Why Does This Keep Happening? Part I

The brutal murder of George Floyd by a police officer is sickening.  Why does this keep happening?  In my head, I understand why this keeps happening.  Systemic racism has plagued America from the beginning, and we have utterly failed to address it.  But in my heart, I find it unbelievable how this can keep happening.  Shocked, heartbroken, and infuriated, I just want to cry out: Why?  Why!

What also keeps happening in response is peaceful protests turning violent.  From L.A. and Washington Heights in the early 90’s to Ferguson and Minneapolis, productive, peaceful protests end up igniting riots.  This despite the fact that most of the protestors remain non-violent.  I’ll leave it to the pundits to debate whether it’s outside agitators, or criminal elements from within, or both.  But, either way and completely unintended by organizers, violence erupts—which only undermines the very laudable point the protestors are making. 

And the people who are most hurt by this rioting are the people who live in the poorest and most disenfranchised neighborhoods of our country.  In a couple of weeks, we will move on to the next bright shiny object the media is dangling in front of us.  But, if past history is any indicator, the people living in the riot-effected areas will suffer the fallout of this unrest for another decade.  In the cruelest irony of all, it’s African Americans living in these areas who are the most vulnerable to criminal activity—and that’s exactly what these riots are subjecting them to more of.  They are the ones who need good police protection most.

Both the police brutality and the rioting we’ve seen must be unequivocally condemned.  There is no excuse or rationalization for either.  That’s not my opinion.  That’s Jesus’ clear teaching.  If you doubt me, go read His most famous teaching, the Sermon on the Mount.  Or read what Paul says, based on Jesus’ teaching, in Romans 12 and 13.  The New Testament couldn’t be any clearer in its stance against violence of all kinds.  It couldn’t be any clearer that force is only allowable in a very limited way and only by a legitimate authority exercising it solely for the public good.  No excessive force.  No brutality.  No violence.  No rioting.  Period.

In fact, according to his brother, this was exactly the position George Floyd took.  And, according to one reporter I heard, inspired by his Christian faith, proclaiming a message of non-violence, especially among youth, was a real passion of his. 

To try and get a fair and balanced perspective on the news, I intentionally watch coverage from opposite sides of the political spectrum.  Listening to a diverse array of coverage surrounding the death of George Floyd, I’ve heard every possible explanation for why this keeps happening.  But these talking heads are just continuing to offer up the same explanations, the same superficial exhortations, they always do.  Despite all their “expert” analysis, we still can’t seem to fix this problem.  It still keeps happening. 

I’m no expert, but I believe, at its root, this is a spiritual problem.  And I think the answer—the way forward—is found in something Jesus said after healing the Blind Man in John 9.  The religious leaders are irate because Jesus has implied that they are “blind” to their own sin.  They protest that they are not blind, insisting that they have no sin.  In verse 41, Jesus replies, “If you were blind, you would not have sin.  But now that you say, ‘we see’, your sin remains.” 

Jesus response seem cryptic.  But it’s really as plain as day.  When you unpack the context, it’s clear that Jesus is telling the religious leaders that the reason their sin remains is because they are unwilling to come clean and admit it.  They refuse to admit their “blindness” to it.  His whole point is that, if they only admitted they were blind to it, he would heal them; he would enable them to “see” and overcome it.

Most of us in America are blind to the role we play in the systemic racism that plagues us.  We say we’re not racists.  We believe in our heart of hearts that we don’t discriminate against anyone, regardless of their skin color.  We claim to be inclusive and tolerant.  Yet we fail to see how we participate in and contribute to the problem.  We fail to see our own biases and how subtly they perpetuate racist attitudes and behaviors.  We are completely blind to what it’s like to be a person of color in a society that privileges whiteness. 

Why does this keep happening?  Because we are blind but think we see.

So, how can we be healed of our blindness?  Next week, I’ll show how Jesus’ words apply to race in America and provide the only real way forward so this doesn’t keep happening.

What do you think about all of this?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!  You can go to the “Contact E.J.” page of the Raising Jesus website and leave them there.  I pray that this is the moment we can truly address the issue of race in America and find a way forward to true understanding and reconciliation.

About Me

E.J. Sweeney is a true skeptic. He needs to see to believe. Hard Evidence. Compelling Proof. Solid Logic. This is what he believes in. In college, he encountered questions that the superficial faith he was raised on couldn’t handle. So he began a quest for Truth, a quest for the answers to life’s ultimate questions.

EJ Sweeney

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