Have You No Shame, At Long Last?

The gospel of modern white evangelicalism does not rest on the authority of Jesus’ cross, but on the threat of eternal violence. Instead of submitting ourselves to the slain lamb of God, white evangelicals enthusiastically line ourselves up behind our hero bad-ass God-cop whose most defining characteristic is his love of violent punishment. Instead of being convicted through the authority of Jesus’ blood of all the ways that we continue to crucify him through our injustice, we crucify others with authority as deputies of our bad-ass God-cop.

It is our theology that makes violent authority figures like Darren Wilson, Brian Encinia, and Ben Fields feel completely justified in their savage behavior. Jesus’ cross cannot save us if it is only the receptacle of the violence of a bad-ass God-cop we’ve invented to justify ourselves. Jesus’ cross only saves us to the degree that we recognize it as the place where we have violated God. The blood of Abel continues to cry out from the ground in the blood of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, and so many others. But if there are any true Christians in this land, then there’s power in that blood and the authority of the cross will ultimately triumph over the authority of the badge.

If there’s a hero in the story from Columbia, SC, it would have to be Niya Kenny, the classmate of the assaulted girl who got arrested for speaking out in protest of what happened. If you want to talk about obedience, Niya is the one who saw Jesus crucified and was obedient to the authority of his cross. Let us take up our crosses like Niya and do likewise. – Rev. Morgan Guyton, “The Authority Of The Badge Vs. The Authority Of The Cross”, United Methodist Insight, October 29, 2015

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Homicide rates in 2010 among non-Hispanic, African-American males 10-24 years of age (51.5 per 100,000) exceeded those of Hispanic males (13.5 per 100,000) and non-Hispanic, White males in the same age group (2.9 per 100,000). – Centers For Disease Control And Prevention, Youth Violence Facts At A Glance 2012

From the CDC, a look at the rise and fall of juvenile arrest rates over the past few decades. Please note rates are at their lowest in decades.

From the CDC, a look at the rise and fall of juvenile arrest rates over the past few decades. Please note rates are at their lowest in decades.

This is addressed to you if you have spent even a moment thinking that former Randall County Sheriff’s deputy Ben Fields was somehow justified in attacking a 16 year old girl. This is addressed to you if you have said or written that kids these days are some unique threat requiring violence to suppress their tendency toward criminality. This is for you if you wrote, “If this were my kid . . .” because – can we be honest here? – if this had been your kid, you’re the parent who’d be on the phone so fast it would hurt the company to connect your call; you’d have lawyers and calling press conferences and suing as many people as you could name. This is addressed to you if you said or wrote, “Well, maybe she didn’t deserve that but . . .” because that “but” shouldn’t be there. This post is addressed to you if you believe in “buts”.

Here are some facts. If you look at that chart – it comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in co-operation with the Department of Education and Department of Justice – youth crime is kinda sorta way down. In fact, it’s kinda sorta so far down that we should be wondering what the hell was wrong with us, those kids back then in the 1980’s and 1990’s when the rates were so high. Kids these days . . . we should be applauding them. Instead, if I’ve read one person write about how “kids these days” are somehow worse, more disrespectful, some spoiled and entitled, I’ve read a hundred. Kids these days are the teachers – they’re teaching us how to live in a society that open and diverse, doing so with far less violence and far more acceptance of difference than has been true in the past. Kids these days are far better than we were. Perhaps we should be grateful for that, rather than pretend kids these days are somehow worse than we were.

Here are some facts. A 16-year-old-girl had just recently lost her only parent. Hurting in ways most of us cannot imagine, her cell phone was her lifeline to her legal guardian, perhaps the only adult to whom she could cling for comfort. When her teacher told – not asked but told – her to relinquish her phone, she apologized and put the phone in her backpack. The teacher insisted she turn it over. She demurred, for obvious reasons. She was then ordered to the principal’s office. She refused to go, which makes sense. The reality is she had done nothing wrong. When the principal arrived, he, too ordered her to the principal’s office. Now, I’m hazarding a guess the principal knew her personal situation; perhaps he could have shown her some understanding and compassion? Instead, he called the school “resource officer”, a cop known around the school as “Officer Slam”. In his infinite wisdom, he slammed her to the floor while still in her seat, tossed her across the floor, then handcuffed her. He then arrested another student who protested his actions and the girl’s treatment.

I’m wondering who was really disruptive?

If you believe schools are violent places where our precious children are in immediate threats to their life, that’s true only if you’re African-American. There’s an epidemic of violent death among our youth: It’s the second leading cause of death overall for people aged 10-24. For African-Americans in that same age-cohort, it’s the leading cause of death. Compared even to Hispanics, African-American youth are being murdered far more frequently. Rather than view African-American youth as some mass threat to our social peace, perhaps we should view them as uniquely victimized, in need of all sorts of assistance and support both public and private to prevent the ongoing slaughter of their children.

Finally, if you call yourself a Christian and you’re still defending Ben Fields’s actions, you should feel shame. Real shame, as in “Wow I really messed up, didn’t I. I feel horrible.” I’m guessing, however, that shame just isn’t part of your make-up. Which is really too bad.

PS: “It’s just my opinion” means you’re willing to ignore any and all facts that get in the way of your pat answer and judgement.

 

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About gksafford

I'm a middle-aged theologically educated clergy spouse, living in the Midwest. My children are the most important thing in my life. Right behind them and my wife is music. I'm most interested in teaching people to listen to contemporary music with ears of faith. Everything else you read on here is straw.

Howdy! Thanks for reading. Really. Be nice and remember - I'm like Roz from Monster's Inc. I'm always watching.

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