President Trump signed an executive order on police reform yesterday. He stated that “chokeholds will be banned except if an officer’s life is at risk.” In addition, the federal government will provide funding for “co-responders” like social workers to help police officers deal with issues such as homelessness, mental illness, and substance abuse.
The order also mandates that departments share information on officers accused of abusing power. The National Fraternal Order of Police praised the president’s action.
In other news, Dr. Anthony Fauci told a British newspaper, “I would hope to get to some degree of real normality within a year or so. But I don’t think it’s this winter or fall.”
Two days that revealed the world
March 11 was a day that changed the world. That was the day Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, announced they had been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 and the day the NBA suspended its season.
Actually, March 11 was the day when the world became aware of a reality that already existed. A disease that began in China the previous year has now infected more than eight million people and caused more than 443,000 deaths as of this morning.
May 25 was a second day that changed the world. That was the day George Floyd died in the custody of Minneapolis police officers. The response to his tragic death has become a global movement to combat racism in all its forms.
Actually, May 25 was the day when the world became aware of a reality that already existed. African slaves were first imported into what we know as America four hundred years earlier. Racial minorities have been dealing with discrimination for centuries.
Awareness of racism in the past
If you’re like most of us, you wish we were making more progress than we are on both fronts. To that end, let’s consider a call issued last Sunday by former New England Patriots tight end Benjamin Watson at an event he hosted called Boston Pray. As I noted in the Monday Daily Article, the hour of prayer, worship, and Bible study was remarkably powerful and hopeful.
At one point, Watson stated that to make progress on racial justice, we need awareness, advocacy, and action. Today and for the rest of this week, we will focus on all three.
Let’s begin with awareness.
Mark Noll is one of America’s preeminent church historians. A recipient of the National Humanities Medal, he has taught at Wheaton College, Notre Dame, and now at Regent College.
Over the weekend, I read his remarkable study, God and Race in American Politics: A Short History. He notes that many Europeans came to the New World with the firm belief that they were racially superior to the indigenous people they found here and to the millions of Africans who were eventually enslaved in America.
Slavery was legally abolished in the US with the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment in December 1865. The Fourteenth Amendment extended the rights of citizenship to African Americans; the Fifteenth Amendment extended to them the right to vote. But the racial prejudice that had empowered slavery remained.
Awareness of racism in the present
Noll writes that less than a decade after the end of the Civil War, “the unleashing of lynch-law terrorism, the general lack of concern for black civil rights in the North, and the imposition in the South of Jim Crow laws to quash black political participation” were inflicted on the nation’s African American population. (“Jim Crow laws,” named for a black minstrel show character, were a collection of state and local statutes that legalized racial segregation.)
As Noll notes, the consequence was a functional repeal of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. It took almost one hundred years after the Civil War ended for civil rights legislation to ban racial discrimination and remove legal barriers to voting by African Americans.
Unfortunately, many white Americans think this legislation ended the problem of racism in our country. As African Americans across our country have been saying in the wake of George Floyd’s death, this is tragically far from true.
A yard sign offers transforming hope
I am convinced that until our nation embraces our Father’s love for all people of all races, we cannot be the nation he wants us to be. Since “God shows no partiality” (Acts 10:34), we must reject all prejudice. Since he “made from one man every nation of mankind” (Acts 17:26), we must embrace all men and women as our brothers and sisters.
The good news is that our living Lord stands ready to empower us as we seek to make true our nation’s founding claim that “all men are created equal.”
As I was walking in my neighborhood this week, a yard sign caught my eye: “Hope is alive. Jesus is alive!” I noted on Instagram that because Jesus is alive, we have hope for our past, since Jesus died for our sins (Romans 5:8) and rose from our grave. We have hope for our present, since the living Lord is praying for us right now (Romans 8:34). And we have hope for our future, since Jesus will return for us (John 14:3) and will one day create “a new heaven and a new earth” (Revelation 21:1).
Here’s my invitation to you: Ask Jesus to show you if there are racial sins in your past, then repent of anything he brings to your mind and claim his forgiving grace (1 John 1:9). Ask Jesus to show you ways you can respond to racism in the present, then obey his call at all costs (cf. Romans 12:1–2). Ask Jesus to show you ways you can help build a more just future, then follow his Spirit’s leading (John 16:13).
I am joining you in all three prayers today in the assurance that hope is alive because Jesus is alive.
Who will experience hope because Jesus is alive in you?
Jim Denison speaks and writes on cultural and contemporary issues. He is a trusted author and subject matter expert in areas where faith and current events intersect. The Denison Forum provides leading insight for discerning today’s news differently, empowering believers to navigate current issues and share the timeless truth of God’s word with a changing culture.