I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live~ Deuteronomy 30:19
I did not intend to write a blog post this week.
My plan was to wish my readers a very Happy New Year and take a break from blogging until 2015. Then an event transpired and I felt compelled to write about it. On the surface, the event in question appears to be nothing more than an unpleasant social issue; but in truth, it’s a deeply spiritual one.
Last week two New York City police officers, one Hispanic and the other of Chinese descent were assassinated as they sat in their squad car. Paradoxically, the shooting was a protest against racial inequality and police brutality. I suspect Martin Luther King Jr. would weep if he could see how far we’ve drifted from the ideals he dreamed of.
The slayings should not have been entirely unanticipated, after the four months of racially charged grandstanding, rhetoric, and sometimes violent anti-police protests that followed the deaths of Michael Brown in Missouri and Eric Garner in New York. The circumstances surrounding the deaths of the two men could not have been more dissimilar and yet have somehow been lumped together in the minds of many protesters. It was only a matter of time before an unstable soul took the rhetoric to the next logical level and killed a cop.
I have to confess that this story is an emotionally charged one for me. I have a son who plans to go into law enforcement after he graduates from college next winter. I trust God with my son’s life and future; nevertheless, it’s been difficult for me to watch news coverage on this subject without envisioning my own son sitting in that car.
The death of those two officers has resulted in an awful lot of blame being tossed around. I have heard folks blaming, among other things, the Mayor of New York City, the media, racism, the broken mental health system, bad parenting, race baiters, corrupt police, white guilt, substandard education, the President of the Untied States, and television violence. But by far the most frequently blamed cause of last week’s shooting was society.
Although it can be argued cogently that no one issue or person mentioned above is completely without blame, it seems to me that the real problem here is that everybody is blaming something or somebody and nobody is really examining the issues.
Society is not some nebulous, vague entity. Society is made up of individual people who have made the choices that have produced the muddle we find ourselves in. You and me, we are the society we all spend so much time bellyaching about.
It is people, not some nebulous entity, that have elected the leadership we have—or, by neglecting to vote, have chosen by default the leaders we are stuck with. It is individual people who have stood by refusing to make judgments as forty-eight percent of all white babies and seventy-two percent of all black babies are born to single mothers.
It is individuals in our midst who have chosen to overlook racism when they see it. It is a whole other set of individuals who have taken to calling opinions that differ from their own racist. Society did not raise up a generation of aimless young adults who are lacking respect for police and other authority figures. Parents did.
All of the aforementioned choices and a hundred others have had ugly consequences that threaten us all. Confidence in government is largely non-existent, and rightfully so. Lack of trust in leadership makes implementing much-needed change nearly impossible.
The children born to single mothers are nearly always destined to live below the poverty level. They meander aimlessly through childhood, deprived of guidance, stuck in bad neighborhoods with second-rate schools, rarely reaching their full potential. One more generation of unsupervised, undereducated children may very well doom our civilization to self-destruction.
Race baiting has successfully ended some much-needed discussion regarding how to most effectively help minorities prosper. Indiscriminately throwing around the term “racist” has shut down debates challenging views that desperately need to be challenged. Overused allegations of racism have dumbed down our definition of bigotry and succeeded in making genuine racism feel much less appalling than it actually is.
Changing the course of a society where bad behavior has become commonplace is neither quick nor easy. Nonetheless, it is possible. It has to begin with a commitment to breaking free from apathy and getting involved in our communities and in the lives of people around us.
Changing the course of society will take a revival of personal accountability, shame and respect for authority. It will take a return to personal responsibility, purity, integrity and self-restraint. A change of course will take grown-ups who are willing to set aside some personal pleasures for the sake of the kids in our culture. It will mean parenting the current generation of kids differently than the past generation. It will take a generation of Christians who take their faith seriously and live what they believe and it all begins with you and me making the commitment and being the change we want to see.