As I wrote yesterday, the conflict over the proper use of authority and proper submission to authority is as old as Genesis and as young as the McKinney pool party that has provided great entertainment for millions of Americans and great product for the media who actually love this kind of conflict.
I am glad we have as much video as we’ve got. As long as we remember it almost never tells the whole story. I remember studying the full Rodney King beating video. Watching the whole thing made the situation look a lot more ambiguous than the snippet that was on the news every night for weeks.
Matt Walsh’s piece helps establish context. I appreciate much of what he says and his matter of fact way of dealing with race in these types of setting. Unfortunately, Matt failed to make an important observation in his fighting back against all the self-righteous racial chest beating and the media’s lazy push to give us another encore presentation of black innocents vs. white cops storyline. BTW, it’s not because such things don’t happen, they do. It’s because this script keeps us from distinguishing these cases one from another.
The officer who was just indicted for murder of Walter Scott offers a very different case than Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, MO which has almost no overlap with Freddie Gray’s death in Baltimore which has a black mayor, black police commissioner, black prosecutor and a black population not to mention that three blacks are being held responsible in the death of Freddie Gray.
Blurring all these cases together keeps us from distinguishing embedded patterns of racial hostility from the simple case of an officer making a bad judgment under pressure. The solutions will be different. Almost never do you hear stories of how groups of activist blacks will do everything they can to provoke animosity and elicit from the police the hostility they believe is always latent in their hearts because they have been formed by racist, colonialist, imperialist Amerika. They don’t care about any particular officer or any particular victim for that matter. They only care about promoting instability. Yes, there are still those and they have grown over the last 10 years who believe in “The Revolution.”
Back to Matt Walsh’s piece. His big omission, in what I thought was a very helpful piece, was his failure to compare Officer Casebolt’s behavior with that of the other officers at the scene who did not respond with the same force Casebolt did.
In my extended family, we had a crooked cop and an idealistic hardworking cop who retired before he became entirely cynical. Both worked in Connecticut. One in New Haven, the other in West Haven, I think. My experience with police officers has always been mixed. Even in my teen years which were not exemplary to say the least. I still had experience with good officers and bad officers even getting slapped around by a six ft two officer who threw me (16 years old, 5’8″, 120lbs) against a wall. I was not in any way resisting. He lied. Falsely accused me and I still remember his name.
On the other hand, I been blessed by kindness and genuine concern after I had been mugged. So all my life it’s been a mixed bag.
Nevertheless, I never want to undermine the police. Their work is very tough and filled with quick decision-making and has a divine origin and mandate. They are St. Paul tells us “ordained of God.” They are there to wield the power of the sword against evildoers and, generally speaking, the righteous have nothing to fear from them.
But even when someone is wearing a hallowed uniform and holds authority, he can err in minor matters and those that concern life and death. Discernment is always necessary. Let me tell a story I don’t think I’ve ever shared before on the air or in writing although friends have heard it.
On my honeymoon (1977), I got a legitimate traffic ticket in Chicago. But when the officer pulled me over he began making wisecracks about my appearance, my car and finally even made a disparaging remark about my bride. So I finally said to him. “Officer, I have to respect you as a minister of God because that’s what the Apostle Paul instructs Christians to do. Yes, the Scriptures call you a minister of God, did you know that? Today, you sound like an agent of Satan so I want you to lead me to your station where I can take care of this ticket and talk to your supervisor. I believe there is a divine chain of command and its time to go up a level.”
So I followed him to the station and was led into an office where a superior officer (I don’t remember the rank) greeted me and asked what the problem was. I told him about the ticket and the disgusting behavior of his officer. He probably thought I was a bit zealous when I quoted St. Paul and then said his officer didn’t act like a minister of God but as an emissary of evil. Those who abuse authority will eventually lose the good will of the community. American young people don’t need officers like him to contribute to their natural rebellious instincts. I’m sure I sounded strange but undoubtedly earnest.
He looked at me smiled and said he agreed with me and wished he met more young people like me. (I was 26. Sal was 22). He also thanked me and admitted I wasn’t the first to make such a complaint about this particular officer. He didn’t add any details. He then told he couldn’t do anything about the ticket. I laughed and said it was never about the ticket but what the Apostle wrote that we should “not be overcome by evil, but we should overcome evil with good” (Rom 12:21). I had only been a Christian three years at the time. And I wonder what I must have sounded like to this older, more mature, more experienced man of the law. It makes me chuckle.
So I went to a counter in the lobby and paid my ticket. When I got back to my car, Sally was wondering what the heck I had been doing, and as I explained I remembered I had left my wallet on the counter. So I ran back in and had to pass the superior officer’s office. Sure enough, the brash, foul-mouthed officer was getting some stern words. A mixed bag again. Good cop, lousy cop.
The point? Scripture has a pretty conservative attitude towards the authorities that it says are ordained by God and praying for them is our first political duty (Cf. 1 Tim 2:2; Rom 13:1-7). But it is also filled with examples of those who abuse their authority. King David is probably the most easily remembered.
Give the authorities the benefit of the doubt. But when you see them screwing up let someone know. It’s not only your civic duty but a divine obligation to exhort them to love and good works.. Even ministers of God need correction. Romans 13:1-7.