Oddly during Holy Week, the week when Jesus symbolically throws his finger up at Roman Imperialism, colonialism, religious hustling, oppression, racial prejudice and exploitation, too, many U.S. Christians are demonstrating that they have no idea what the key figure of their religion was all about.
Recently evangelist Billy Graham’s son, Franklin Graham, wrote a post on Facebook showing little empathy towards victims of police violence, while not so subtly blaming the victimized. Conservative Christians under the guise of “religious freedom” also are seeking the right of private enterprise to discriminate.
At first glance, it appears that Graham is giving sound advice. People should do all they can to avoid being victimized by the police. I always advise folks to “survive the encounter”; you can always report what happened or sue, or protest afterward.
However, in most police encounters with people of color, in which police wind up brutalizing and even killing them, the victim was in fact cooperating. Actually in most cases of police brutality, the victim wasn’t doing anything that even warranted police contact.
The problem with Graham’s unsolicited advice is not only does it exhibit a horrible lack of timing, but also it is insensitive and devoid of empathy. In Ecclesiastes, the preacher declares “there is a time for everything.” And the time for telling parents about their supposed bad parenting is not when their child is lying in the street with their brains blown out. The time for talking to a community about what they should or should not be doing is not when they are clearly being victimized.
Graham and his crew are strangely silent on the justice front. Christians should be at the front of the protests, but sadly most have to be shamed into even acknowledging the problem. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled,” said Jesus on the Sermon on the Mount. Or as Micah informed us, God requires that “we do justice” and even “love kindness” while serving God.
Furthermore, bad parenting has nothing to do with the spate of recent police violence. And even if the victims had in fact been poorly parented, it still had nothing to do with why police killed them. In most instances, folks were victimized merely because of the color of their skin.
I actually have heard a few misguided Black folks repeating this perspective. If Black folks aren’t careful, they will find themselves supporting their own victimization.
While Graham in his conclusion chose a text that basically says that folks ought to simply submit to the government and its enforcers no matter what, it is not consistent with the life of Jesus, who challenged the authorities along with its biases.
The Bible also clearly preaches empathy, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” and “Do to others what you would want done to you.” But unfortunately the American brand of Christianity encourages a religion that rather than challenging the biases in our culture, encourages its followers to go along with them.
So instead of getting sympathy from the very community that is called to love and show compassion, the victims of police brutality get judgement and condescension. Over 200,000 folks on Facebook liked this! There is nothing like knowing where you stand with folks.
While Jesus was busy preaching love and understanding in the Galilean countryside, and even brought his message of egalitarianism and justice to Jerusalem, his modern-day followers prove over and over and over again that they simply aren’t “feeling” the Messiah.
Mel Reeves welcomes reader responses to email@example.com.