Things got weirder

These past few days things just got weirder.

An image of a married couple brandishing firearms and pointing them at people who were peacefully protesting shocked me.

They live in my city. They’re not far from me, which only added to the weirdness.

These people, who are basically my neighbors, looked like some strange mash up of Rambo and James Bond. And I couldn’t help but wonder, ‘What would cause someone to do something like that?’

And the only thing I could think of was this.

Fear—naked and unadulterated terror.

It distorts reality, dements our thinking, bends our minds away from facts into a terrible fiction. It makes peaceful protestors into “terrorists.” It can make something uncomfortable into a nightmarish scene that came from a movie like The Ring.

But the fact is that we all live with fear. They just lived it in public, captured on video, shared on public media.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not defending them. What they did was absolutely wrong. They could have killed someone. Their actions were reckless, foolish, and terrible.

But, I am trying to understand why someone in my city would do something so outrageous. What would cause someone to think, “You know what? I’m going to grab my semiautomatic rifle and take it out to the lawn and hold the line,” and then I say, “Hey, Honey! Grab your pistol and meet me out there!” I mean, you don’t do that unless you thought it’s a good idea, or felt compelled somehow.

And that’s the issue isn’t it? What made them think it was a good idea?

Any rational human would have known it would get filmed and splashed on social media. Anyone who would have taken a second and breathed in and out and asked themselves, “Is pulling out firearms in public the right move?” would have realized how idiotic it was.

Yet they didn’t. And they stood their ground, holding the line, imagining they were defending their hill to the death even though death never came for them.

St. Louis is one of my favorite places in the world. I’ve live in other parts of the country (New York City and San Diego). I’ve traveled. But St. Louis is great. It has amazing amenities, it has rolling hills, lakes and rivers, bursts with color with the autumnal foliage, and the nicest people. (They usually don’t wave their guns around.) Really.

They will smile and wave at you. That’s right. Complete strangers look at you in the eyes, acknowledge your humanity and then greet you warmly. Let me tell you something, that didn’t happen in NYC. I love that place but it isn’t known for its friendliness. But St. Louis is friendly, exceedingly so.

Now you juxtapose that with these two gun slingers. It’s strange. But in a way it’s not.

St. Louis has some of the loosest gun laws in the nation for a reason. We love our 2nd amendment here in Missouri. And it doesn’t take much to see it. When I scroll down my Facebook feed, I’ll see friends holding their AR15 or a family member talking about this new “easy conceal and carry” that they bought for the missus.

And the city’s love for guns is largely due to the fact that we are a very conservative (I’m not using the term in the political sense, although that’s true, too) city. We love safety, comfort, ease of living. I mean, there’s a reason why this is one of the most affordable cities to live in and pays some of the highest wages. We love to be fat and happy here, quietly living in our fiefdoms in fly-over country, unbothered, unmolested, eating pasta, toasted ravioli, custard, and thin crust pizza until we are rub-your-belly full.

But then you have barbarians “breaking down” the gate terrorizing a private street, invading their land, penetrating their border and ransacking their village of a city block.

That broke up the tranquility of this couple’s existence and disturbed their daily life, the safety they felt. It’s likely they’ve been feeling uneasy for months, not just from the pandemic but the “riots.” Tensions within in their home might have been high, as it has been for many of us.

And seeing strangers barging into their neighborhood was the last straw, and their frayed nerves were exposed for the world to see, witness, jeer at, and ridicule.

They are the butt end of a national joke.

And yet, they’re not. There are many in our nation who believe them right and good, righteous even. More said, “Good for them,” than I ever thought would have, as if what they were doing was their God-given right and the best idea to execute. People even seemed to envy their behavior and saw it as something to aspire to, as if waving a gun at innocent people was an act one should do.

It’s disturbing.

The most ironic part of this whole situation was that the couple said that they believed in the Black Lives Matter movement. They didn’t want people to think that they didn’t believe in it they said in an interview after the incident. That was the weirdest thing I’ve heard in a long time. And that caught me off guard the most.

And I thought, ‘How could a couple who believes in Black Lives Matter point weapons at protestors who were for Black Lives Matter?’

We humans are frail creatures. Empathy isn’t just needed for some people, but for all people. I know what these people did was completely wrong and stupid. But if I’m honest with myself, I’ve been idiotic, brash, harsh, foolish. I don’t own a firearm but I’ve thought about it.

So, in all of this weirdness, I’ll end with this weird thought.

It’s easy to point the finger and wag our heads and say what is off with those people. But I wonder if we shouldn’t be grateful that we’ve been spared from doing something like that and acknowledge that if we were in the wrong place at the wrong time, that could be us. We could be caught doing the dumbest things we’ve ever done on video.

And if we think like that, maybe, just maybe, our world could be a little kinder, and generous, and gracious, even to those who are having the worst day of their life.


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Should We Defund the Police?

Defunding the police isn’t the right answer. It sounds good, but will work badly.

Before I proceed, know that I am for the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s right; it’s just. And I believe that law enforcement as a system and organization needs to be reformed, maybe even taken apart and restored piece by piece.

But I question the language that is being used now.

Defund the police” has been a battle cry in the protests. And I get it. Yes, police brutality is absolutely wrong and should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

But to say we shouldn’t have police is something else entirely.

Complex problems can’t be solved with simple solutions. It’s easier to see problems than to solve them.

When I got married seeing that our marriage was screwed up was the easy part. It took years of work and conversations and working out my own junk and counseling and trust building to get our relationship to a healthier place.

If marriage is complex, race-based police brutality is even knottier. And if a broken marriage requires a multifaceted approach, what do you think this problem will require?

Or if you had some serious arteries blocked in your heart that’s a life threatening problem, but you would never tell a doctor to give you a heart transplant. That’s riskier than putting in stents, which is the typical procedure to save your life.

I could be wrong: But are we ripping out a heart by defunding our police? Is there a better way to incentivize officers to do the right thing and disincentivize racist unjust behavior? I think so.

For too long our justice system has protected officers, even the bad ones, killing blacks, using excess force.

But now the tide is changing. Justice is dawning.

Yet we still live in a world where break-ins happen. Murders happen. Carjackings, theft, assault, rape, stabbings, drug dealing, etc. do happen. What happens to those when the police get defunded?

Also, I wonder if we are equating police with slavery. Yes, does it perpetuate those power dynamics? Absolutely. That’s probably the reason the sentiment to abolish it has risen.

But as an institution, it is not inherently evil. It may be diseased, but it’s not lost. The intent of police, if it is to serve and protect everyone, is right. That means it needs to be corrected, or healed, not destroyed. It needs stents not a transplant. An amputation may even be necessary, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be killed.

There are no easy answers. I’m not saying we should not do anything radical. But we shouldn’t call for something radical without careful thought, a plan.

We want justice. We want someone to pay for the lives of all of these sons and daughters, fathers and mothers. And I pray that those who murdered George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and the countless others feel justice’s swift gavel.

But, must we sacrifice law enforcement in the process?

I’m not saying that I know what a stent looks like in the heart of policing. My point is that before we rush into weighty conclusions we need to pause and think about what the consequences will be.

Because justice should not mean lawlessness.


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What Is the Value of a Black Person’s Life?

What is the value of a human life? Or to be more precise what is it for a black person’s life?

Is it worth subordinating your agenda, your rights, your feelings, your privilege, your race?

Is it worth getting unfollowed, unliked, ghosted, canceled, hated, arrested, despised?

Is it worth protests, standing against police lines, facing your fears, being subjected to violence, losing property to looting?

If you’re a Christian, like me, you believe that all people—every tribe, tongue, nation, religion, race—has infinite value. Humans are created in the image of God. And to murder that bearer of God’s face is like murdering God.

That’s why ending a human’s life is so solemn, the heaviest of decisions.

But we know that.

The problem, I believe, isn’t that we’ve forgotten the value of human life.

The problem is this: We’ve never known the value of a black person’s life.

That. Must. Change.

It is time to see that black lives don’t just matter, they are valuable, just as valuable as our own, as our child’s, our mother’s, our friends’.

When we know that, the world will be transformed.

You will transform.

Peace Must Be Fought For

People in power don’t give up power willingly.

You don’t see them surrendering a seat of power unless it’s absolutely necessary. Kings must be beheaded, rebellions must be incited, and revolutions fought in order to unseat tyrants, despots, and dictators.

Isn’t that how America was born?

Now we live in a “free” country. It’s blessed, and rich—for some. But there are others who aren’t free enough.

Black people still feel fists, boots, knees, bullets violently thrusted at them, not by ordinary citizens, but by those mandated to uphold the law.

They use their authority to authorize unjust death sentences at a whim, in a moment of fury, rage, drenched in racism and tyrannical hate.

Will they relinquish their power easily? No. The murdering of blacks by those in power has been happening far too long.

The powerful must be held accountable, deposed from their offices, brought down by the strong hand of justice. That’s why people march, fight, protest.

Without it change would not occur.

Without it there would be no true peace.

To have peace, we must fight for it.