Phillip Bethancourt: Welcome back to the Questions and Ethics program I’m Philip Bethancourt, joined here with Russell Moore. Today, Dr. Moore, I want to have you help us think some more about issues related to racial reconciliation. In the past week or two the country has been captivated by the issues that have unfolded in Ferguson when there was no indictment made there. And just today we found out that the police officer who killed Eric Garner by chokehold in New York City was also not indicted for what took place there.
I think it raises a lot of questions for a lot of people about how should we be thinking about these issues and what it means about the justice system in America. How do we help our churches navigate the types of controversy that’s going on around us. What thoughts would you have for us in the wake of this about what it means for racial reconciliation in our culture and our churches in particular.
Russell Moore: Well, I’ve said quite a few times that when it comes to the Ferguson decision you have a lot of white people, particularly, who look at it only in terms of Ferguson itself. And they’re saying, and they’re right, that we don’t know exactly what happened between Michael Brown and this police officer. We don’t know exactly what happened between Michael Brown and this police officer. We don’t know exactly what this altercation was about.
But we have our African-American brothers and sisters who are saying to the rest of the community that we’re looking at this through a bigger picture of a situation in which there is often unjust and unequal treatment happening, especially for black males in this culture. I think that’s an important point to make. Now with this Eric Garner thing . . . I just found out about this within the last hour—we’re here recording in our studio—and I am shocked and grieved. I’m sitting here wondering what could possibly be the explanation for this.
I mean, there is no excuse that I can think of for choking a man to death for selling illegal cigarettes. This is about cigarettes. This isn’t a violent confrontation. This isn’t a threat that anybody has reported, a threat of someone being killed. This is someone being choked to death. We have it on video with the man pleading for his life. There is no excuse for that I can even contemplate or imagine right now. And so we’ve heard a lot in recent days about rule of law, and that’s exactly right. We need to be emphasizing rule of law. And a rule of law that is Biblically just is a rule of law that carries out justice equally.
Romans 13 says that the sword of justice is to be wielded against evildoers. Now, what we too often see still is a situation where our African-American brothers and sisters, especially brothers, are more likely to be arrested, more likely to be executed, more likely to be killed. And this is a situation in which we have to say, I wonder what the defenders of this would possibly say. I just don’t know. But I think we have to acknowledge that something is wrong with the system at this point and that something has to be done.
Frankly, nothing is more controversial in American life than this issue of whether or not we are going to be reconciled across racial lines. I have seen some responses coming after simply saying in light of Ferguson that we need to talk about why it is that white people and black people see things differently. And I said what we need to do is to have churches that come together and know one another and are knitted together across these racial lines. And I have gotten responses and seen responses that are right out of the White Citizen’s Council material from 1964 in my home state of Mississippi, seeing people saying there is no gospel issue involved in racial reconciliation.
Are you kidding me? There is nothing that is clearer in the New Testament that the gospel breaks down the dividing walls that we have between one another. The gospel is what turns us away from hating our brother so much so that John says in 1 John 3 that the one who hates his brother is not of the spirit of Christ, but is of the spirit of the evil one, of the spirit of the devil. If that is not a gospel issue then I don’t know what is.
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