Reflections on the George Floyd Riots

Watching cities burn as a tide of violence sweeps across the country has a tendency to make one think. It’s easy to be depressed or scared by such a sudden and massive shock, but these riots can also prove instructive, if we’re willing to take a serious look at the situation. A few things stand out to me as I watch the unfolding crisis, and I post them here for your consideration.

  1. This is a window into the human soul. The people out there rioting and looting are not especially  morally defective, they’re not more sinful than anyone else. The hatred and opportunism that drives them to exploit a tragedy comes from a sinful heart, a trait that the entire human race shares. (Jeremiah 17:9) The killing of George Floyd, the riots, ethinic friction, they all flow from the depraved human heart. Apart from God, the human heart runs to do evil at the least excuse. But for the grace of God, we would all act the same.
  2. Ideas have consequences. The protests surrounding the killing of George Floyd aren’t the only protests that have been going on recently. I’m old enough to remember when people were out protesting the coronavirus lockdowns, and there were no riots, even though some of the protesters were openly carrying firearms. Nobody was shot, there was no rioting, even though passions were high around the issue. What’s the difference? Why did the protests around George Floyd’s death turn violent?
    The rioters are operating out of a specific worldview, which diverges very sharply from that of the lockdown protesters, and many of those who were peacefully protesting the killing of George Floyd at the beginning. The rioters who even make an effort to justify their actions appeal to the same social justice ideology that woke evangelicals use to demand reparations, special status, and attention. It is an ideology that elevates skin color to the highest position, such that nothing can take away the stain of sins committed against ‘people of color’. To the proponents of woke ideology, the over 360,000 men who died to end slavery in the Civil War mean absolutely nothing, and neither does the nationwide outcry, from both sides of the political aisle, against the killing of Mr. Floyd. What the woke crowd has done, in practice, is to turn skin tone into their god, just like white supremacists did before them.
    To make things worse, adherents to this worldview impute the guilt for slavery and race-based crimes to all white people, regardless of what they’ve actually done or whether they were even alive at the time. These ideas of collective guilt and inherited guilt are both blatantly unbiblical (Ezekiel 18), and are key elements of the excuses that rioters use for their behavior.
    The rioters are simply living out their hate-filled convictions, and we can expect no less hatred and strife if we let this ideology into the church.
  3. The system isn’t the problem, sin is. People on the left and right are both talking about problems with the policing system. On the left, it’s cries of ‘systemic racism’, while on the right there are calls to abolish police unions. Regardless of their merits, or lack thereof, both sides miss the root of the problem. At the root of all crimes lies humanity’s sin nature. Whatever his motives or degree of culpability, Derek Chauvin would not have acted as he did if it hadn’t been for his sin nature, a nature he shares with every single human on the planet. (Romans 3:23) Because of this, it is impossible to create a perfect society. No matter how well designed, law enforcement mechanisms will always be subject to abuse and malfunction. This doesn’t mean that law enforcement mechanisms can’t be fine-tuned. If police unions protect bad officers, they need to go. If you can find a law that actually discriminates on the basis of ethnicity, it should be repealed. Still, the law will always be enforced by sinful human beings. Ultimately, we cannot place our faith in the system, but in God, who will one day render final judgement on all injustice. (Revelation 20:11-12)
  4. The government does not bear the sword in vain. (Romans 13:3-4) I’m going to go on record with a statement that should not be controversial: riots are bad. Rioting is violent, evil, and helps no one, regardless of what left-leaning intellectuals say. It is not loving your neighbor (Luke 10:27) to loot his store, bash him on the head with a skateboard, or throw a Molotov cocktail at his vehicle. The suppression of evil is the primary purpose of government, and many (but not all) officials refuse to bring the full force of the law down on the rioters for a variety of reasons, from ‘bad optics’ to claims of ‘justified outrage’. What these excuses ignore is the plight of the law-abiding citizens of neighborhoods where rioters are allowed to run rampant. The loss of employment opportunities, places to buy necessary goods, and respect for rule of law all come together to keep law-abiding citizens in poverty, not to mention the risk of violence to the same people, who don’t have a second home they can go to. What about justice for these people? Does the anger of a few nullify their God-given rights to life and property? They are being oppressed by these rioters, but their self-appointed ‘advocates’ on the Left have nothing to say for them.
    It is the government’s duty and purpose to do justice. This requires that the government do its utmost to restore order on the street. While we don’t want to see loss of life even among the looters, God has given the government the authority to use lethal force in the enforcement of justice. We can be thankful for non-lethal weapons like tear gas, rubber bullets, and tasers that, although demonized by some, allow the government to do its duty without resorting to lethal force, as it is authorized by God to do.
  5. Wait for the facts. As easy and natural as it is for us to jump to conclusions, the Bible enjoins against doing so. (Proverbs 18:17) The investigation into Mr. Floyd’s death is ongoing. There has been no attempt to sweep this under the rug or make it go away. There are, however, questions in this case. Mr. Floyd had underlying medical conditions, and was on drugs at the time of his arrest. He was resisting arrest. None of this makes his death any less tragic. However, it could be the difference between murder and manslaughter. If we really want justice, we must wait for the facts. We must let the system work, imperfect though it may be, and trust God that justice will be done.
  6. It’s not about skin color. If you thought my last thoughts were controversial, this one is probably moreso. What makes the killing of George Floyd so egregious is not that he was a black man. The killing of George Floyd is a tragedy because he was made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), and killed unjustly. The color of his skin makes his killing neither more tragic, nor less so. To contend otherwise is to commit the sin of partiality (James 2:9), by preferring one person before another. It is crucial that we get this right. All lives matter, because every one of us is made in the image of God.

I hope my reflections on this time of trouble can be of some help to you. It is a difficult and confusing time for many, but, for those of us who are in Christ, there is an unshakeable foundation and a sure hope.

These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world. – John 16:33

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