A Memo to Protesters

“What do we want? Dead cops!”

The wish of that angry mob came true in New York City when two peace officers on a crime watch were killed while quietly eating lunch. Their murderer had boasted he would “put wings on pigs.”

Similar hateful rhetoric echoes in cities across America. This urban turmoil goes deeper than interracial conflict. I think it’s fundamentally a question of whether violent demonstrations (under the guise of peaceful protests) are the best way to resolve racial injustice and violence. Media reporters and politicians pour gasoline on the flames when they pander to anarchists who are allergic to authority — particularly despising and denigrating police officers.

Of course there are bad cops, as in any other profession. But they are far outnumbered by those committed to the wellbeing of the communities they protect and serve — and that includes people of every color. I say this with years of experience as a volunteer chaplain for law enforcement agencies from the local to federal level. I’ve witnessed firsthand how our police fulfill their divine mandate to maintain civil peace and justice as ministers of God (see Rom. 13:1–4).

Even good police officers make mistakes, like everyone else. That doesn’t make them bad or evil. Or pigs. Since they deal with life and death, the consequences of a mistake can be fatal. Eric Garner died on a New York sidewalk gasping, “I can’t breathe!” Many law enforcement professionals agree he didn’t need to die, even though he was resisting arrest. And yet a grand jury did not discern enough evidence of wrongdoing to indict the officers involved.

Understandably, protests erupted in the streets of New York City. Unacceptably, demonstrations turned violent and clamored for “dead cops.” Predictably, police were slaughtered in the line of duty — officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, while fulfilling their divinely appointed ministry. Just hours after Ramos was killed, he had been scheduled to be ordained in his church as a community crisis chaplain. But the anarchists who had clamored for “dead cops” were not even willing to wait until after the funerals before resuming their hateful and profane demonstrations.

Regarding Ferguson, many analysts conclude the tragic death of Michael Brown was justified. Forensic evidence supports Officer Darren Wilson’s account that he shot Brown to save his own life. Yet protesters demanded the policeman’s indictment — and death — even before hearing his side of the story. Perhaps not in the last half century has there been such a blind rush to judgment.

Media pundits scolded Ferguson leaders for not having hired enough black policemen — ignoring the fact that their few black officers became special targets of protestors, who threatened and taunted them as traitors to their race.

Today I talked with a black sheriff’s deputy. He obviously agrees that “Black Lives Matter,” as the protestors appropriately remind us. But he knows his white colleagues don’t do most of the killing of black young men. Is it not hypocrisy when protestors, commentators and politicians claim they care about black lives while refusing to acknowledge how they are being sacrificed — and why?

Is the critical shortage of father figures a factor? Does violent rap music also have a role? Such questions are politically incorrect for those who want to blame everything on racism and poverty while refusing to acknowledge the importance of a God-ordained family for a peaceful and productive society. I am thankful that Seventh-day Adventists of all backgrounds support marriage and the family.

Before moving to the Northwest in 2013, my last appointment in the Mid-America Union involved attending a weekend event at a large Adventist black church just half a mile from the Ferguson tragedy. A group of interracial Adventist pastors were collaborating for an integrated ministry in metro St. Louis. They not only planned together — they prayed and fellowshipped together.

Following the Ferguson shooting, one elderly lady from that church lamented the violence flooding her neighborhood. How things had changed from the early days of the civil rights movement!

Back then, protestors prayed before they marched. Their message to the world was the poignant civil rights hymn, “We Shall Overcome Someday.” The only curse words during their protests came from racists who opposed them. Their leader, Martin Luther King Jr., had a powerful, unabashedly biblical vision for America. During the historic 1963 March on Washington, King gave what may be the most memorable speech in American history, “I Have a Dream.” View it again on YouTube.

This February once again is Black History Month. King’s dream, yet unfulfilled, is our mandate as a church today. Where politicians and anarchists failed, God will someday succeed through His people. Will you be among those overcomers?

January 28, 2015 / Perspective