I am a former police officer. Half of my three years of service was spent in a community where 50% of the population was African-American. The remaining portion of my service was in a community that was 85% Caucasian. This short time in law enforcement showed me that skin color has no bearing on the level of depravity in a human. I engaged criminals of every ethnicity, and I helped victims of every ethnicity. Sin is not an ethnic condition but a human condition. Why has the racial tension exploded in this nation? How should followers of Christ respond?
The first thing we must question is where we get our information about the situation. As I peruse the various news outlets, one thing is for sure: drama sells. The language and placement of the recent police violence stories on any given news website has profound impact on our impression and understanding of the problem. What makes these stories "news" is that they are in fact rare, but the news outlets portray these situations as examples of the norm.
We need a story that explains the scope of police interactions in this nation. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, nearly 63 million people (26% of the population) interacted with the police in 2011. Out of that 63 million people, 689 citizens were victims of law enforcement homicide. So, out of the 63 million plus interactions, 0.00001% ended in a tragic loss of life due to police homicide.
I find the fact that 689 people were killed to be terrible. However, the news sources in our culture are causing panic and hate by the way they cover this situation. We are 21 times more likely to be killed by another citizen than by a police officer. There were 14,610 citizen-on-citizen homicides in 2011 and only 689 law-enforcement homicides. The portrayal on social media and news misses this completely.
The fallenness of this world means we have to deal with the reality of violence. One option is to respond with more violence, and this just happened in Dallas and a few other places. For believers, we must never choose that option.
James 4:1-10 precisely deals with this issue. First-century Christians lived in brutal times. Roman soldiers had no problem cutting people down who got out of line. Their oppressive reign in the region of Syria-Palestine led to violent rebellion among the Jews, some of whom became Christians. James advised these new believers to not participate in the fighting, warring, and murder. He called them adulteresses for acting like the world. Christians who propagate more of the drama on Facebook and Twitter are part of the problem. Before spouting off with trash talk, we need to control our tongues, for they are a spark that can set a forest ablaze (James 3:5-6).
Instead, James called for unity among believers and for believers to trust God for their needs (James 4:11-5:20). Some practical steps for us in this regard: