I have recently seen several Christian blogs, in what seems to be an attempt to be relevant or empathetic or “culturally sensitive”, explaining how the church must recognize the injustice and tragedy of the recent deaths in Baton Rouge and Minnesota equally with the murders of the police officers in Dallas. Yes, the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterlings are tragedies, in that human lives were needlessly lost. It seems from the information that is trickling out slowly they are not morally equal with the murders of the officers in Texas.
We are learning that Sterlings was not approached by the police for selling CDs, but that the police had received a 911 call that he had threatened another human being with a gun. Now we know that he was a multiple felon and was permanently barred from owning a gun, but had purchased one illegally anyway. His friend has stated he purchased the gun to protect himself (because he didn’t want other people robbing him although he himself had multiple larceny convictions) but we know that he threatened to end another human life with that gun because he was annoyed. Then, when the police approached him, knowing he was armed, he refused to comply and violently resisted arrest. Was the shooting justified? I don’t know. There are multiple investigations and we must wait to draw that conclusion until they are completed. Was his shooting preventable by him? Absolutely. he could have complied with the consequences of his lifestyle and not had a gun. Since he did have a gun, he could have respected human life and not threatened another person with it. Having done that, he could have complied with the officers, allowed them to peaceably disarm him, and faced the results of his choices. Whether or not his shooting was justified, he himself bears the greatest responsibility for it’s occurrence.
We have learned that Castile was not pulled over for a broken tail light, but rather because he matched the description of an armed robbery suspect. Was he the suspect the police were looking for? We don’t know. Assuming he was not, was it fair to pull him over to check? Yes. I myself have been in this situation. I was pulled over because my car matched the description of a vehicle used in a robbery. I cooperated with the officers, and after they confirmed I was not the suspect they sought, I was allowed to safely continue on my way. It would seem that Castile was not shot while complying with the officer’s orders, but rather while defying them. In the latest video, his firearm is clearly seen in his lap, apparently unsecured. Was this shooting justified? I don’t know. Was it preventable by him? Probably. While there is much about this situation we don’t know, it is probable that if his gun had been secured rather than loosely stuffed under his shirt – or even completely in plain sight – and he had held his hands on the steering wheel until the officer could remove and secure the gun, the most he would have been facing would have been arrest.
The police officers who were shot down in cold blood in Dallas were working to provide a safe and controlled environment for a large unruly crowd of people who were gathered to accuse them, both personally and corporately, of attitudes and actions of which most were innocent. They had chosen to offer comfort and protection to a group of people who disrespected them. They were fired upon with no warning from a position of relative safety for no other cause than that they wore blue.
It might feel nice to express solidarity with those families and protesters in the name of seeking justice, but it simply isn’t true. While we weep with the hurting parents, we do not excuse their sons from the responsibility of their choices. If we really believe black lives matter, then the African American culture that glorifies violence, devalues human life, exalts rebellion and vilifies authority must be opposed. Isaiah 5:20 reminds us there is a stark contrast between good and evil and we are not to ignore it. We cannot excuse wickedness with cultural relativity or sensitivity.
The ultimate answer is the Gospel. Christ died for these young men. They must be told.