Week #10—What Christians Should Ask of Government: To Treat People Equally (Justice and Identity Politics)

Article
11.03.2016

Editor’s note: This is a manuscript from Jonathan Leeman’s class “Christians and Government,” which he is currently teaching through at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC. There will be 13 weeks in the class. Here is the course schedule, to be published as it’s taught.

What Christians Should Do For Government

Week 1: Love Your Nation, People, or Tribe
Week 2: Obey Scripture, Get Wisdom
Week 3: Be the Church Together 
Week 4: Be the Church Apart
Week 5: Engage with “Convictional Kindness”

What Christians Should Ask of Government

Week 6: To Not Play God  
Week 7: To Establish Peace
Week 8: To Do Justice
Week 9: To Punish Crime, Tax, and Defend the Nation

Week 10: To Treat People Equally (Justice and Identity Politics) (manuscript below)
Week 11: To Tolerate True and False Religion
Week 12: To Affirm and Protect the Family
Week 13: To Protect the Economy

* * * * *

In past weeks we have argued that the authority of government is fundamentally grounded in Genesis 9:5–6:

Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.

What does the last phrase in this verse tell us about the value and worth of one human being relative to another? It affirms that all human beings are created equal since all are made in God’s image.

Blood for blood, says this passage. Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, say later passages. In other words, my blood, my eye, my tooth are neither more valuable nor less valuable than yours. They are of equal worth and dignity. The authority of government, as such, is to see to it that the laws, institutions, and structures of society honor and uphold that equality of worth and dignity possessed by every God-imaging citizen. A just law and just government is one that upholds this equality of dignity and worth.

So this week we will meditate on the government’s job to treat all God-imagers equally as God-imagers.

Now, in a society of angels, this is easy to affirm and implement. It’s much harder in a society of sinners. One man spends a life making foolish decisions, while another spends his life making wise decisions. The first goes to the poor house, as do his children. The second raises his children in a 4000-square foot McMansion. The children of the first, through no fault of their own, have none of the advantages offered to the children of the rich man—neither health care, nor education, nor daddy’s alum status at the Ivy League university, nor his network of friends with plush job offers. Indeed, they are marginally more likely to end up in prison or on drugs. Still, we want to say that all these children are equal in dignity and worth. What, then, does justice require? Plus, let’s be honest: the rich man is hardly sinless. He knows how to make the system tilt in his favor, and ensure that he and his children maintain their status and comfort. He can afford better lawyers than yours, and they know how to work the system.

When we turn to the question of what the natural-born equality of all humanity requires, we are quickly confronted with at least two questions. First, does justice demand an equality of fair process—just make sure the rules are all fair? Or does justice require something substantial—an equality of outcome, or at least of equal starting points? The answer to this tends to divide the political Left and Right.

Related to this is a second question: what role should group identity play as we think about what justice requires between these two options? After all, some groups have experienced significant historical disadvantages. Certainly justice requires fair process. No one disagrees with that. But in light of historical disadvantages, particularly those resulting from discrimination, does justice require that we view people primarily as members of their groups, and then give certain advantages to those groups, say, through affirmative action, or busing, or neighborhood integration?

This brings us to the topic of identity politics. And again, this divides the political Left and Right.

Both of these might seem like complicated questions for a Sunday School class, but they are the questions posed by our culture today and the questions at the root of so much political controversy and disagreement. As I said, they divide the Left and Right. And the goal of systematic theology—which is what this Core Seminar essentially is, a specialized course in systematic theology—is to take the questions posed by the present day and to find biblical answers for them.

What we will find, as we have been saying over and over in this course, is that a Christian shouldn’t be beholden to any one political ideology or another. Instead we let the Bible help us ask whether there is truth on either side of any given controversy, something we can do only when we listen before speaking and, what’s more, when we give the benefit of the doubt to both sides of most controversies.

As in all of life, a Christian’s thinking must be formed by Scripture, not any one philosophy or ideology or worldview or party politics of this world. When we do, we ultimately find that the idea of equality, so prized in Western culture, is just a starting point. Ultimately, the Bible calls us to much more than mere equality. It calls us to oneness.

1. Equality of Process or Outcome?

Does a biblical idea of justice require us to work for an equality of fair process, so that the same rules apply to everyone? Or does justice require us to work for an equality of outcome or at least opportunity, such that no one’s too poor, no one’s too rich, and that any advantages that some might have will work to benefit the least advantaged.

People on the political Left support a progressive tax rate because it would seem to ensure that everyone gets “their fair share.” This is an equality of outcome. Those on the Right resist this logic and say that what matters is that, so long as no one is hindered by unjust or discriminatory laws, we all have the opportunity to work hard and achieve our dreams.

Is Scripture any help here?

Certainly Scripture calls for a fair process, as we affirmed a couple weeks ago. The rules should apply equally to everyone and we should not show partiality to anyone.

  • Deut. 16:19–20 You shall not pervert justice. You shall not show partiality, and you shall not accept a bribe…
  • Ex. 23:2, 6 You shall not…bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice, nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit… You shall not pervert the justice due to your poor in his lawsuit.

In other words, we’re not to show partiality to the one or the many, the rich or the poor. All should be treated equally by the law and receive fair treatment.

But do the equal worth and dignity of all human beings require something more? Is there a moral demand to use government authority to equalize outcomes or at least opportunities for everyone? After all, maybe the poor man is poor because he made foolish decisions, but maybe it’s because his father was foolish, or his father died, leaving his mother and siblings impoverished.

Just yesterday I happened to see a Brooking Institute Report on who the inventors are. What drives their inventive nature? For starters, inventors tend to rank much higher in math as children. But also, among those with high test scores, children born into families with incomes in the top 20 percent of income are twice as likely to file a patent than children with incomes in the bottom 80 percent. Wealthy children are exposed to more innovation as children, and it makes a difference.[1]

This is one of a million examples we could offer. Does justice require something more, at least according to Scripture?

As we saw a couple weeks ago, justice in Scripture is not only concern with fair process, justice is concerned with the “cause” of the weak and disadvantaged:

  • Ps. 140:12: I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and will execute justice for the needy.
  • Is. 1:17: learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. (Deut. 24:17–18; Ps. 10:19; 82:3; Is. 1:23; 10:1–2; Jer. 5:28; 22:13–16)

Now maybe caring for their cause merely restates what the previous verses showed: that we should give the poor a fair process. Yet Psalm 72’s vision of the perfect king does seem to go further:

  • Verse 2: May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice!
  • Verse 4: May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the children of the needy, and crush the oppressor!
  • Verses 12–14: For he delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him who has no helper. He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy. From oppression and violence he redeems their life, and precious is their blood in his sight.

Friends, I don’t know how easily we can translate descriptions of the coming messianic king into legislation on Medicaid, Section 8 housing, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. That said, Acts 2 may tell us how. It presents a vision of the church, these messianic people, in which “they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need” (2:45). But all this was done voluntarily not by governmental coercion.

Still, this ideal king in Psalm 72 “gives deliverance to the children of the need.” He is a helper to the poor. The blood of the weak and needy is precious in his sight. And all this comes under the banner of judging the poor with justice. Justice, after all, involves a reckoning. It’s not just a putting down of the oppressor; it’s a lifting up of the oppressed and downtrodden.

Northeast High School in Philadelphia had a strong tradition of academic and athletic excellence. Then, in the mid-1950s, the neighborhood began to change. More and more African Americans moved into the neighborhood, while whites moved out. The school relocated into a new building in an all-white neighborhood, taking the name, the trophies, the traditions, and two-thirds of the teachers with it. The old dilapidated building, now renamed Edison High School, was left behind for the African American students. They had substitute teachers and no traditions. They did set one national record: the most number of students who died in the Army in Vietnam from any one high school.[2]

Again, I’m not prepared to say that Psalm 140 or Psalm 72 requires a certain governmental remedy here. I do want to say that justice in Psalm 140 is concerned with “the cause” of these students at Edison High School. And the king of Psalm 72 acts to help people like these students. Their blood is precious in his sight.

The challenge of affirming merely a fair process is that it’s atomistic. It views people as isolated units. And it doesn’t account for generational and relational connectivity. It doesn’t account for the entrenched and cyclical nature of poverty passing from one generation to another. Yes, you can always find “success stories” of the person who has climbed out of it. J. D. Vance’s book Hillbilly Elegy tells one such wonderful story. But what Vance also does is describe how deeply entrenched the patterns of poverty, addiction, abuse, and crime can be.

On the other hand, suppose we go to the other extreme, say, communism. Wealth is massively redistributed to guarantee a complete equality of outcome, or close to it. “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” It’s hard to see how this isn’t a massive violation of other principles of justice, such as the violation of private property or a severe partiality against the rich. Or suppose we bus students from Edison High School over to Northeastern High School, and require some of those students to bus back to Edison. How is that a fair process!

Ultimately, friends, I don’t think we can resolve the tension raised by the question of whether the equality of all humanity requires an equality of process or an equality of opportunity. Rather, I am simply trying to sensitize you to the tension which is an inevitable part of a fallen world, and I am trying to suggest that a biblically informed and driven Christian will probably not remain beholden to any one party’s solutions, or any one framework of worldly thinking. Rather, a Christian should recognize that treating people made in God’s image equally requires case-by-case wisdom. Remember 1 Kings 3:28: the people were amazed that God had given Solomon wisdom to do justice.

2. What Role Does Group Identity Play?

Let me push into an even more difficult question: what role does group identity play as we thinking about justice and equality? This brings us to the topic of identity politics.

What Is Identity Politics?

I expect you’ve at least heard the phrase “identity politics.” But what does it mean?

Identity politics defines peoples’ identities according to the groups they occupy, whether those groups are based on gender, race, class, religion, sexual orientation, or something else; and it addresses all political arrangements through this lens.

Identity politics is a way of thinking that the democratic West learned at least in part through the twentieth-century women’s rights and civil right’s movements. At the level of public conversation, it aims to give a voice to the oppressed and to raise the public’s consciousness of that oppression. This is what we hear in campaign speeches, television talk shows, and workplace speech codes. And to a Christian way of thinking, this can be a good thing.

We All Belong to Our Tribes

At a deeper, more philosophical level, however, identity politics is where a post-religion, post-philosophy, post-truth, postmodern world goes to find a source of belief and morality. We know our beliefs and morality are all socially constructed. God is dead and capital “T” truth has died. But we still need something to believe and moral standards to guide our lives.

And where do we get them? From our tribe. Our tribes give us meaning, purpose, value, a code. People live and identify with their tribes, even if those tribes co-exist in a perpetual state of war, like a Mad Max movie. In the more radical view, our very sense of self is determined by the conversations we have within our tribe. There is no “I.” What we think of as “I” or “myself” is a composite of all the tribes we inhabit: the values and words we learned from this family, that ethnic identity, that nation, that high school, that professional group, and so forth. Just as you are physically what you eat, so your social and psychological “self” is nothing more than the words you have heard and swallowed.

Think of all the attention given to “sounding black” or “sounding white” in America today. On one occasion in an upper-level English class in college (circa 1993), I remember the lone African-American in the classroom said the word “ask,” and then corrected himself: “. . . ask, I mean, aks . . .” At the time, I probably quietly condemned his self-correction. But what was he doing? I assume he was asserting his independence and identity over and against the white majority, and such assertions are not always a bad thing.

People like to think voters pick a candidate who accords with their convictions. In fact, Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels, in their book Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Governments, show that voters’ sense of allegiance to a particular tribe is what forms their beliefs and convictions. Their convictions don’t lead to their allegiances, their allegiances lead to their convictions. We’ve seen this with Trump and trade. The GOP has long supported free-trade, but he’s managed to change a number of people’s views, or at least convince a lot of the Party to go along with him. People are tribalistic.

What Are “Structural” Injustices?

The claim of identity politics is not merely that individual actors act in a fashion that’s racist or sexist. It’s that the larger structures of society themselves are racist or sexist or unjust. So it’s not enough that I, an individual white male, examine how I treat minorities and women, make sure that I’m treating everyone fairly, and apologize for those places where I haven’t treated people fairly. Rather, I must recognize certain “structural” injustices as well. That is, that we live in a system of laws, institutions, society-wide patterns and practices and values that give me an advantage or power over women and non-whites. That’s what people mean by “structural injustices.” The laws, traditions, and habits of our culture favor my skin color.

What Is White Privilege?

In the American context, this takes the form of what’s called white privilege. What is white privilege?

White privilege means that I, as a white man, am less likely to be aborted as a baby, less likely to be born into poverty, more likely to have two parents, more likely to attend good elementary and secondary schools because I live in a good neighborhood, more likely to enjoy the social conditions that make law-breaking less likely, more likely to graduate high school and be accepted into college (absent deliberate admissions policies to the contrary), more likely to be hired (all things being equal), less likely to make shop owners feel nervous when I enter, less likely to be handled roughly and invasively by police officers when pulled over instead of being given a friendly warning as happened the last few times I was pulled over—the list goes on.

“Privilege” is the acknowledgment that, in any given society, some groups of people have and will always be treated better interpersonally and legally than other groups of people. When the Jews were in Egypt, you might have called it Egyptian privilege. Among the barbarians, Greek privilege, and eventually Roman privilege. In Iran today you might refer to Shia privilege and in Saudi Arabia of Sunni privilege.

The Jews of Jesus’ time even wrongly used the law to maintain a kind of Jewish privilege, which the apostles had to work against again and again, even among themselves. Think of the apostle Peter separating himself from the uncircumcised Gentiles.

“Privilege” is what one group of people enjoys after generations of oppressing and discriminating against another group of people. Its effects are society-wide.

Now here’s the key. Something like white privilege doesn’t necessarily mean that the enjoyers of the privilege had an active hand in the oppression or discrimination. Think of a sixteen-year-old white student at Northeastern High School and a sixteen-year-old African American student at Edison High. Both might be great, hardworking kids who have never had an ill thought toward members of another race. Still, the white kid will enjoy a number of privileges that the black kid won’t. They don’t have equal starting points.

The question is, are the advantages or privileges that that white kid enjoys themselves positively unjust since they are fruits of so much historical oppression? Does justice require this white student, when he becomes aware of these inequities, to do something to counterbalance those inequities for the sake of his black counterpart back in the old neighborhood?

Again, I probably don’t need to tell you the answer to that question divides the political Right and Left today.

Balancing complex realities—individual justice

Here’s where evangelicals need to step carefully by recognizing the complexity of reality. On the one hand, Scripture is fairly clear that individual guilt does not transfer. Plus, the variations of circumstances are too elaborate and complex to be able to ever tally up responsibility and guilt and simply assign responsibility at an individual level. We cannot say that this white sixteen-year-old, just because he possesses white skin, also possesses “X” quantity of guilt for the actions committed by his great uncle 60 years prior in Mobile, Alabama or by the Philadelphia School District superintendent in the 1950s; we cannot justifiably say that justice then requires him to take steps “A, B, and C.” What if his parents emigrated from Poland when he was one? Enacting the calculations of justice at a group level is bound to transgress justice at an individual level.

Police and airport security profiling present another example of the injustices that can occur when applying the calculations of justice at a group level indiscriminately to the individual. Black drivers or Arab-looking individuals at the airport are treated differently according to their group membership, which leaves them feeling individually violated.

So on the one hand, biblical Christians should be sensitive to the fact that guilt does not transfer, either to that white kid at Northeast High School or to that black kid as he’s driving down the street. In other words, we cannot forsake the demands of justice at an individual level. We understand from Scripture that guilt and culpability are individual; punishment and responsibility are individual. Justice is individual.

Balancing complex realities—group justice

On the other hand, biblical Christians should be aware of the larger realities of group membership and group dynamics. And to ignore these dynamics is to risk perpetuating and exacerbating the inequalities and division between ethnicities, thus deepening our identity politics.

In the book Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America, authors Michael Emerson and Christian Smith demonstrate that, beginning in the 1990s, white Christians have done a good job of increasingly acknowledging the history of racism, as with the Southern Baptist Convention’s 1995 apology for its past support of slavery and segregation. They have also become more conscious of the realities of racism more generally, as pictured by Promised Keeper rallies, where groups of white men would huddle around black men, confess sin, weep, and embrace.

And yet, Emerson and Smith’s book also charts a radical divergence between how white conservative Protestants and black conservative Protestants perceive the reality of larger structural problems. A large survey was conducted which asked whites and blacks to account for the statistical inequalities between white and black jobs, income, and housing. Who do you think is primarily responsible for these differences: is it primarily a matter of individual responsibility—these poorer blacks simply lack the motivation or work ethic? Or is it primarily a systemic problem—these poorer blacks lack access to appropriate educational opportunities or are the victims of racism? More than anyone else in the country, white conservative Protestants blame the individuals, rather than the system.[3] Black conservative Protestants, however, are more likely to blame “the system.” The rest of the country (whites and blacks, Christians and non) is in between.

You understand why white evangelicals feel this way in light of Christianity’s emphasis on individual responsibility. Yet might it be at least short-sighted if not worse? There’s no doubt that some poor blacks are poor due to individual decisions. We are whatever we are because of our decisions. That’s true of everyone. The question is, why are they, as a group, poorer than whites? Unless you want to say blacks are inferior, I think you have to say, because of larger structural realities like discrimination in the past and privilege in the present. That’s what accounts for the difference.

Insofar as white Christians remain unable to acknowledge those larger structural realities, those realities are likely to remain. We will continue to see reality through racialized lenses. We will continue to think in the vein of, “Blacks and whites are somehow different. They have their friend groups. We have ours. They enjoy their culture. We enjoy ours. It’s all equal, even if our lives are separate . . . even if our neighborhoods are nicer.”

That said, we cannot discard individual responsibility either. When trials and antagonisms and persecutions and prejudices afflict us, our decisions can make our situation better or worse. We can all probably think of a story in our own life or someone else’s life when something bad happened, but then we made the situation worse by poor decision-making. There’s a quick instinct in our civil discourse to accuse people of “blaming the victim” whenever they point to something a victim of injustice did wrong. One understands the defensiveness at the level of empathy. But let’s not rob those who have been oppressed or abused of personal agency. People who have been hurt remain responsible, moral agents. Clearly, both historic oppressors and the historic oppressed will have work to do.

For example, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, along with other Jewish exiles, were victims of Babylonian injustices when they were taken from their homes and deported to another land. And in that land, they were subjected to cultural influences and pressured to conform. The four of them resisted, while many other Jewish exiles apparently did not. We can both recognize the injustice and the cultural influences to which they were exposed and yet still affirm their moral responsibility to stand against it.

The bottom line: Christians must balance complex realities by making room for both individual responsibility and justice and corporate responsibility and justice, even if this conclusion does not satisfy those who only deal in soundbites or who only play the blame-game or the victim-card.

What, then, should governments do? Friends, I am not here to offer one policy recommendation or another. I genuinely don’t know how any of this translates into government policy. I’m simply trying to sensitize you to the reality of group dynamics and what that means for justice, which I think white evangelicals can often be insensitive to.

For instance, we like to say that the solution to the problem of racism, as with so much else, is conversion and regeneration. Emerson and Smith call this “the miracle motif.” When people are converted, we say, problems are solved automatically. What’s the solution to violent crime? Convert people to Christianity because Christians don’t commit violent crime. What’s the solution to divorce? Convert people to Christianity because Christians are less likely to divorce. What’s the solution to racism? Again, conversion, because Christians are less likely to be racist.

And all that’s true. The trouble is, a history of racism affects entire systems,[4] so that the conversion of the high school student at Edison High doesn’t change how he will be treated by police officers or on job interviews. And as Christians, we should care how he’s treated by police officers or on job interviews. So, just because your and my and his racism problem is individually fixed because we’re converted doesn’t mean the system is fixed, or that justice has no further requirements of us.

I think Russell Moore is correct when he states, “If you call people to repentance for drunkenness, or for adultery, or for any number of personal sins, but you don’t say anything about slaveholding or about lynching,” he says, “you’re just baptizing the status quo.”

HOW SHOULD THE CHURCH RESPOND BIBLICALLY?

1) The Bible affirms the equality of all humanity, and the church must recognize the equality of all its members.

All humanity are equal because all humanity have been made in God’s image. The gospel reaffirms and reinforces the equality of every member of the church. In the gospel we know there is no Greek or Jew, slave or free, male or female. 

2) As we engage the broader public, we must recognize that people have categorically different staring points, and care about “the cause” of the weak or downtrodden.

I’m not commending a policy recommendation here. You might be convinced that Republican economics better care for the poor than Democrat economics. I’m not stepping into that conversation. I am commending a posture of heart which should inspire the search for policy solutions, whether your solutions lean Left or Right.

Listen to these verses again:

  • 140:12 I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and will execute justice for the needy.
  • 1:17 learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.
  • 10:19: The Lord is King…who hears the afflicted and does justice to the fatherless and oppressed so the wicked may not strike terror.
  • 82:3: Giving justice to weak and fatherless; maintaining right of afflicted.
  • 103:6: God works righteousness and justice for the oppressed.

Members of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, I want your heart to look like the Lord’s heart. Now, you figure out what that looks like in your respective spheres. In whatever sphere you possess authority, you should desire to see people flourish underneath you. Proverbs 29:4: “Through justice the king builds up the land.” I want you, in kingly fashion, to build up anyone who is touched by your authority. This, says Proverbs, is justice.

3) As we engage the broader public, we should work for just laws and processes—just systems.

We saw a couple of weeks ago that Scripture says laws and institutions can be unjust. It’s not just people. Look at Isaiah 10:1–2:

Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees, and the writers who keep writing oppression, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be their spoil, and that they may make the fatherless their prey!

So, according to your calling and stewardships, whatever they are, work for just systems, laws, and processes. Use wisdom in doing so. The law of unintended consequences often means things that appear fair at first turn out to work for harm in the long run.

4) Our task inside the church is to work not just for equality, but oneness, thereby modelling something far greater than equality for the nations.

The Bible presupposes and affirms equality. But ultimately it’s interested in something more, namely, oneness and unity-in-diversity and the mutual dependence of a body being a body with all its parts. Just as Genesis 9 is a prerequisite to Genesis 12, so the affirmation of equality is a political prerequisite to our life together, like finding a playing field is a prerequisite to playing the game. But equality is not the game itself. If you stop with equality, you’re left with individualism. The game itself is working for interconnectivity. In biblical language, it’s oneness—a oneness that doesn’t smother our differences but affirms and adjusts for them.[5]

One example is Acts 6, where the Greek-speaking widows weren’t receiving food but Hebraic-speaking widows were. Here you have division in a church where it so often occurs: along ethnic lines. Remember, they were in Jerusalem, so you effectively had an “Israel privilege” in motion. What did the church do? Essentially, they adopted something like an affirmative action policy and appointed seven men, six of whom have Greek names, to address the structural imbalances.

Paul articulates the larger principle at play in 1 Corinthians 12. We give special honor to the parts of the body that don’t receive it (see 1 Corinthians 12:22–23 through the lens of verse 13), because we all recognize our dependence on one another. The hand needs the foot, and the elbow needs the ear.

Equality is undifferentiated. Everyone is the same. The Bible affirms equality as a starting point, but then it calls us to something much more colorful, more embodied, more differentiated, more mutually dependent, more resplendent, more God-like.

5) Churches must therefore work for conversions because conversions do transform our lives.

For instance, in the gospel we discover our equality with one another, and we’re impelled to live it out. But more than that, we discover our need for one another as different parts of the body and our love for one another. Let me point you again to Acts 2, where “they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need” (2:45). These people were converted and therefore their society was transformed.

6) Build personal relationships across lines of difference.

In Emerson and Smith’s book, they demonstrated that whites who have little to no exposure to blacks were much more likely just to blame individuals (who they didn’t know). But the more white people had relationships with African Americans, the more they generally recognized the larger patterns of inequalities that their black friends struggled against.

Amidst all the reports of police brutality over the last few years, Mark Dever began to ask all his African American friends if they had ever had unfortunate encounters with the law. To a person, each one had a story: one brother (a former elder of this church, mind you) was handcuffed on the hood of his car outside his workplace because he looked like someone. Another brother had the seats of his car slashed by a police officer looking for drugs, again, because he looked like someone. Neither Mark nor myself have any such stories.

Again, I don’t know the right policy solutions. But I do want to sensitize your hearts. And building genuine, heart-felt friendships across lines of difference is one of the best ways I know to do this.

* * * * *

FOOTNOTES:

[1] https://www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2016/10/20/invention-place-and-economic-inclusion/?utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter&utm_campaign=metro

[2] Ronald J. Sider, Rich Christians In an Age of Hunger, new edition, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2005), 107-08.

[3] Divided by Faith, 94f; 176.

[4] See Emerson and Smith, 117.

[5] See the excellent article by Andrew Wilson making this point, “The New Testament’s Take on ‘Equality,’” in Christianity Today (November 2016): 28.

Download the 9Marks app

Download the 9Marks app

All the latest resources at a glance! Download here for free »

You have Successfully Subscribed!