land.
Third, I’m angry that the most catastrophic impact of the Great Society has been multiple generations of young black men growing up without fathers which has led to an inordinate amount of crime resulting in staggering incarceration rates among young black men in America. The statistics are simple, clear, and irrefutable: if a child (white, black, or “other”) grows up with married parents, the likelihood of their educational, vocational, and economic success soars. But if they lack a father in the home, the figures are sickening, harsh, and unforgiving. And yet the pattern persists.
So yeah, I’m angry. Because young black men commit crimes at a rate far surpassing their population, my two sons are immediately suspects in the eyes of many people. It’s wrong, and this needs to change. I’m angry that so many people (due largely to the cultural narrative) think police everywhere target and kill black men . . . even though statistical studies demonstrate the opposite. A study undertaken by the youngest tenured black faculty member at Harvard shocked people. (The study, by Roland G. Fryer, can be found here.) While the study corroborates that black men are stopped and frisked more often, it also showed that police are less likely to discharge a weapon at a black man than toward people of other races. And even more shocking, the numbers also show that white police are far less likely to discharge a weapon at a black man than police from all other minority groups (black, Hispanic, or Asian).
Finally, I am angry that the black population sustains far more homicide victims than any other population group in our country. Overwhelmingly, those deaths are caused by violence from black people against other black people. And no one (Black Lives Matters included) ever seems to say a word. That I do not understand!
So what are we to do? How can things change? What can we do to turn back the narrative of “systemic racism” in America? Once again, the Good News of the Christian faith is the only hope. But even before that, if people simply follow the “Creation Order” of one man with one woman committed to life together to raise their children, we would see crime drop, we would see suspicion drop, we would see prosperity flourish, and hopefully less need for a social welfare systems that traps people in cycles of hopelessness and despair.
Will just living well change things? George Floyd, it appears from family and friends’ testimony, was a believing Christian man. But four bad cops still ended his life and I pray that justice will be served against all of them. But even if justice prevails, his life remains lost and that breaks my heart as I hope it does yours. Bad things will still happen; wicked people will still wreak havoc. There are malicious police officers just as often as there are unscrupulous and wicked people in most professions and vocations. “Kyrie eleison, Lord have mercy!”
So we hold on to the hope of redemption, renewal, and life – abundant life – in Christ alone. The church needs to speak prophetically and clearly that all human life is sacred, every man, woman, and child has been created imago Dei and deserves of respect, dignity, and life. May God give us grace and courage in these troubled times to hold onto the Anchor of hope and to hold out that Anchor to those who are lost in our cultural storms.
Michael S. Beates serves as Chaplain at The Geneva School in Casselberry, Fla. and is author of Disability and the Gospel (Crossway, 2012).