[Edited June 2021]
Below is a post I originally wrote in early June 2020. This post was simply my attempt to capture some of what I was thinking and feeling during those days. A fellow Christian recently approached me to discuss this post, primarily asking about my motivation and seeking clarity on a few things I had written. After talking with this individual, I’ve decided to make a few revisions, to choose language that better clarifies what I was trying to say. I know matters of race and politics are difficult to discuss, especially online. Nonetheless, this post is simply a way of processing my thoughts at / from that particular moment in time.
I would also add that I’ve recently become aware that some of my fellow Christians have found my comments here to be especially disappointing and hurtful. To those brothers and sisters, I apologize. My aim is to preach Jesus and him crucified. Some of the stronger language from this original post has unnecessarily hampered this mission. It has also damaged the peace-filled relationships I once enjoyed with these brothers and sisters. The words of Romans 12:18 come to mind: If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. To my brothers and sisters who have been offended by my words, in the spirit of Romans 12, I am sorry. I hope you will seek me out so that I can hear you and that our peace in Christ might be restored.
Two images have been seared in my mind these past few days. Both are scandalous, although for differing reasons.
The image of George Floyd…
…and the image of President Trump.
The contrast between the two is stark. The image of Floyd’s death comes to us raw, unfiltered, even a bit “grainy” since it was a moment captured by a nearby observer. The image of President Trump is crystal clear in its definition, properly footnoted as an AP photo, a carefully curated piece of political propaganda. We see George Floyd in his black tank top and the President in his suit and tie. Floyd’s hands are behind his back; Trump’s hand holds up a Bible. And the images emerge to us from their contexts: we see one man being pinned to the ground by law enforcement officials until he passes out and, ultimately, dies; we see another man whose security detail forcibly pushes back peaceful protesters in order for this photo to be secured.
In the image of George Floyd, I see a reminder — not an exact parallel, but simply a reminder — of the injustice Jesus endured. It calls to mind countless other injustices in our world, none of which perfectly parallel the experience of Jesus on the cross. But these countless injustices nevertheless point me back to the ultimate injustice, Jesus dying an undeserved death while others looked on. And even though I know how His story goes — that He rises again three days later — there is still pain as I think about what He endured…the injustice of it all. That’s part of what I feel as I see this image.
And in the image of President Trump, I see the Bible being used as a prop, a piece of religious propaganda being used to court the electorate rather than being treated as the life-giving Word of God. I’m also struck by the triumphalism I see in this photo — which again takes me back to the stark contrast of what Jesus endured on the cross. The Bible itself tells us that our champion was a man of sorrows, well acquainted with grief, with nothing in His appearance that might attract us to Him (Isaiah 53). As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
Those are some of the things I’m thinking and feeling in these turbulent times. More than anything, I continue to lament over our broken world. Lord, come quickly.
What do you feel when you look at these pictures?