I think it is important to make a distinction about violence, especially in our current social climate. Violence is an act done with the intent to harm someone or something. in that definition, there are two forms of violence, against a thing (that cannot die) or a person (a divine image of God that can die).
This distinction is important.
When my car was broken into they broke my window and took a computer and computer bag. I was upset, I called my insurance company (renters insurance is wonderful) and filed a police report. Within a week the computer, the bag, and the window had all been fixed and replaced.
This act of violence was against a thing. While it shook me, everything was replaceable, and I was safe.
Violence against a person is entirely different.
For example, When George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Amhaud Aubrey, etc . . . Were killed there was no insurance company to call, no repairs to be made.
Acts of violence against people are tragedies, they should shake us to the core.
When someone claims they commented on an act of violence for the sake of justice these two distinctions are imperative.
Violence against humans is a catastrophe. Violence against things is historically and biblically rooted in justice.
Harriet Tubman stole property from plantation owners in the form of the enslaved people whom the government saw as property.
The tea tossed into the Boston Harbor in 1773 was the property of the East India Trading Company.
And when Jesus flipped tables in the temple he was destroying the property of working-class Israelites.
All of these acts of violence were done against objects in response to injustice. Injustice against God and people, the image-bearers of God.
In each of these cases, the authorities responded to protestors with violence against their bodies.
Physical violence from the hands of power serves as a tool to instill fear and to silence.
A bounty was placed on Harriet Tubman’s head.
The King sought to hang the Son’s of Liberty, and leaders in America who supported the King used the Tea Party to justify the Boston Massacre. In addition to other murders at the hands of British soldiers.
And Jesus was hung on a cross.
Right now, at a time of mass protests, this oppressive pattern is being repeated.
During today’s protests demanding police reform, some people out of rage have attacked property. While many have also peacefully protested.
In response, authorities have utilized physical violence against EVERYONE. And many white people including Christians see that violence is appropriate.
Let me say that again: Christians are saying human beings, image-bearers of God, should be physically harmed, shot at, and tear-gassed because they MIGHT harm inanimate objects.
And history continues to repeat as we demonize victims of injustice.
Candace Owens recently posted a video saying George Floyd was not a hero because he has a history of crime. While she claims this does not justify his death, she uses this information to question if Americans should care.
I don’t know how true her information is, but I do know a history of crime or carrying drugs does not make George Floyd any less of a human or any less God’s image. Yet I continue to see Christians sharing her posts in an attempt to silence voices against injustice.
The appropriate response to violence against life is to demand justice.
No matter who it is that died, or what they were doing before they became victims. As it says in Proverbs 6, God hates injustice and Isaiah 1:17 tells us following God is about working toward justice.
Demanding justice in the face of police brutality is not simply an act of protest, it is worship.
James H. Cone, in his book The Cross and the Lynching Tree, discusses the power of remembering. At the last supper, Jesus asked his followers to remember him. And for 2,000 years tradition has done just that.
In remembering Christ we remember our brokenness and need for a divine healer. Remembrance leads us to acknowledge our need for redemption and celebrate the resurrection of the one who redeems.
Theologian Gustavo Gutierrez says sin is a historical, social, and personal reality. Slavery, Lynching, Jim Crow, are historical sins, that have bread a social reality of inequality. And while there are individual racist people. We carry these sins as a society and need to repent of them as a society.
Remembering them allows us to be redeemed from them.
When we attempt to silence the screams of those who beg us to acknowledge racism.
When we defend physical violence against those screams with the intent to muzzle them. (Proverbs 22:22-23)
And when we turn a blind eye to oppression in our very midst. (Matthew 25:45)
We join the crowd screaming, “Crucify him.” Demanding the destruction of Christ in front of us. Ultimately casting aside the cross which offers our very salvation. (Proverbs 28:13, 1 John 4:8)
Let’s listen, remember, and fight for justice.