Seeing Jesus in oppressors

A friend on Facebook: “This is what living like Jesus looks like!” (Houston cop seen comforting 5-year-old girl at George Floyd protest who asked: ‘Are you gonna shoot us?’)

I went to bed feeling pretty upset about this. Which is really my fault, I know better than to check social media before I head to bed. Anyway, I was upset because it’s a pattern I have seen. White Christians, not necessarily Trumpers, not even conservative politically speaking. (Though it is no surprise this this comes from a Fox source – if any outlet has figured out how to secretly speak to American Christianities under the hood superiority complex it is them) They are consistently praising meaningless displays of solidarity between the police and those protesting the police. Falling over themselves to be the first to commend, what is becoming more and more obviously, mere lip service. But this one felt a little worse, and I couldn’t put my finger on it at first.

I will spare you some of the preceding comments but I got around to responding with something I thought might be worth sharing outside of that discussion.

Me: “I am going to try to slow down and compose my thoughts here. I will aim to explain better my reaction to this clip and your take soon. Please bear with my slowness. I hope it will lead to a more constructive discussion.”

My friend: “I truly appreciate that. I have a feeling that we’re just miss understanding each other.”

Me: “My emotional reaction here is complex, and I don’t want write a whole thesis about it because even then I am sure I wouldn’t nail it all down well. I’ll try to be brief-ish

Admittedly the last week has seen me pushed much farther than I had expected along the spectrum of “the police can do no wrong” towards “the concept of police as we know it is irredeemable”. But even so, keep in mind that that ends up primarily as a judgement on systems not the individuals within. And I shouldn’t expect everyone to be at the same spot on this spectrum as me given how much I have been moving along it myself recently, so I apologize in so much as I attributed a wrong heart in reacting to your take here.

That said, I think what bothers me is not what you see in the clip, but maybe what you don’t see, and again, I am glad I paused, because doing so made me consider how not so long ago I would not have seen it either.

I have an analogy or parable like thing:

Imagine 200 years ago on a plantation. A black man has been lynched. The slaves are angry and afraid, nearing open revolt. Tensions are high. A slave overseer spots a distressed little girl. He’s not a heartless man and he is not in an enviable position. He attempts to comfort the little slave girl saying “I don’t want to hurt ya, not at all, just you follow the rules and you have nothing to fear”.

The overseer isn’t purely the bad guy some would paint him as, but he is hardly a hero. His kindness may have flecks of genuine humanity and compassion in it, maybe it isn’t meaningless, maybe it does offer some temporary comfort for the girl. Yet, in the bigger picture it is a supremely hollow gesture, for his answer ultimately would be that he most definitely would harm her if it came down to it. His loyalty is not to the slaves. The abolitionists are right to see slave overseers as a principal enemy against their cause in spite of a million gestures such as this.

Jesus’ goals have always aligned more with abolitionists than with oppressors, so seeing so many of my Christian friends and family jump at any opportunity to see him more in the actions of the police than in the actions of the peaceful protesters has been profoundly troubling for me.


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