I am now finished my 14-day quarantine. Let me share with you some thoughts while I was in isolation. We live in unprecedented times. We’ve heard this before. It is true. All of us in varying degrees have been influenced by COVID-19. As well as dealing with the pandemic we have watched on the news of the protests of Black Lives Matter. First Nation People and people of Asian descent are speaking out. Calls to address the place of racism in our police force and history are everywhere.
As I reflect on the last couple of months I was reminded of Matthew 10:34-42, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. Difficult words! I do not think Jesus was referring to an actual sword especially when you consider his statement at his arrest after the Apostle Peter cut off the servant's ear, Matthew 26:52. “Those that live by the sword will die by the sword”.
Jesus was making his point that living our faith would not always be a comfort and sometimes it would make us very uncomfortable. I often use the writer Finley Peter Dunne's words to describe my ministry. “I’ve come to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comforted!” I wonder if these events happening all around us now can move us to recognize need for change. Quality health care for the elderly, just and fair wages, police misconduct and an end to racism are but a few of the social changes that are needed.
People vary wildly on how to address the issues. On one level there are calls from some protesters to de-fund the police and even abolish the police force. What exactly do they mean? We hear about statutes of historical figures being defaced and removed. It is tempting to seek out quick and dramatic solutions to deep societal issues. As followers of Christ let us follow his example. Jesus rarely judged and was more interested in a conversion of one's heart than a quick solution.
The only ones who will benefit from defunding the police would be criminals. Fortunately there has been input from others who propose more realistic options. Yes there are recorded examples of police brutality and over reaction on the part of police officers. Let's go further in our understanding of the issue. Are police officers who are first responders experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder? Are they experiencing compassion fatigue or burn out? I agree changes are necessary but let's take time to understand the issues.
Removing statues makes sense. We don’t want to honour racism. But statutes can also remind us of past mistakes and injustices. Quoting the 17th century philosopher Edmund Burke "Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” In 2017 I was in Berlin to attend my nephew's wedding. I took the opportunity to explore the city. I was amazed at the number of museums and monuments of the Second World War. As painful as the history was there was no effort to hide it. There is no glorification of war but remembering the pain and trauma. Rather than dispose of statutes of our historical figures who were racists we should explain both the good and bad of what the person has done. Is it wise to discount the good that someone has done because they were a racist? Let us not hide truth but fearlessly put the truth out there so we can learn, change and grow. Is anyone of us free of a dark side or a weakness? Jesus made this point in John 8:7. Let you without sin cast the first stone! Is anyone ready to cast the first stone?