Antifa, The Alt-Right, And The Gates Of Hell

Remember the good old days when a military conflict or a natural disaster seemed to bring us all together, even if it was only for a few days? One would think that if anything was going to make us all join hands and buy the world a Coke it would be white supremacists radicalizing a car and using it to plow over their fellow Americans. Or maybe a crazed leftist trying to assassinate an elected official would make us take a second look and put aside our differences. Neither one did. Instead, they only highlighted the giant wall separating this country.

We are more divided than ever.

And, for some reason, many in the church feel the need to pick a side.

 

 

There should be no, “Yeah, but what about that time when they…” after attempted murder at a softball game. There should be no, “Well, the other side…” after what we just saw in Charlottesville.

But that’s what we’ve got. And many of those excuses are coming from the church. After last weekend’s violent riots in Virginia there are still those who want to remind us of something that was done by someone on the left rather than simply weeping with those who weep and doing the necessary self-evaluations to see how we got to this point. It’s easier to look down your nose than it is to look in the mirror. Even for good church folks.

We would do well to heed the advice of Gamaliel.

I don’t usually hold Gamaliel up as a model for us to follow. He was a religious leader who, two thousand years ago, helped oppose the early church. But in his opposition, the esteemed religious leader showed us the difference between a movement of man and the body of Christ.

Peter and the apostles were agitating. Their gospel proclamation and good works were stirring up the establishment. So they were detained and told to stop. Key leaders wanted them dead. That’s when Gamaliel spoke up.

He reminded the other leaders of a man named Theudas. Theudas was the leader of an uprising. But Theudas was overthrown and his movement came to nothing.

After him came Judas the Galilean. He too tried to start a revolution but lost his life in the process. His movement came to nothing.

And then Gamaliel dropped this nugget of wisdom about what to do with Peter and his friends.

“So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” Acts 5:39 (ESV)

Antifa is of man. It will fail and come to nothing.

The alt-right is of man. It will fail and come to nothing.

The Democratic and Republican parties are both of man and they will both fail and come to nothing.

So why, as these movements are in the process of driving off into the ditch, must Christians pick which side they want to crash on? Why must we explain one side as not being as bad as the other? Why must we place our identity in them?

The church is supposed to be different. It will last forever. This is liberating for Christians. It means that we have the freedom to say to Antifa and the white supremacists, Democrats and Republicans, “A plague on both your houses.” It frees us to call evil what it is without fear of upsetting the base, whatever that means. And it helps us to preach and live the gospel, no matter how unpopular it may be.

It’s time for our local churches to do some self-evaluation. Are we content with being the body of Christ or would we rather be a movement of man? If we choose to be the body of Christ, we may not be liked but we’ll be known for our love. If we settle for being a movement, we’ll just be known as the people who still haven’t gotten over the Broncos cutting Tim Tebow and Colin Kaepernick not standing up during the national anthem. And we will come to nothing.

While the world is busy trying to fight one brand of hate with another one, the church must remember that it was Christ who died for us, not a Civil War general or a flag. It means that we’d rather live in harmony with our neighbor than win a debate against him by using crime statistics we found somewhere on the Internet. It means that we love like Christ rather than arguing like a talk radio host.

Antifa’s days are numbered.

The alt-right’s days are numbered.

And the same is true for churches that settle for being movements of man rather than the body of Christ.

But not so for the true church. A few years before Peter was called to stand before Gamaliel, he stood before a much greater leader named Jesus. And Jesus told Peter an even greater word about the church that we need to hear today as we consider transferring our membership to a political party or racial identity.

“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18 (ESV)

The gates have opened and Hell has poured out into our streets.

But it is no match for the body of Christ.

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Milwaukee Foolishness Or Why We Need The Police

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The absolute worst answer to the problem of racism in our country is more racism.

The most foolish remedy to a corrupt government is no government at all.

And yet, we’re seeing both of those things in Milwaukee right now. Yes, I realize that the rioters on YouTube and cable news don’t represent everyone in Milwaukee but it would be foolish to ignore them.

While we were all busy watching Bolt and Phelps dominate the Olympics, they were cursing at police officers, lighting gas stations on fire and just praying for a member of law enforcement to lose his cool. They were saying how they refused to live with white people. They were threatening to slice open the heads of police officers. They were mocking black police officers. They were calling on people to stop burning down the city and take the violence to the suburbs instead. How noble.

Martin Luther King went to jail. Rosa Parks wouldn’t give up her seat. Rioters in Milwaukee are busting the windows out of police cars. Something has changed.

In much of the footage I saw from the weekend in Milwaukee, protesters were chanting the title of that old N.W.A. song. I’ll spare you the title. Just know that it’s a colorful way of expressing hatred of the police. As the crowd kept chanting, the line of police officers kept backing up. They stood arm in arm, absorbing the verbal assaults of the mob. At the command of their leader, the police fell back a few feet. And later, a few feet more. Finally, they climbed in their vans and left.

The crowd cheered.

They had finally gotten their way.

But is that really what they want?

True, none of us wants the local law enforcement setting up shop in our home. But neither do we want them packing up and moving out. It might make for a catchy song but it’s no way to live.

Here’s the reality that few people fail to recognize. There is no such thing as anarchy. There will always be government. It might be organized or it might be chaotic. It might be civil or it might be corrupt. But it will always be.

So the angry masses will never get their way. Sure, they might get their local police to leave the neighborhood. But those law men will only be replaced by lawless men who will demand the same authority as those before them only without any system of accountability. In Rwanda in the mid-1990s, the Hutus and the Tutsis couldn’t put their hostilities with one another to rest. As a result, the government collapsed. What followed wasn’t a group of people who promised to be nice to each other until things got back in order at the capital building. The result was genocide at the hands of local warlords. There is no such thing as anarchy.

There are others who would like to see the federal government become more involved in local police matters. If you think your city’s police department has problems, just wait until they have to start taking orders from Washington D.C.

Somewhere along the way, we forgot how to take things on a case by case basis in this country. When one black kid does something foolish, we want to blame his entire race. When one cop does something evil, rather than addressing that specific incident, we’d rather burn the whole system down. The race problems in the country require a surgeon’s precision. We have settled for a rioter’s brick. The folks at CNN, by the way, prefer the rioters brick. It does wonders for their ratings until the next plane disappears.

A free society depends on a responsible people. When a member of the police department steps out of line, the citizens can and should speak up. But they must speak carefully. They must, as the Bible says, be angry without sin (Ephesians 4:26). Perhaps that’s too much to ask for a society that has long since abandoned God. At the very least, they must realize that a properly functioning government is a gift (Romans 13:1-7). There are plenty of good police officers. And your neighborhood needs them.

So the next time you feel inclined to join in singing the lyrics to that N.W.A. song about the police, or worse, acting them out, think twice.

You just might get what you want.

And that’s really the last thing you want.

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Why What’s Happening In Ferguson, Missouri Matters To All Of Us

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Ferguson, Missouri has been on fire since earlier this week when police shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown, an unarmed black male. You probably don’t live in Ferguson, Missouri so you think that this isn’t your problem. You’re not a black male youth so you convince yourself that none of this has anything to do with you. And you certainly don’t want to be associated with Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and all of the looters so you convince yourself that the riots in Ferguson really don’t matter to you.

You couldn’t be more wrong.

What’s happening in Ferguson, Missouri should matter to all of us because justice should matter to all of us.

If police shoot an unarmed person, whether it’s your homecoming queen daughter or a black male youth in a hoodie, we should all want justice. And here’s the thing about those more and more frequent miscarriages of justice that we are seeing in our neighborhoods. If you enjoy the bliss of ignorance while the injustice is happening in someone else’s neighborhood, it’ll be too late to do anything when it comes to yours.

Oppression and tyranny are not bound by race. Justice and compassion shouldn’t be either.

What’s happening in Ferguson, Missouri should matter to all of us because it forces us to come to grips with our own hypocrisy.

On Thursday, the president and other members of his party called for the police to scale back in Ferguson. President Obama called it “excessive force.” “Excessive force” is another word for too much government. It’s always interesting to see the proponents of large government suddenly get uncomfortable when the fruits of their labors spill out into the streets.

On the other side we have so-called conservative commentators who question every aspect about President Obama’s agenda. Nothing is off limits. Every word from the White House is met with skepticism. All of this is done in the name of fighting against big government. But when big government comes crashing down on the other side of the tracks, residents of Ferguson are told not to question their local police.

Both extremes are examples of what happens when we value systems of political thought over concepts like justice and compassion. Both extremes are reminders of just how deep our hypocrisy runs.

What’s happening in Ferguson, Missouri should matter to all of us because we need to be reminded of our stereotypes and how the media fuels them.

Remember when Tony Stewart was driving his race car and ran over that guy who was running toward him. Common sense would tell us that you should never pick a fight with a man who is driving toward you in a race car. But our stereotypes often trump common sense. So Tony Stewart suddenly becomes a rich, raging, murderous redneck.

The same force is at play here. Don’t let Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and all of the looters fool you. They are the bottom feeders in this situation and the media loves to shine a light on the bottom feeders. That’s why you never see a television station interview a chemical engineer after a tornado comes through and wipes out his neighborhood. They’d rather get a soundbite from the toothless guy in his pajamas.

Whenever something like this happens, knuckleheads and professional instigators will always show up. It’s what they do. But don’t let them doing what they do distract you from what’s really happening. I’m a white male who strongly supports limited government but I certainly don’t want Sean Hannity or the Klan representing me. There are a lot of black people in Ferguson right now who feel the same way about Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and the looters.

Focus on the issue, not the media’s go to pitchmen and knuckleheads.

What’s happening in Ferguson, Missouri should matter to all of us because when the local police start acting like the military, it’s never a good thing.

Police are like preachers and bloggers. There are a lot of good ones. But you better be on the lookout for the bad ones because they’re around too. Even the police chief for the city of St. Louis encouraged skepticism among citizens in this case. It’s just too bad that the police in Ferguson don’t feel the same way.

Allowing citizens and the press to ask questions might get in the way of what seems to be a totalitarian agenda in Ferguson. That’s why you see police driving around in an armored vehicle, arresting city leaders and journalists for using camera phones and, for no reason and without constitutional support, clearing out local businesses and thus having almost the same impact on those businesses as the looters did. It’s also why you saw local business owners having to defend themselves against looters while the police were nowhere to be found.

To those in power who pervert justice, a man with a camera and a microphone is much more threatening than a mob looking for free TVs.

What’s happening in Ferguson, Missouri should matter to all of us because we are all carriers of God’s image. Oppression, totalitarianism, government bullying and murder all do damage to God’s image bearers. That’s why nothing ever really is “a black issue” or “a white issue.” It’s a we issue. And right now we are watching justice hang in the balance in Ferguson.

If justice doesn’t matter to us all, may God have mercy on us.

Because we can be sure that our oppressors will not.