Did you happen to hear there was a dust-up in Baltimore recently?
State of Emergency. Looting. Fires. “No Justice, No Peace.” All that sort of thing. It was a big deal. Probably the sort of event that will find itself described in textbooks a few years down the road.
The residents of the affected neighbourhood neighborhood seem to have a reprieve from the violence, for the time being, anyway.
The chattering classes in both politics and media had much to say about events there.
The Community-Organizer in Chief was powerless to stop the violence. When leadership was called for, his best solution was to blame it (shocking, right?) on communities being drained of opportunity and hope.
(Not to quibble, Mr. President, but Hope and Change was — specifically and emphatically — YOUR campaign slogan, was it not? “Yes we can”, and all that? — why does a hope deficit problem even exist? But I digress.)
Simply blaming something as “the cause” is miles away from offering a solution. Blame shifting is easy. Remember how the UN was specifically told the Benghazi violence was incited by that film?
Politicians know all about blame. Administrative failures are almost always attributed to “inherited problems” that “will take time to fix”. Both sides play that game.
But their “fiddling while Rome burns” reputation remains.
So, back to Baltimore, what happened when two hostile groups, without much love or trust for each other square off? Initially, tempers flared up, and people got hurt. Quite a few, in fact.
And then, the next night, something interesting happened.
People from within the group of protesters — locals — supported peaceful demonstration, “let your voice be heard”, but also encouraged people to do so by taking the high road: nonviolence.
This group respected the curfew. And encouraged protesters to disperse quietly when it came. They directed younger bystanders to a safer location, away from the cameras and heightened emotions.
Notably, many of those playing this role of reconciliation, were Christians, or even clergy. They even intentionally stood as a buffer between the two groups.
For those who subscribe to the religion-poisons-everything mantra, this might seem weird. But that only demonstrates an ignorance of both Christians and history.
First: Christians, are explicitly commanded to affirm the equal worth of men, women, rich, poor, and all ethnic groups.
Second: history. We have stood between hostile groups before. Recently, in Eastern Europe an Archbishop in all his ceremonial robes stood or knelt between protesters and riot police. While looking that up, I found the article about the riot police in Ukraine, kneeling in front of the public to apologize when things had gone wrong.
Notice how this contrasts with the aggressive agitation so characteristic of political agitators fighting for their causes. For them, violence is somewhere between “unfortunate but understandable” on one side, or “the absolutely necessary means to an end”.
It’s Revolution. Or, if you prefer: “Fundamental Change” of the nation.
Historically, it was Christians who fought to abolish the Slave trade. It was Christians who founded the Red Cross… walking between the warring factions, giving aid to the wounded, regardless which side they fought for, seeing not “us or them”, but patients requiring assistance.
History records one Saint Telemachus (a monk) who insisted, during a gladiatorial contest “in the name of Christ, stop”. He interposed himself between the combatants, and paid for it with his life. His life and legacy included the outlawing of gladiatorial combat in the year 404.
If the only available reply to problems are merely political solutions, conflict will be inevitable. Why? Because it degenerates into a power struggle with both sides saying “mine”. Notice how “rights” causes eventually shift into “payback” causes.
But when the Church stands for moral, rather than merely political issues, there is (ideally) room to critique moral wrongdoing of the State or the public.
I don’t mean the charlatans who use their Pulpit as a soapbox, where the Gospel is abandoned in the pursuit of “Social-Gospel” objectives. Looking at Rev-er-uhnds Sharpton, Jackson, and Wright, who are no more “Christian leaders” than anyone from the Westoboro Baptist crowd. Theirs would be a striking example of taking God’s name in vain (not to mention personal gain) of which — I understand — God takes a very dim view.
No. I mean the Church as an arm’s-length party that can stand between hostile groups, hopefully reconciling them.
Government, in having coercive power to make laws, arrest, and detain, needs somebody who stands apart to hold it to account for when it goes wrong. China and Iran lack such a mechanism, for opposite reasons.
Crowds too, need somebody who can stand arm’s length. To help advocate for a cause that’s just, or to encourage them (without any threat of truncheons or prison) to disperse quietly. Civil authority, by its very nature, can’t be a disinterested third party.
Historically — even back in the Old Testament — religious authority has played this dual role. Kings, even David, are rebuked when they are wrong, and the crowds are called out when they neglect things like Justice, Mercy and Humility before God. (Micah 6:8)
This is just one example of problem solving possible when you take a fresh look at the problems that face us. Often just taking a moment to consider the objectives that rival solutions have as assumptions makes it that much easier.
These ideas are borrowed from a chapter in my book A Blueprint for Government that Doesn’t Suck. A quick and irreverent read, not for political hacks, but for adults and even teens tired of “experts” telling them what politics they should have, who just want to cut through the fog and make up their own minds.