Baltimore

Credit:  Newsweek

Credit: Newsweek

My December 11, 2014 Perspectives article was titled “Ferguson.” The article reflected on the protests, demonstrations and looting in Ferguson, Missouri, following the decision of a grand jury not to indict the policeman who shot and killed an unarmed teenager, Michael Brown.

Those protests, demonstrations and looting spread from Ferguson to places as far away as Oakland, Cal. and New York City. Stores were burned, valuable items were looted, bridges were blocked and mayhem was unleashed.

Sound familiar? The same things happened this week in Baltimore. Violent activity, riots, fires and looting resulted in charred cars, burned buildings, hospitalized police officers, looted and damaged businesses. One activist vowed to “shut this city down.”

A state of emergency was declared and National Guard troops were brought in. Parts of Baltimore looked more like a war zone than a place where people live, work and play. The damage and destruction were inflicted by, among others, gangs and high school students.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan appealed for peace and declared that further lawlessness and violence would be neither condoned nor tolerated. Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said: “Too many people have spent generations building up this city for it to be destroyed by thugs who, in a very senseless way, are trying to tear down what so many have fought for.”

The catalyst for this scenario of senseless, dastardly, destructive, lawless and violent behavior in Baltimore was similar to that which precipitated the same kinds of raucous demonstrations that devastated the city of Ferguson several months ago. In each case a young African American man died in the wake of police response to what appeared to them to be unlawful activity.

In Ferguson it was Michael Brown, who was shot and killed. In Baltimore it was Freddie Gray. The only details of the cause of his death available at the time this article was written are that he was not buckled into the police van in which he was riding after being apprehended and that he did not receive timely medical attention. More details will surely be uncovered in the future.

In the meantime, I’m convinced that, along with original sin and satanic influence, there are several significant root causes of the behavior manifested in Ferguson and now Baltimore:

  • High rates of unemployment in poverty stricken areas, especially among young males.
  • Breakdown of the family and thus the absence of spiritual, moral and ethical values.
  • Difficulty faced by police officers in making split-second life and death decisions.
  • A growing spirit of distrust contributing to greater interracial division in America.
  • Disrespect and disregard in some circles for law and law enforcement officers.
  • Lack of personal responsibility and respect for authority, law and order.
  • Three out of four homes in certain areas have no father in the home.

My December 11 article concluded with these words: “It will take a miracle for what happened in Ferguson never to happen again!” We still await that miracle.

Lord, have mercy!

Ferguson

Credit:  NBC News

Credit: NBC News

Seemingly, the dust has settled a bit on the protests, demonstrations and looting in Ferguson, Missouri. Those activities followed the decision of a grand jury not to indict the policeman who shot an unarmed teenager, Michael Brown, a few months ago.

As most are aware, the protests, demonstrations and looting spread from Ferguson to places as far away as Oakland, Cal. and New York City. Stores were burned, valuable items were looted, bridges were blocked and mayhem was unleashed.

A public servant in Milwaukee County who was interviewed on national television said that the biggest source of the problem is lack of respect for authority. When young men are raised with no responsible adult male in the family, respect for authority often does not develop.

When such young men are confronted by policemen for unlawful behavior, including robbery and resisting arrest, those young men all too often react violently. That violent response triggers forceful actions by law enforcement officers that result in injury or even death of the perpetrator, of the protector, or of both.

The Commandments given by God to Moses millennia ago are still apropos today, particularly:

  • The Fifth Commandment: You shall not kill.
  • The Seventh Commandment: You shall not steal.

No one I know is happy when any person, especially a young person, is shot and killed, particularly by an officer of the law. No one I know condones or supports wrongful behavior in response to legal decisions properly made. The troubles in Ferguson and other parts of our country are improper, inappropriate and wrongful responses to wrongful behavior.

What’s the bottom line?

  • If you don’t violate the law, you won’t have trouble with officers of the law.
  • If you do have trouble with the law, don’t exacerbate the situation with acts of violence.
  • It’s unrealistic to expect sinful human beings to end such violence automatically.
  • We have much work to do in our church, our country and our world to restore proper respect for time honored, God given values and the people who teach and enforce them.

In the meantime, it will take a miracle for what happened in Ferguson never to happen again!