Exodus 21:23-24 But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,
Matthew 5:38-39 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also
The images covered in the media in Baltimore have launched voluminous conversations on social media. I have seen posts that quote Booker T. Washington and plenty of other opinionated folk. Most are dismayed at the damage and lawlessness they have witnessed. They question what rioting behavior will solve. Some remind us that when rioting occurs after sporting events we shrug our shoulders and look the other way with nary a word spoken. Others try to speak to a problem that is deeper and has existed longer than one man’s untimely demise could have caused. And, in the far off corner are those who stoke the fires of racism. Somewhere in the eye of the storm is footage of a mother, physically beating her son away from the rioting crowds.
It’s difficult to explain a situation to you that many of you will never understand. Poverty and a lack of opportunity for quality education and jobs are not solely urban issues. Many of us grew up in homes where money was tight and more than a few had a high school education that was out of reach for our parents and grandparents. The key to that sentence is the past tense; overwhelmingly, you have achieved more than your parents did before you. You had a job. Your father had a job. You lived in a house, one that your parents owned. It was small but safe. If you rented, you still lived in a neighborhood where you didn’t see drug deals on the front steps. Your world was predictable and you could count on your family. Stability was your staple.
Consider this quote: “Among civilized nations, only those who have nothing to lose ever revolt.” It is from a book entitled, Democracy in America. Surely the author, Alexis de Tocqueville must understand something about 21st century people who disrespect the law and are bent on destruction, right? Not quite. He published his book in 1835. If you are up to it, read chapter 14, where he talks about the chasm between economic classes, and how the legislative process is affected. It seems that we, well meaning capitalists, with our tendency to treat the poor as the lowest caste, have fed a systemic problem day upon year, decade upon century until we have created an economic class who are so oppressed they truly have nothing to lose- no owned homes, no education, no high level employment.
If you are like my many, you will blame the parents for not teaching their child better. You will champion the mother who physically disciplines/beats her son away from a situation that has the potential to be deadly. My experience in dealing with impoverished children and their parents is that one household of struggle begets the next. Each generation falls a little further down. Throw into that mix early pregnancy and minimum wage earnings and the view gets grimmer. Physical discipline is not the exception, it’s the rule. Owning your home is unusual, and if you do you are probably sharing it with extended family. The picture is so far from Norman Rockwell- hell it’s so far from your upbringing I doubt you could scarcely imagine what one day is like, lest a lifetime. There’s love, yes. There’s camaraderie, but the definition of what and who is family is looser on purpose.
You can blame this on slavery, poor examples, laziness or whatever; but my friends we all own a piece of this pie simply because we have been in the seat of privilege and it has served us well. The posts, tweets and opinions do nothing more than to prove Tocqueville’s point. You can comment with authority without having to live the life. And that may be the saddest commentary of all.
This is NOT what we have been taught- to condemn and destroy. Jesus calls us to equality and love. What will that post look like?