Lions, Tigers, and Humans, Oh My! About the Life and Outrage


Kevin Carter's famous Pulitzer Prize winning photo, 1993

Kevin Carter’s famous Pulitzer Prize winning photo, 1993

As everyone has heard, Walter Palmer of the United States shot Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe, causing international outrage and making people hate dentists even more than usual. People are rightfully upset; the lion posed no threat to Palmer, he merely wanted to mount the head (and leave the body) as a trophy, the death served no purpose, and worst of all, the killing was illegal. People are (rightfully) calling for prosecution against him. Others have gone a bit further, arguing that we ought to capture him, hunt him, tie him down, and skin him alive. Of course, such suggestions are hyperbolic, but the rage is there.

Where we aren’t seeing any anger or rage, however, is over other doctors choosing to kill humans and sell their body parts. The videos are so upsetting that even Planned Parenthood’s staunch defender Hillary Clinton admitted that the organization ought to be investigated. Imagine if Jimmy Kimmel broke down in tears over this controversy, or Piers Morgan called for the killing and selling of the doctor’s body parts. Why is it that a lion – majestic though it is – gains more sympathy and attention than a human being, who is infinitely more majestic than a lion?

Rage also lacks in multiple other areas. There are no celebrities shedding tears over the fact that one in three people in sub-Saharan Africa face hunger and starvation on a daily basis, or that nearly half (46%) live on less than $1.25 a day. Africa remains a continent in crisis, but we avoid outrage because such outrage would demand action, and action requires work, and we’re lazy. It’s understandable and noble to be upset over the unjust killing of an African lion; but it’s inexcusable to lack any feeling or outrage over the death or suffering of an African human.

Rage lacks – at least for the white portion of America’s population – for African-Americans who live in fear of the police. A week can’t go by where we hear about another innocent black man (or recently, black woman) getting killed by the police under suspicious circumstances (at best). Yet, more energy is spent over the unjust death of a lion than the unjust death of a black man in an Ohio Walmart, or black child in an Ohio park, or black woman in a Texas jail cell.

The saying “life is cheap” isn’t exactly true; for Dr. Palmer to kill Cecil the Lion it has cost him his business, his reputation, and – hopefully – his freedom. The man deserves justice for what he has done, there is no doubt. Life, for Dr. Palmer, certainly isn’t cheap and comes with a cost. But, there is a certain truthfulness to the saying if we simply say, “Human life is cheap,” unless of course you’re Planned Parenthood, in which case human life is quite profitable.

Lord knows we can’t be outraged over every act of murder, over every loss of life, as we’d simply stew in anger for the rest of our days. It seems that as humans we sometimes require violence on our brethren almost as much as we require oxygen. Their blood is our water, their body is our bread in some twisted, evil, demonic version of the Eucharist. Perhaps, however, we should show some outrage over the loss of human lives. Not just hashtags on Twitter, but protests and – hopefully – action. Not on a legislative level, but on a personal, communal level.

We can ask the government to investigate Planned Parenthood (and we should require such a thing), but we can’t ask them to investigate the life of a woman considering an abortion. Only on the local level can a community come together and help such a woman and provide care. We can ask the government to send money and food to Africa, but we can’t ask them to do so in a sustainable way. After all, such an action is basically neo-colonialism, and colonialism is what got Africa into this mess in the first place. Until we begin to help Africans make Africa stronger on a personal and communal level, we won’t see much change. We can ask the government to put laws in place that keep police accountable, and we should, but there’s only so much they can do. Until the community – especially the white community – stands up against police abuses against African-Americans and other minorities, nothing will change in any drastic way.

Human life is valuable by virtue of being human. Human life is more valuable than any other type of life on this planet. That doesn’t give us an excuse to abuse such life (because we are dependent upon it, and they are still God’s creation and we are their stewards, not masters), it does mean that for all the noble and justified effort we put into preserving animal life, we ought to put at least as much into preserving human life. After all, when we cheapen human life, whether that life belongs to a fetus, a person of a different color, or a person of a different nationality, we inherently devalue our own life as well.

Oh the Things You Shall Never See: The Culmination of Individualism


IMG_0259What began as a YouTube video spreading across mostly conservative websites has gained some attention from mainstream media outlets. That video is, of course, of a Planned Parenthood executive admitting to selling body parts (or, as Planned Parenthood clarified, “tissue” for research), which is not only explicitly illegal, it’s highly unethical. I’ve written enough about abortion on this site that, I believe, there’s simply no refuting the absolute immorality of the act. By every scientific standard, from conception to birth, what exists inside a woman and grows within her is a human being.

After all, we wouldn’t say that in donating a limb, lung, or leg that we’re donating the woman’s limb, lung, or leg. Everyone, regardless of their leanings on pro-choice or pro-life, admits that what’s being sold by Planned Parenthood was formerly the fetus, not formerly the mother. It’s not her body we’re selling, it’s the fetus’ body we’re selling; so to say a woman can do what she wants with her body, while true, is inapplicable in the abortion debate as the fetus isn’t a part of her body (in the same way that her skin, or arm, or heart is a part of her body).

But what is true is that the fetus is entirely dependent upon the mother for existence. Up until about 7-8 months (thanks to modern medicine), a fetus must depend upon the mother’s body for sustenance. It is here where many attempt to make the ethical argument for bodily autonomy: The mother is autonomous from the fetus, therefore even though the fetus is a human being, and human beings are entitled to rights, those rights cannot trump the autonomy of the body. In other words, at the very moment you impact my body I can kill you.

I’ve written about the contradictions conservatives show in being pro-life while supporting anti-life actions, but liberals aren’t any better. See, abortion is ultimately an argument that arises from individualism. One cannot, within the bounds of reason, sanity, and science, argue against the humanity of the fetus or embryo. It is a human being and there is nothing magical about vaginas (or C-sections) wherein a fetus is sprinkled with fairy dust and comes out a new creature, a human being. From conception to birth, from infancy to childhood, from childhood to adolescence, from adolescence to adulthood, from adulthood to elderly, we’re dealing with a human being. Human beings, by virtue of being human beings, hold innate value; if we did not, then a majority gets to decide who has value and who doesn’t, and if history is any indicator allowing the majority to decide who is valuable and who isn’t always ends in horrible things.

The only real defense for abortion – other than appealing to the practical outcomes, such as healthcare, woman’s future, and so on, which though real concerns are not arguments for choice as they’re arguments against a horrible system – is to appeal to the autonomy of the individual. But who among us is actually autonomous? Who among us can say that we live in a vacuum where our decisions do not impact the world, where we can live in complete isolation without aid from anyone else? The idea of individual autonomy is a leftover value from the Enlightenment, and it’s a horrible value, one that acts as a centerpiece for Randian Objectivism, modern conservatism, modern liberalism, and pretty much any daft frat boy roaming a college campus. The idea that as individuals we are autonomous is just stupid on the face of it, but somehow it’s held as a sacred and divine right when it comes to abortion (and only to abortion).

Think about it: Does a business owner have a right to do anything and everything he wants with his company? After all, if he’s an autonomous individual, why should he be held accountable to his employees (in treating them fairly)? Why should we, as a society, care about the poor, or bombing other countries, or about any societal obligations if we are autonomous individuals? We can’t say, “Do what you want so long as you don’t harm anyone,” because abortion harms a distinct, different, and wholly other individual.  In the end, we must acknowledge that we do have ethical obligations to others, and the closer the relationship (especially our involvement in creating that relationship), the bigger those obligations become.

See, Americans are individualists when it’s convenient. Americans are apt to speak about being fulfilled in a marriage, but hardly ever in fulfilling a marriage. An American might defend a woman’s right to her own body when it comes to abortion, but criticize that same body if it gets too fat for our tastes. We believe we have a right to do what we want with our bodies, but by God you better not smoke in my vicinity. When you smoke in public, your actions towards your body impact those around you; when you get an abortion, your actions towards impact the fetus within you. In both cases, your choices negatively impact another human being.

Our obsession with an individualism of convenience allows us to never question which sweatshop made our clothes, never allows us to question the treatment of workers, never allows us question abortion. By ignoring our societal obligations we continue to rob human beings of life, both in the womb and even outside of the womb (do you think we were thinking about the common good when we bombed the hell out of Iraq?). “So long as there is life, there is hope,” so the maxim goes. But if we consistently destroy life for our selfish desires, no matter how noble we think those desires might be, then what hope do we have?

So yes, what Planned Parenthood is doing is quite disgusting, but it simply adds to the already horrendous act of abortion. It’s quite sad that a group that offers other good services – needed services – to women feels it must engage in such a horrible act. Some attempt to say that, “yes, but abortions only account for a fraction of what they do!” But who cares? If abortion is the taking of a human life, does it matter what percentage it accounts for? Abortion in and of itself is wrong and it’s quite difficult to make a strong argument in support of abortion. Again, the only legitimate arguments boil down to the health of the mother, the cost of healthcare, the sacrificing of the mother’s career, placing the child in perpetual poverty, and so on; but all of these deal with procedural failures on the part of our society and speak nothing to whether it’s right or wrong to kill a fetus.

In the end, we really need to look at ourselves and ask if this is a society we want. Do we really want a society where not only we allow the killing of other human beings, we allow the profiting off of their body parts? Do we want to live in a world where life isn’t valued, but harvested? Such a world is dark and disgusting, but such a world has existed in the past, and we condemn previous generations for allowing that world to exist. Shall we be condemned as well?

Christians are Facing Persecution in America: Church Burnings and Racism


Chuck Burton / AP

Chuck Burton / AP

Since the Supreme Court decision on Friday the talk is about the coming persecution of Christians, but we act like persecution isn’t already occurring within the United States for Christians. The fact is, Christians in the US have faced persecution since its foundation; the constant threat of being beaten for prayer, for being arrested for going to church, or for even having that church burned (or bombed). Of course, we don’t often think of Christians being persecuted in America because what we mean is we’re afraid of white Christians facing persecution: The black church has faced persecution from its foundation, and continues to face that persecution.

Consider that in just five days, six traditionally black churches were burned to the ground. Not in the 1950s, but in 2015. Yet, the media has remained mostly silent on the issue. That’s simply how it’s been for a number of years. The African American community has fear when pulled over by the police, has fear in their own neighborhoods, and has fear when they go to church.

If a pro-homosexual group or atheist group were burning mostly white churches, there’d be constant news coverage, constant Facebook updates, and the whole circus would show up. As it is, however, these churches represent the African American community, and therefore no one is really talking about it or doing anything to challenge the fact that it’s happening.

An African American church faces a gunman and nine people die. Six African American churches burn to the ground. All of this happens within a week. But it’s the gays getting married I’m supposed to worry about. But what about my black brothers and sisters, who simply wish to worship the same Christ I worship, must fear for their lives in attending their houses of worship. How can we not see that persecution is already here? How can we refuse to act or do anything to help?

I wish I had an answer, but I don’t. I wish I could place some big conclusion here that wraps up everything above, but I can’t. I can’t because it seems that for all our effort to remove the Confederate Flag, we’re unwilling to remove the racism that flag represents. That racism turns into persecution and attacks the central aspect of most African American communities (especially in the South), the church. I wish I could say things will get better, but it seems that most Christians will choose to keep their eyes glued to gays getting married than to the actual persecution that continues to their black brothers and sisters. That the world and media would ignore the plight of our black brothers and sisters is bad enough, but somewhat expected. That we would is shameful and sinful, and it has to stop. Our refusal to deal with the problem of racism – a mostly one-sided problem stemming from white people – is getting people killed and perpetuates fear within the black community. It has to stop.

Great, Now We All Have to be Fabulous: On Gay Marriage and the End of the World


us_gay1Today the United States Supreme Court ruled that states can’t outlaw homosexual marriage. It’s a move that really doesn’t surprise anyone and of course will leave liberal activists saying, “It’s about time” and conservative activists decrying the decision as “tyranny from the bench.” Of course, the world has yet to end, it still turns, day turns into night, we all have jobs to go to, and life goes on.

Of course, reading mostly Christian websites, one would be left with the impression that the government has changed the entire definition of marriage and that the end of the world as we know it is upon us. We’re met with overreaction after overreaction, hyperbolic statements, and hypotheticals that will probably occur at some point in the future (decades, if not centuries, down the road), but not tomorrow. If – as Christians believe – marriage is established by God then marriage was never within the State’s domain. Technically, especially from a sacramental view of marriage, all marriage licenses have been an attempt by the government to reinterpret marriage and all have been equally invalid; under a sacramental view of marriage, only marriages within the Church (or later consecrated by the Church) are truly legitimate. What the State defines as marriage is by nature separate from what the Church defines as marriage (unless we’ve been in a theocracy all these years and I didn’t know it).

Think about it: how does this modern ruling impact the “sanctity of marriage?” The sanctity of marriage was gone long before the movement came about for homosexual marriage. When the American divorce rate is still high (especially for late Baby Boomers/Generation X’ers, and showing no signs of abating for late Generation X’ers/early Millenials), how can we say we hold marriage sacred? When the average American family will spend more time apart due to careers and daycare than they will together and such an economic system is rabidly defended by the same people who decry homosexual marriage, exactly what’s so sacred about marriage? Even on a more base level, for those who have done away with the sacraments, how can marriage be sacred? If there is no sacrament to marriage then it’s impossible for marriage to be sacred. In other words, we did away with the sanctity of marriage long ago, long before there was a movement for gay rights.

That isn’t to say there aren’t some reasons to worry. After all, it’s not impossible to imagine a scenario in which a church is sued because they won’t officiate a homosexual wedding or refuse to rent out their property for a homosexual wedding. If a baker is sued for refusal then what arbitrary line do we place between the baker and the church; regardless of one’s personal beliefs, both engage in a commercial endeavor. Why, then, should the baker be forced to participate but not the church? This is one argument that I foresee coming to the forefront of the next part of the debate. More than likely, people will idiotically attempt to remove the tax-exempt status from churches, forgetting that they exist based on donations anyway and would qualify as tax-exempt regardless of their religious nature (and to ban their tax-exempt status simply because they have a religious affiliation would be a gross violation of the First Amendment).

Yet, even if such a world came to be – and such a world will probably come to be within a few decades to a few centuries – Christians have only themselves to blame. Unlike persecution in the Middle East, where Christians suffer merely for existing, anything that would bear the semblance of persecution within the US was brought about by the hands of Christians. Rather than through prayer, love, and spreading the Gospel, we attempted to ban homosexual unions using the tools of the State. We tried to protect that which is sacred by utilizing that which is secular, which isn’t necessarily wrong (such as using the State to protect the sacred nature of life), but when it becomes the primary tool it becomes wrong. After all, “We war not against flesh and blood, but against principalities.” But for the past three decades the Religious Right has warred against everything, declaring war on people, using the government as a weapon, and such a tactic has consistently backfired.

Had Christians, early on in this debate, recognized that marriage doesn’t belong to the State to begin with and rather utilized civil unions, one must ask if today would have ever occurred. If the State dealt exclusively with civil unions and removed itself from the marriage game, then what would have changed? Rather, Christians attempted to enforce their view of marriage – a view that isn’t even solidified within the Christian community (as Orthodox, Catholics, and other sacramental elements differ on the nature of marriage than say, Baptists, Pentecostals, and so on) – upon a secular institution. They then used the natural to defend the supernatural. But as is the case, always, the natural ate up the sacred.

The world did not end today, nor will it end because of homosexual marriages. Perhaps, and one can only hope, Christians will realize they have to begin acting like Christians. Rather than ostracizing and creating political outcasts, or attempting to legislate the Gospel into existence, they will see the importance of living it. Maybe they’ll finally abandon the Religious Right, dying an undignified and very deserving death in the Republican primary (where all typical Religious Right candidates trail behind Jeb Bush and Donald Trump…welcome to America!). Then again, they probably won’t, but hey, I can dream, right?

Love is the Light in the Darkness: Living in the Wake of Charleston


IMG_1007I’ve chosen to remain somewhat silent since the murders in Charleston, South Carolina. Mostly because what can I say other than, “Sorry?” Not because I’ve ever been an advocate for the KKK or racist ideology, or because I’ve proudly flown the “Stars and Bars” (I haven’t, I grew up in Kansas, so I never understood the infatuation with the losing side’s flag), or because I personally had anything to do with the murder of nine innocent African-American brothers and sisters in Christ. My silence – really, my shame – is that another white person killed black people and there’s very little we’ve done to stop this sort of thing.

Now, at this point some might interject and say, “But Roof is an individual and chose his actions. How can you hold all white people responsible? That’s actually racist!” And to a certain extent such sentiments are correct; what Roof did was the act of an individual and certainly not all white people are to account for his actions. That we don’t have to, however, is part of the luxury of being white in America: We (white people) can claim individuality in a way that others, especially black Americans, cannot.

When we see crime and murder rates within urban centers in America the common cry within white conversations is, “Well they need to get their society together.” When we perpetuate the myth of the absent black father, we always view it as a “black problem.” When riots broke out in Ferguson and later in Baltimore, we blamed the entire black community. When violence occurs within the inner city, the question goes, “Well why don’t they protest that?”

See, when a white man walks into a church and murders nine African-Americans in cold blood, we see an individual person and blame him. But if a black man walks down the street and murders anyone – black or white – we blame the entire race. Or consider that we might blame Al Sharpton, or rap music, or “race baiters,” or the “thug mentality,” or “black culture”  in general. But with Roof we’re not allowed to blame the implicit white supremacy that still exists in the South America World. We can’t blame country music that proudly promotes the “Stars and Bars,” or that such a monstrosity hangs from multiple institutions. We can’t blame the fact that, as a white male, his upbringing undoubtedly left him with a sense of entitlement to a better life and that when that better life wasn’t achieved, he sought to blame someone. That blame, of course, was passed onto non-white people (other than Asians apparently), which is quite typical. We’re not allowed to blame the culture when it comes to Dylan Roof murdering nine human beings, but it’s quite alright to blame all black people whenever a riot breaks out (even though no one dies).

The above only begins to explain why I’ve tried to remain silent in the wake of Charleston. Mostly because Dylan Roof doesn’t exist in a vacuum. He wasn’t raised to love other people, to respect people of all races and cultures, and then because of some medication flipped out and decided to go on a racist shooting spree. His actions result directly from a culture steeped in racism, so much that it’s a battle just to remove the symbols of racism – a flag, street names, monuments to men who fought to enslave other human beings – much less to remove the racism itself. His actions result from a culture where it’s okay to mock African-Americans for “their” culture, to call them thugs, to say they’re less-educated, and so on.

While I grew up in Kansas, I’ve lived in the South for nearly a decade. I’ve learned that when white people in the South get together, in private, horrible things are said. Simple, seemingly innocuous comments even exist within liberal circles. The, “Well they can’t really help it, so we have to help them.” A comment of hate laced with love, a deeper poison than some guy yelling the n-word. I’ve heard a guy speak about his church and just a few sentences later speak of how while Hitler was wrong for what he did, he wasn’t all that wrong in his thinking (had I not objected or said anything, the group would have just gone along without batting an eye). Racism is not only alive and well, but I’d submit that it’s getting worse, especially with younger generations in the South.

What’s worse, what’s sickening beyond all reckoning, is that Dylan Roof’s upbringing occurred in the so-called “Bible Belt.” In a place where Christianity is supposed to be its strongest in America, it remains one of the most anti-Christian places on earth. It is a place where Christ is rendered great lip-service, but the cry to “become all things to all men” falls upon deaf ears. After all, if a piece of cloth holds a symbol that offends another Christian – especially because that symbol stands for oppressing the entire race of that Christian – why not just remove it? Why fight it? Because of your “heritage?” But what is your heritage before the cross? Your “heritage” means absolutely nothing to a God beyond cultures and borders.

Perhaps if these so-called southern Christians recognized that they have far more in common with a Christian from Kenya than a nominal Christian next-door, our nation could begin the process of healing. What heritage is so important that one would sacrifice healing and a relationship in order to preserve it? Such a recalcitrant culture is not the sign of Christ, but the sign of nationalism.

Of course some get defensive and argue, “But what about the American flag itself? The American flag flew over slavery as well, over the genocide of Native Americans, and currently flies over bombing innocent women and children overseas. Shouldn’t we take it down too?” But doesn’t that actually underline the point? Doesn’t it highlight that our hope and identity isn’t found in a symbol, in a flag, or even in a nation? The survivors of the shooting in Charleston didn’t turn to President Obama, or do their senators, or to the American flag, or to any government or national institution; they turned to Christ and they displayed love and forgiveness.

Ultimately it is in the bonds of love, and not the protection of some gilded and fictitious “heritage,” flag, or movement, that healing occurs. If we wish to eradicate hate then we must love, but love begins with sacrifice. That sacrifice might require giving up a Confederate flag, it mights require you to befriend people who are different than you, it might require you to not only recognize your “whiteness,” but to do all you can to remove the negative elements. No one is asking southerners to eradicate sweet tea, pulled pork, or banjos; but the love of Christ should require us to give up symbols of oppression. After all, if the victims of racism can continually forgive (which is a sacrifice), certainly those who perpetuate racism – albeit unintentionally in some instances – can learn to love and sacrifice that which separates them from their black brothers and sisters. Or at least one would hope.

Of Mad Men and Discredited Russian Philosophers: The Angst of Donald Draper


***DISCLAIMER: Massive Spoilers! But that should be obvious, right?***

 

Wikipedia

Wikipedia

Imagine a decade ago that I came to you and said I had an idea for a show. That idea would be to follow the lives of people who work in the office, in advertising, in the 1960s. You’d ask what happened, and I’d say, “Nothing. Nothing happens. They just live.” Would you green light the show? Probably not, but someone at AMC did and called it Mad Men, and the rest is history. Or at least soon to be history as the show comes to its conclusion.

For nigh on a decade (in show years; and kind of in real years) we’ve witnessed Donald Draper and the rest of the crew grow, develop, and collapse. All the while the question to the casual viewer is, “So when will something happen?” We thought that something was when Pete burst forth with the revelation that Donald Draper is actually Dick Whitman, to which Bernie Cooper gave a “Meh” response. The something was actually nothing. So goes the pattern of the show: Something major occurs, we think this is the *it* we’ve waited for, and it’s met with “meh.”

Yet, there’s an inescapable feeling that indeed something has happened, we just don’t know what that something is. After all, we’ve watched Don Draper live a “man’s dream,” of being successful, of marrying a woman half his age (who’s a french model), of drinking while on the job, and living a life with few consequences. But Don seems unhappy and unfulfilled. He fought to get his job back, only to continue to seek after other things. Don is never happy, nor is anyone else on the show. No one ever reaches the mountain and feels satisfaction, contentment is always a few elusive feet away, and for this we think something might have happened. Indeed, something has happened and continues to happen within the story of Mad Men: The battle for Don Draper’s soul.

No, this is not a Jesus Juke. This is not where I turn around and, much like the irate husband in this past week’s episode, tell Don Draper to find Jesus because “He can do some good things.” Rather, the battle for Don’s soul is fought on the existential level. One could say that the thing happening is the fight and struggle for Don Draper’s existence, for his identity, for his happiness. See, Don Draper isn’t really Don Draper, rather he’s two men. He’s Dick Whitman and Donald Draper. Rather than Draper being a cover so that Whitman could escape the horrors of Korea, Draper is also an entirely other personality.

Whitman is a carefree individual, not quite a hippie, not quite a beatnik, not quite an existentialist. But there’s no doubt that he loves life and desires freedom. In the very first episode of the first season we’re actually introduced to both Donald Draper and Dick Whitman. We see the businessman (Draper), the patriarch of the ideal family of four, living in the suburbs. In the darker elements we see a man living for himself, the ideal objectivist who uses anything and everything for his happiness. We also meet, albeit briefly, with Dick Whitman (though we don’t know his name), in having an affair with a bohemian-style woman, someone who seems incommensurable to the businessman. As the season and show progress the divide between the two personalities grows wider as the two fight for supremacy.  Continue reading

Baltimore Burns: The Riot of the System vs. the Riot of the People


Source: Newsweek

Source: Newsweek

The riots in Baltimore have, for the moment, seemed to calm down. What’s so unique about these riots, at least when compared to the riots of late (excluding riots caused by sports victories/losses) is they occurred before any decision came down concerning the police who murdered Freddie Gray. Without directly addressing the “rightness” or “wrongness” of rioting, I do have one question: Why is it that 47 years (almost to the day) after the 1968 Baltimore riots, we’re still facing riots of a similar caliber for similar reasons? In 1968 the riot’s trigger was the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., while in 2015 the trigger was the death of Freddie Gray. But people don’t riot over the injustice of one death unless injustice is universally experienced amongst those in the community. They don’t riot unless they’ve grown tired of a system where justice does not exist. In 47 years, we’ve failed to create a system where justice exists for urban minorities (or minorities in general).

Violence begets violence, of this there is no doubt. Thus, if we wish to stop the violence of the protestors, we must first – and most importantly – stop the violence of a system that oppresses people. How that is done or what needs to be done is somewhat beyond my scope as I am not marginalized, I am not oppressed, and I speak from a place of privilege. What I do know, however, is that such a system must begin with the truth that all humans, regardless of skin color, are created equal and that such a statement is not a platitude, but a bedrock fact of existence. It means we must allow local community leaders to create a community wherein those in poverty have a way out of poverty (as it is, the majority of black children born into poverty will remain in poverty throughout their lives within the US).

While we must leave the problems of the community to the community, the system itself must look to reforming the schools, the economy, and most importantly, the police. A police force that is engaged in a “war on drugs” eventually looks at citizens as potential enemy combatants, and they look at the neighborhoods in their patrol routes not as places to protect, but as occupied territory. It shouldn’t surprise us then when citizens rise up against their military occupation and riot. While people can lament the “lack of black leadership” in condemning the riots – and such a complaint is empty – if we truly wish to stop riots, then we must first stop the violence imposed upon the urban populations in our cities.

From a Christian perspective, all violence is unfortunate and unwanted. Yet, we only paint ourselves hypocrites if we mock and chastise the rioters for their violence and remain silent on the violence they’ve experienced. It does us no good to point out the evil of burning a nursing home to the ground while ignoring that the Maryland police have killed 109 people since 2010. 70% were black and 40% were unarmed, meaning that while the majority of those deaths were probably justified, there’s reason to believe that many of them were not. The riots in Baltimore didn’t begin a few days ago, or when Freddie Gray died in the hand of the police; the riots began when otherwise good people chose to ignore systematic abuses against African-Americans and ignored the cries for justice.

As Christians we are to call for peace in all situations. Even in the most dire of circumstances where violence seems inevitable and even needed, we still hope for peace. Yet, this hope must extend beyond reactions to violence in the form of riots and also focus on the actions of a system that’s marginalized an entire group of people. Christ came to bring peace to the world, but part of that peace includes restricting an out-of-control system. If the second greatest commandment is to love one’s neighbor as one’s self, how does it display love when we ignore the stories of injustice done to our black neighbors? If we love them we will seek justice and a system in which all men and women are truly free. The next riot is already on the horizon, but if we wish to stop it we need not more police, but more love that injects justice into a broken system.