December 2014


To Love and Cherish

Doing Apologetics

Christianity: The Basics

What is Wrong with Social Justice

Christianity and Secularism

Evidence for the Bible

Responding to David Watson on Christians, Ferguson and the issue of Race

David Watson recently wrote concerning the controversy over the deaths of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and Trayvon Martin that, “We are seeing again and again a great travesty–the killing of African-American men without consequence. If we as Christians don’t call this out and commit ourselves to doing something about it, then we are not living into our high calling as people who claim the name of Jesus.”  He goes on to write about the lack of indictment, “I believe that most Christians, regardless of their race, know this is wrong.”

Now I do believe that Christians should be concerned about injustice, but we should also be concerned about truth. Nor are our concerns for Justice limited only to certain groups, but should be a concern for Justice for all.  This includes police officers.  So while we are in agreement that something is wrong here, we disagree over what it is.

Watson wrote that “we should not convict people before they receive a fair trial” but it is hard to see this as anything more than an empty platitude, for the rest article takes their guilt as a given. After all, Zimmerman did have a trial, and was acquitted. Yet that did not stop Watson from including him.  Watson says of the officers in the other two cases that they cast, “a pall over the reputations of many good and honorable law enforcement officers.”  What casts a pall are those whose prejudices lead them to rush to judgment before the facts are known and then to ignore the facts when they come out.

A lack of a trial does not preclude due process. The Grand Jury system is part of due process and is there to protect people from needless prosecution.   Being charged with a crime and put on trial is not an inconsequential event in a person’s life.  Given the evidence in these cases the only hope of a conviction would be from persuading a jury to ignore the evidence so as to placate those with a vocal, and at times violent, agenda. This would hardly be an example of Justice.

Watson’s main argument seems to be based on the false premise that unarmed equals innocent.  Consider the case of Officer David Smith who in March responded to a report of a disturbance and was attacked by an unarmed man before he could even get out of his car.  The unarmed man was able to grab Officer Smith’s weapon and then proceeded to shoot him to death.  Nor is police officers being killed in the line of duty rare.  In 2013, 105 officers were killed in the line of duty, 30 were shot to death.

So when Michael Brown similarly attacked a police officer in what reasonably could be construed as an attempt to obtain his weapon he lost any claim to be innocent. When he charged head down toward the officer,  Brown left the officer little choice but to use deadly force.   This was not a Hollywood western where the hero can just wing the bad guy.  Nor is it hard to imagine how this could easily have gone the other way, leaving Officer Wilson dead.  Had that been the case, few outside of the area would know of Ferguson, and Officer Wilson would have quietly been added to the list of officers killed in the line of duty in 2014.

Even if you have some questions about the evidence, given this set of facts, the presumption of innocent until proven guilty, and a burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, there would be no way consistent with Justice to get a conviction.  To put the officer on trial would itself be an injustice.

The circumstances of Eric Garner’s death, while tragic and troubling, hardly call for the officers involved to be put on trial. It is troubling as most of us thankfully can ignore the government most of the time. For those on the left the government is the dispenser of all that is good. But as the Romans 13:4 says, “for it is not without reason that they bear the sword.”

We may not like it; we may even wish it was different; but when a police officer says you are under arrest either you go quietly, or the situation will escalate until you are in custody, even the act of resisting being itself a crime. There is no right to resist arrest.   As things escalate, so does the chance for a bad outcome.

In the case of Garner, his resisting arrest and his underlying health problems were major factors in his death.  While Garner was black and the arresting officer white, it is hard to see how race played any significant role given that the arrest was supervised by a police sergeant, who happened to be a black woman.  But that his arrest was conducted under the supervision of a black woman does not fit the political agenda and so is conveniently left out of most reports.

The simple fact is that when citizens are put into confrontation with the government, the government is going to win, at least in the short term.  Last year New York City logged 228,000 misdemeanor arrests.  That tragic outcomes such as Garner are so rare is a testimony to the service and professionalism of Police Officers across the country.

The real problem with focusing on these rare events and trying to cast them to fit a racial agenda is that since it is not grounded in truth it is bound to divide people, which has clearly been the case here. While some will focus on the agenda, and others will focus on what actually happened.  This will make things worse, not better.

In addition, as I have written in the past, it diverts attention away from the very real problems that face many of our communities: the breakdown of family life, failing schools, crime, and lack of economic opportunity.  These are the real problems we should be focusing on.


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