America has a race problem. It doesn’t matter if the moral majority or isolated segments of evangelicals ignore its existence. Human suffering based on race is an antiquated notion, but one which has found an active role in contemporary American life, law, and justice. Deflection, denial, and a growing callous of indifference disfigures the asymmetrical hands of those charged in the protection and service to all.
But what do we do about it? Hmmm.
Many people have suggested that we stop talking about it:
Ignore it and it’ll go away:
Or Just “get over it”:
It is a little dismissive to those on the other end of a black baton who have become accustomed to presumed guilt before innocence. It also ignores much of the causal symptomology that plagues those afflicted with the comorbid states of un-empathetic perception, heightened dissonance, and unchecked privilege.
Yeah, it happens.
Recent events have played out on the national stage, reminding us we still have yet to overcome… inequalities, lopsided justice, and the disconnected apathetic ear. Though we may not see the graphic imagery of police dogs unleashed on our fellow citizens in the frequency of which we once saw, for those of color – the struggle with an unjust brutalizing authority is still incontestable and real. We have become so desensitized to the image of a throat under an authoritative heel, that I wonder how many more of our children or elderly would need to be pepper sprayed for us to stop flinching.
That’s what makes Franklin Graham’s message of submission so bothersome.
In a recent Facebook message, the son of evangelist Billy Graham offered frank advice to the masses. His answer to stop police shootings was simple:
“Listen up–Blacks, Whites, Latinos, and everybody else. Most police shootings can be avoided. It comes down to respect for authority and obedience. If a police officer tells you to stop, you stop. If a police officer tells you to put your hands in the air, you put your hands in the air. If a police officer tells you to lay down face first with your hands behind your back, you lay down face first with your hands behind your back. It’s as simple as that. Even if you think the police officer is wrong—YOU OBEY. Parents, teach your children to respect and obey those in authority. Mr. President, this is a message our nation needs to hear, and they need to hear it from you. Some of the unnecessary shootings we have seen recently might have been avoided. The Bible says to submit to your leaders and those in authority “because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account.”
To a certain extent, I hate to admit it that he’s right.
My first reaction to Ferguson was of the parents’ failure to a black son. He should have known better. How could Mike Brown think that in this reality, in this America, a person of color could challenge the police on the street and get away with it?There were three possibilities for that young man that day:
- a real police beat down where he “might” have walked away
- roughed up, shot, and or jailed, or
- death (possibly preceded by some variation of the aforementioned)
As a parent of a black male, that’s a hard pill to swallow on its face alone. That’s our reality but its different when someone like Franklin Graham, who actively works against equality, says it. His motivation is dubious. He works to maintain a status quo. I thought about it for a while and after looking at the verse that he used in his passage – I got angry because there is more to it:
“Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account.”
That presupposition in this case was wrong. It wasn’t true and my former Christian self was angry because I felt that he again cherry picked a verse to make his narrative work.
How could anyone have confidence in the leaders of Ferguson especially when they did not watch over those they were charged to? They preyed on the poor. Their authority was unjust. Although people argued the legality and morality of Michael Brown’s shooting in context to the situation, we know that the general authority in Ferguson was unfair, bigoted, and immoral – which resulted in six resignations followed by a Department of Justice report citing predatory behavior, racism, and unfair practices targeting a specific group of people. The system was corrupted, regardless of what “would be blue apologists” now say. In a different environment where the people of Ferguson might have had an authority that were fair and just, would young Mike Brown have walked away if he were Mike Brown or Mike White?
So would Franklin Graham have the people of Ferguson continue to submit to those immoral tyrannical practices?
Would he have coached the Biblical Moses to just take a trip to Sinai to cool off, drink some more of that hallucinogenic tea, then head back to Pharaoh and be like “What plagues? JK! ” – then submit?
That doesn’t sound like what Graham was asking for. Those verses didn’t fit that context, especially given his father’s overarching thematic revival of “fair rule – for some”.
The Bible’s use of “submission” comes with context (i.e. submission to God to resist the devil in James, submission to God’s Law in Romans, submission to one another out of reverence for Christ, and the wives submitting to husbands in Ephesians, etc.) However, in this reference to submission to authority, Graham is really selective in not representing it holistically or honestly. It just doesn’t fit.
I’m really not sure that’s the verse he was looking for at all to convey his intended meaning. As I scoured my bibles, I think I found the one he really wanted in First Peter 2:18:
“Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable.”
Yeah, that’s the one.
And when you’re on the wrong end of a racially charged beating due to immoral behavior from an unjust authority – asking said people to further submit to said authority is immoral. He should spend his time preaching change to those that are dishing out the injustice – not compelling those on the other end of the legal whip to accept it?
I’ll remember that verse in Hebrews the next time he joins in with his seditious friends condemning the Kenyan Born Negro President who is way too sympathetic with Muslims to be a Christian.