Russell Moore and Premature Comments on Police Shootings

imagesThis post names Russell Moore because of his prominent position in the SBC, and because his articles have been widely circulated on social media.  I have nothing against Moore, and I agree with many of his positions.  However, I take issue with two main points here:

1.  The willingness to immediately buy the narrative without the facts.

2.  The irresponsibility of such an action, and its effects on the church.

Russell Moore recently posted two articles (What Shootings and Racial Justice Mean for the Body of Christ and How Pastors Can Address the Shootings This Sunday) following the Philando Castile and Alton Sterling incidents.  Many of my Facebook friends have reposted these articles with praise; but I want to humbly attempt—as a “nobody” talking about a “somebody”—to provide another perspective and show why these articles are premature and irresponsible.

 

 1.  The willingness to immediately buy the narrative without the facts.

Voddie Baucham posted a video today (http://bit.ly/29HdGwm) that I think sufficiently addresses the general issue.  But I wanted to highlight the comments of Moore—and others—on this issue.  From his “What Shootings and Racial Justice Mean” article:

What we should understand…is that this crisis is not new.  Many white evangelicals will point to specific cases, and argue that the particulars are more complex in those situations than initial news reports might show.

In a not-uncommon rhetorical move, Moore has attempted to disarm any opposition from voicing a dissenting view to his own.  Be that as it may, the first question that comes to mind is, what crisis is he referring to?  I think from the context of the paragraph, we’re left to assume he means the “crisis” of state-sanctioned violence against African Americans.  But this presupposes at least two major points that he fails to prove: 1) that there remains state-sanctioned violence in this country, and 2) that these are instances of it.

The first point is debated, and honestly a good case can be made that there is only a manufactured appearance of state-sanctioned violence against black people, especially when one considers the statistics of white vs. black deaths when in confrontations with the police.  But leaving that point aside, the second is hardly warranted given the evidence provided thus far.  What we have so far is a video recording taken in the moments following the death of one individual (Castile), and a 38-second, blurry, handheld video of the other incident (Sterling).

Moore, whether he—or his followers—admit it or not, has automatically assumed the innocency of a party before anything has been taken to a court of law.  Let me be clear, I am not assuming the innocency of the police in this matter either.  In fact, I am inclined to believe the office in the Castile case made a grave error (but it remains to be seen).  But what’s more is that Russell Moore then uses an emotive argument from history, slavery, and state-sanctioned violence to bolster his assumption.  This, I believe is unwarranted and inappropriate.

So when Moore goes on to say:

If we believe that every person will stand before a Judgment Seat, we cannot then stand silently when we see injustice.

We are left to believe that he knows this to be an injustice; when, it might well be, that the police were justified in their actions.

The problem is I will likely be discounted due to the color of my skin; Moore says:

Some white evangelicals dismiss the structural. They assume that if they do not harbor personal animus against those of other ethnicities then there is no “race problem.” 

Of course, I would never say there isn’t a “race problem” in this country.  Honestly, there’s a race problem across the world and across history.  I wouldn’t even say that racism doesn’t exist in certain institutions.  What I would say is that with articles like Moore’s the problem is not helped, only exasperated, because rather than seeking true justice, or a conclusion based on evidence, we assume the conclusion then look for the evidence to support our position.  This will never help these situations.

Moore continues throughout the article with the same underlying assumptions/assertions; I only list them, because I think what I’ve said to this point is enough (emphasis mine throughout):

The situation is complex precisely because such injustices are so longstanding and are often hidden from majority populations, who don’t pay attention to such questions because they rarely have to think about them.

That means that these questions cannot only be addressed by those who are in fear of unjust systems and thereby not addressed by those who benefit from them.

Pray not only for their families to be comforted, but also for justice to be served, that others…would no longer be unjustly killed.

The unwillingness to prove any of his assumptions or assertions leads me to my second point…

 

2.  The irresponsibility of such statements, and its effects on the church.

First, as a prominent leader in a major Christian denomination, Moore should model the voice of reasonableness and measured attitude.  Jumping the gun to a conclusion, and imbibing the narrative of the world, is not helpful when talking about how Christians should treat these situations.  Should racism be addressed?  Absolutely.  Should any type of structural oppression be addressed?  Yes.  But never at the sake of the truth.  Especially in these instances, the truth should come out first, then we can make articles that tell the body of Christ how they should treat it.  Until then the only thing these articles should be cautioning is letting the preponderance of evidence make the case.

Second, Moore repeatedly speaks about the fear that African American persons might experience because of police.  Never does he consider how this fear might be driven by an overarching narrative from the media.  Christians will recognize all day the slant and fear-mongering of the media until it comes to issues that they agree with.  This is no different.  I won’t go so far as to say Moore, or any of the individuals taking his position, are to blame for things like Dallas of DC, but it’s safe to say the argument contributes to that mentality.  An us vs. them mentality.  Rather than encouraging our children to reasonably consider all available evidence, and wait to form a judgment, we encourage them to see structural racism in the police.  Perhaps, rather than assume that cops are simply out to snuff out a black person, we might consider why the cops feel so on edge, and why black people feel so on edge…perhaps there is more to the equation than chalking it up to structural racism.

Third, there is absolutely no room for open discussion anymore.  We take our sides immediately, and no one will hear a challenge to their position.  Nothing makes the chasm greater than an unwillingness to have our worldview, or arguments, challenged.  Instead we have prominent “Christian rappers” posting things like this the day after:

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With the caption “An image bearer. A son. A father.”  One might object that all these things are true, but the fact is, it’s understood that this person has already taken sides and made his conclusion.  This should not be so…

You cannot ask for justice, and then not seek it by just means.

 

SDG,

Jon

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~ by TSL on July 12, 2016.

 
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