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Since May 25, 2020, when George Floyd was brutally and unnecessarily killed by a Minneapolis policeman demonstrating what police brutality looks like, protests and eventually also riots have struck nearly every city and hamlet in the United States. Calls for racial justice, reforming or defunding police departments, rejecting what some see as “systemic racism” characterizing all of American society, noting “Black lives matter,” and a host of related or tangential issues are ringing loudly across the land.

To say race and/or racism are complicated issues is to make a profound understatement. But they are, and they “complexify” still further by mixing with many other issues and agendas in the noisy public square.

These are some of my thoughts on race and/or racism, attempting to make some sense, to create order from chaos, for now, for I like any living human being can and will likely change, though I hope for reasons rooted in a thorough understanding of my own Christian worldview.

  • God created every human being “in his image,” and as such each person is temporally and eternally significant, possesses dignity, and is the highest order of creation (Genesis 1:26-27).
  • All human beings, whatever their gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, or any other demographic, is who they are because the Sovereign God created them for his purposes: “From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands” (Acts 17:26).
  • While demographics are important, they are not the ultimate definition of a human beings’ character or value: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
  • Black lives matter” is not ipso facto a contradiction of or challenge to the statement “All lives matter.” Both statements are true.  Likely most who use the phrase “Black lives matter” are simply pointing out the emphasis or the need of the moment, that Black lives have perhaps not been valued sufficiently and this must change. “All lives matter” or “Blue lives matter” are true. Undoubtedly some who use any of these phrases do so to push back at the other position, like a statement that my Dad is tougher than your Dad. But what does it matter? Most of this back and forth about phrases is a sideshow. What really matters is how Blacks and Whites and other races can and should respect each other and live well together in the same space. So it does not offend me for someone to say, “Black lives matter.” I agree. This does not mean I devalue others.
  • The organization Black Lives Matter is hugely problematic. The leaders describe themselves as Marxist, the organization has periodically supported violence, the organization is pro abortion on demand, “queer affirming,” which means an aggressive promotion of LGBTQ+ lifestyles, and anti-Western family positions, all perspectives at odds with Christianity. I do not support Black Lives Matter. 
  • Support for abortion, specifically Planned Parenthood, is one of the greatest threats to Black lives in American culture. While Blacks represent 13% of the US population they account for 36% of abortions, most through Planned Parenthood. This is one killer that must be stopped.
  • I think I understand the desire of many to see Confederate statues come down. It is true that some of these statues were erected as a statement about how the Old South would rise again and as a means of reinforcing Jim Crow laws. So while I don’t believe that removing statues somehow changes history, nor do I believe we must sanitize history, nor do I support mobs ripping down statutes at will rather than through due process, I don’t think hanging on to Confederate statues is necessary or worthy.
  • I reject the riots and mob action that first followed then overwhelmed and displaced legitimate peaceful protest. Lawless, anarchistic mobs accomplish nothing but destruction, endangering peoples’ lives, ruining property and livelihoods—often of the people the mob purportedly supports—and they undermine law and order, peace, justice, the democratic process, and social well-being. Defending mobs as “protestors” as some in media and some politicians have done is clueless and irresponsible.
  • Ripping down or defacing statues of great Americans, all in the name of racial purity, is a farce. No one who ever lived is without fault, yet many have accomplished great achievements on behalf of all people. We choose to honor them accordingly. And if it is a cause you wish to support, you can bank on greater resistance if what you do makes no sense, like defacing statues of Abraham Lincoln or Gen. U.S. Grant or the 54th(Black) Regiment of Massachusetts, etc.
  • Racism exists. It will always exit, because it lies in the deceitful, sinful heart of all human beings. Racism is not just a “White problem.” All people whatever their race can be or may have been guilty of racism at some time. Racism will always be with us. But this does not mean we should ignore it, much less advance or excuse it. We work to remove and eliminate it because we are to “love our neighbor as ourselves.”
  • There are bad and good cops, bad and good lawyers, bad and good politicians, bad and good Whites, Blacks, and more. Bad and good are not determined by race or ethnicity or profession. I do not believe all cops are racist, nor do I believe—nor can it be statistically demonstrated—that cops are hunting Black people. I do not believe the criminal justice system or the economy, much less the country, is in every way, systemically, racist. Yet I believe racism exists within all this. So I am in favor of learning, of criminal justice or police practice reform but not “defund the police,” which I believe is naïve if not stupid on the face of it.
  • I believe in the Civil Rights laws of the 1960s. They are in place, along with much legal precedent reinforcing them. If these laws were enforced, or more effectively, if people of all races acted morally and responsibly before God, we would not need more laws. We need moral recommitment and revival.
  • Despite what some on the Left are saying, I believe the United States of America, for all of its fits and faults, for all of its checkered history—like each of us—is still the freest, most open, most economically accessible, least racist country, still “the last best hope of earth.”
  • I see no reason why, realizing that many Black Americans have struggled or suffered the effects of racism, that the American people should not discuss this problem and take reasonable actions to change the social system. To do this is simply caring for our fellow human beings even as we recognize that someday we will likely need them to care for us. So I support reform or racial reconciliation and justice discussions and do not see them as an attack somehow upon what’s good in America.
  • With Abraham Lincoln, I would say, “Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword as was said three thousand years ago so still it must be said 'the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.' "With malice toward none with charity for all with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right let us strive on to finish the work we are in to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan ~ to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."
  • Race is part of the variety, indeed the beauty, of God’s creation. Race is a gift of God. Racism is sin. We are called of God to live justly, to love our neighbors, to bless and do no harm, for one and all.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2020    

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.    

The blame-game is in full swing.

In the wake of the tragic and unnecessary death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers May 25, 2020, the country has been thrown into a period of social unrest, peaceful protests and decidedly non-peaceful riots including looting, arson, larceny, vandalism, and destruction.

The issues are racial injustice and police brutality.  So, who’s at fault for what's now called “systemic racism”?

I don’t have an easy answer, and this isn’t about trying to trivialize or distract from these issues. Clearly, there are patterns of wrongdoing, including specifically police who’ve killed without provocation or needlessly, yet not been held accountable by criminal justice systems, this despite many reforms. This must change.

My point here is to note the blame-game. Who created this racial injustice?

Democrats blame Republicans. Republicans blame Democrats. Left blames Right, and vice versa. Conservatives, who may be different from the Right, blame Liberals, and Liberals, who may be different from the Left, blame Conservatives. Some blame not just bad cops or rogue police officers but all police officers, or at least police departments in general, hence movements to “Defund Police.” Some blame religion or the Church. One argument laid the blame for centuries of racism at the doorstep of Evangelical theology.

Blame and recriminations are an all-too-human response to crisis. Point the finger at someone else. It began in the Garden of Eden when Adam said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it” (Gen. 3:12). So, it’s expected. 

But blame doesn’t get us anywhere. In fact, until we work through the blame-game period we aren’t going to listen to others, try to discern truth from fiction, or debate, much less forgive, change, and make progress.

It will likely be a while yet because feelings are so raw, and people are angry. They want to vent, some peacefully and productively and sadly some violently and destructively.  

What we need is honest evaluation of facts, listening, and a moral discussion of what’s right and the right way to introduce meaningful reforms.

One thing we know. Jesus said, ““Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone,” (John 8:7).

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2020    

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.    

I can only remember maybe 3 sermons on racism or prejudice, and frankly two of these were mine. The point is, the topic is not, at least in the circles I’ve moved, a frequent flyer.

I have a friend who noted that many national Christian leaders have spoken in the ten days since George Floyd’s appalling death. Yet one wonders if local churches will deal with this issue head-on?

It’s a time if ever for the Church to lament, to listen, to speak, to lead the fellowship in understanding and reconciliation, to take action toward change.

It’s worth noting the Church universal and Heaven will be characterized by diversity, all God’s children. Yet Sunday morning at 11:00 am remains the most segregated hour of the week.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2020    

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.    

I cannot remember once in my life a person saying, “You can’t do that,” or “You aren’t welcome,” because I am a WASP male. I’ve been with Black American friends or international colleagues, gotten separated in the crowd, then saw them treated in inappropriate ways. 

I remember being pushed around in high school by “tough kids,” but that was nothing. I’ve been mocked a few times for my Christian faith, but this was nothing. I’ve been denied certain opportunities or access based upon my professional position or my ability to pay, but this is just economics, not discrimination as such.

Never have I experienced the disrespect, pain, dehumanization, despair of racism. 

This makes me want and need to lament and to listen in the wake of George Floyd’s needless gruesome death in the street in the custody of Minneapolis police officers, and the video that went viral sparking protests around the world.

Whether or not the police officer did what he did because Mr. Floyd is Black or otherwise is beside the point. The fact that a white law enforcement official exercised illegal and unnecessary lethal force upon an American citizen, in this case a Black citizen, provides a window into the ugly heart of racism. And this grievous incident is one of a sad pattern

America must change, once and for all, setting aside the sin of racism.

God forgive me if I have ever conveyed racist attitudes or actions. 

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2020    

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with me at www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.    

I still think Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr's "I Have A Dream" speech, Aug. 28, 1963 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, is the greatest example of compelling, principled political oratory since Abraham Lincoln's “Gettysburg Address” one hundred years earlier, Nov 19, 1863, or Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address, Mar 4, 1865, both of which are inscribed on the walls inside the Lincoln Memorial.

You can read MLK, Jr's words, but even better, watch and listen. My favorite quote from the speech: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

While we’ve come a long way in race relations since slavery in the 19th Century and a Civil War to end it, since Jim Crow laws in the early 20th Century and Dr. King’s work and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, still, recent racial division and violence in the U.S. suggests we have a long way to go. And sadly, one especially unsettling manifestation of this divide intensifying the issue today is a periodic stand-off pitting Black communities against police.

The debate rages, is it “White supremacy” as some say, or racism that is the root of all explanations about Black social ills, or is it a long list of choices made within the Black subculture (as well as within other subcultures including White) that result in social pathologies, or is it some combination of these variables?

This “new” 21st Century, American racial division is actually nothing new, but it's sad, destructive to individuals and society, and threatening to our future, to say the least. Even after having elected the first Black President of the United States, we don’t seem to be able to hold public discussions without things devolving to verbal, then physical, push and shove. It does not help that the President in the White House now often uses phrases or makes statements about racial and ethnic groups, or immigrants, that sound demeaning if not are demeaning, that sound racist and perhaps are racist. Such noise and heat sheds very little light, to say the least.

One thing that might help is to rediscover the worthy aspirations that helped create and define America. Aside from his well-known desire for peaceful civil disobedience, Dr. King employed two enormously important tactics, which many protesting individuals today do not seem to embrace. He focused his work and his rhetoric upon American ideals. And he built his case on these ideals in the name of everyone, Blacks certainly, but everyone.

In the midst of public uproar in American cities in recent days, some Black and some White activists have sounded like they assume a "zero sum social context," i.e., there’s one size pie and the only way my group can expand our piece of the pie is to take from, tear down, or reduce your group’s piece of the pie. This sounds simplistic, but it’s not as far off as it may first appear.

Even if you say, one group has been or is consistently being denied it’s piece of the pie, it’s right to liberty, justice, and opportunity, then you can still argue your point based upon a set of ideals envisioning a country and culture open to all. In any event, the point is, zero sum was not Dr. King’s approach and it is not what American ideals are about.

American ideals have historically proclaimed—even when they were not always embraced—liberty and justice for all, economic opportunity and equality before the law for all, shared working toward peace and prosperity for all. This is what Thomas Jefferson meant in the Declaration of Independence when he wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” These basic rights belong to all men (and women), regardless of race, color, ethnicity, religion, or gender. Yes, it took American politics, society, and culture a long time to more fully embrace these ideals, and clearly, we're still learning to apply them, but the ideals articulate the goal.

Racial consideration and reconciliation are not easy. Too much human nature and human history get in the way. But an America for all is still history’s greatest Great Experiment, one well worth supporting.

For those who struggle with prejudice, consider the Christian perspective simply but profoundly shared in the poetic lyrics of a 19th Century children’s song:  “Red, brown, yellow, black and white, They are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

Concern for everyone’s human rights is everyone’s concern. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr lived and died for it. We now must live it.

Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2018   

*This blogmay be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact me or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com/, or connect with meat www.linkedin.com/in/rexmrogers.    

I’ve heard someone use the phrase “off the reservation” several times recently. I’ve never made a habit of using the phrase, but insofar as I ever have I don’t intend to use it again.

The idea is that a person or group is perceived as acting outside typical or expected parameters. The person or group is doing something that someone else thinks isn’t quite right, going off balance, headed in a wrong or unapproved direction.

The phrase dates to the late 19th Century after most Indian or Native American tribes had been given (forcibly moved to) “Reservations,” large tracts of land in Oklahoma or Arizona, for example, land generally unwanted by non-Indians. The tribes had fought, sometimes over decades, an inevitably unsuccessful war for their ancestral lands and eventually surrendered in order for at least tribal remnants to survive. It was a period of systematic subjugation, even genocide, of the Red Man by the White Man.

From time to time in the next few years, Indians who left the reservation in frustration or desperation were called “renegades” and were hunted down because they’d gone “off the reservation.”

The phrase “off the reservation” is therefore an historical leftover. I hear it used, but I don’t like it. Even though I’m not particularly “politically correct,” the phrase strikes me as a kind of antiquated reference harking back to a sorry and shameful time in American history. The phrase perpetuates the idea that certain people or groups are subhuman and ought to be controlled for their own good.

This entire blog sprang fully developed into my mind when I heard a person use “off the reservation” during a conversation about how two different kinds of ethnic groups didn’t get along. The person who said it was making a point with which I agreed and is a man of character and solid values. But he seemed oblivious to the irony of using this particular phrase in the midst of a conversation about prejudice, hatred, and violence between people groups.

I don’t think using the phrase “off the reservation” is a mortal sin, not even a venial one. But I still don’t like its roots and what it implies. For me at least, I’ll find a different way to talk about someone or some group going rogue.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2012

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.