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RIP: Voice of Reason

Rioting and looting is in our streets. Completely innocent people are losing their businesses and livelihoods that they have spent years even decades to build. Rioters have died at the hands of other rioters as well as the police. People trying to protect their property have died. So was the case in 1964… and 1968… and 1970… and 1977… and 1980 …and 1992 …and well… you get the point.

America has a long history of rioting, not just protest, but angry, ugly, violent riots. Riots where property is destroyed, deep anger is expressed and people die. The riots have sometimes resulted in meaningful change but nearly always created deep societal scars that have taken years to heal and, in some cases, have never healed. A quick search of the internet will show a record of over 240 documented riots occurring in the 20th century. That is conservatively 2.4 riots per year. The current pace of riots for the 21st century (including the current ones) is on a similar pace. Now some riots were broader in scope and others were more regional but they all involved anger, violence, destruction, arrest and in many cases death.

Protesting in America is woven into our fabric as a country. Our Constitution and Bill of Rights actually encourage the public statement of displeasure with government and its policies and actions. It encourages citizens to voice their thoughts and ideas and to exercise their power to vote leaders out of office. The underlying fabric of our society, bureaucracy of politics and slow action has often boiled over into frustration and has been often triggered by a seminal event that acts to ignite a storm of riots.

Such is the case, with the George Floyd death. As I write this I realize I am entering a highly emotional topic for nearly everyone. I want to establish first – the death of George Floyd was horrible – all indications have been that it was in no way justified and the police officers who were involved need to be held accountable for their actions. That is why we have a justice system, why we have a system which allows facts to be presented to a jury who determine guilt or innocence. It is not a perfect system, it has not always worked perfectly but it is the system we have and I would challenge – what’s the alternative? Mob rule, Lynch mobs, well if that is your solution we already tried that back in the 1800’s and early 1900’s in parts of the country and it didn’t work out well.

The subsequent rioting (not protesting) throughout the country deeply concerns me in that it speaks to a deeper issue. Over the last few days I have had an individual tell me I can’t post anything about the rioting on social media because I had not posted anything previously about George Floyd’s death. So, for this individual, my rights to free speech on “social media” were to be limited. I was to have no voice because I had not expressed outrage previously on social media. Interesting.

Another individual I engaged with tried to tell me there was nothing wrong with the rioting that involved looting, property damage and even deaths – these were all justified and I should not express my concern for evil because it doesn’t exist in people only in systems. Interesting.

So, in these two individuals, who are obviously very passionate and emotional about the situation. The first said, I should not have a voice unless I communicate the message he wants and, in the manner, he wants it. The second has declared that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with looting, property destruction and death because the system is evil and therefore it is all justified. I should be silent.

One of the first victims in rioting is, “the voice of reason”. People’s emotions boil over and they become swayed by the crowd, studies have shown that people will do and act in ways completely outside of their character when swept up in mob mentality. Unfortunately, this can also happen to people not physically in the riot but watching from a distance. It is ironic to me that some people (not all) who have taken a position in support of the rioting and protesting have quickly moved to extinguish any voice that offers a different view point or opinion. They establish that, “If you don’t agree with my opinion – you must be silent!”

I believe as Americans of all races and ethnicities we need to stop and take examination of our hearts. This issue is ultimately a heart issue. Do we hold animosity toward other’s? Are we quick to stereotype? Do we listen and ask how can we help? The reality is that racism is actually color blind – it is a two-way street that destroys trust and relationship. It manifests in fear, suspicion and hatred. Ultimately, racism is a heart issue.

To the young man who tried to tell me that evil does not exist in people – only in systems. I respectfully disagree, I have seen evil in man’s heart that has driven him to do barbaric actions. Evil in a heart led two young men into Columbine to kill students, evil was in the heart of the shooter in Sandy Hook, evil was in the heart of hijackers who flew planes into the World Trade Center Towers, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field. We could go on and on. Evil is very real and present in men’s hearts. Evil drives people to destroy, steal and kill. We have a heart problem America.

Jesus said in Luke 6:45,

45 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

The central question is, “What is stored up in our heart – good or evil?”

I challenge us all on all sides of the current issue to examine our hearts for what is stored up in it. We need to openly examine our bias, our anger, our fears, our prejudice and yes even our racism. We need to let the Holy Spirit speak to our heart. We may find things we need to change in attitudes, perspectives, behaviors. We need to discuss what we learn with others and listen to others fears and concerns. We need to understand the root of other’s fears and perspectives. We need to understand the experiences that have created their beliefs.

When we do this, we need to ask God to forgive us for those things which are evil and help us to store up “good” in our heart. To replace prejudice with love and understanding, to replace anger with compassion. We need to ask God to transform our minds, our thinking according to Romans 12:2 which says,

2. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

The system failed George Floyd in it allowed officers to act and perform in the manner as they did but ultimately there was a heart issue that led to this horrible behavior. Change is needed in systems and hearts and I fully support those protesting peacefully for change. I specifically support the pastors who in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. are leading in peaceful protest and uniting across racial divides to stand together for a heart change in America and fundamental changes in systems.

The destruction, looting and killing clearly says we have a heart issue and without addressing the heart of men and women on all sides of this issue we cannot begin to make meaningful lasting change.

It starts with every individual stopping and examining their own heart and letting God speak to them. We must turn our hearts toward God, it all comes down to what we have stored up in our heart – good or evil. That which is stored will manifest out of the heart in times like these.

I hope it’s not too late.


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