The social unrest we are seeing in response to George Floyd’ death at the hands of a rogue police officer has a lot of people concerned. Many worry that America is coming apart at the seams, and they feel helpless to do anything about it. Those who feel helpless in the face of all the turmoil are right: they can’t do anything about it, at least not by themselves. That’s the bad news. But don’t despair; there is good news too.
With Christ at our side, there is much we can do to ease the social tension in America. This is the message in Philippians 4:13 where we read: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” This verse means believers can play an important role in easing socio-cultural tension in America. The first thing to understand about the social unrest we are seeing in our country is that the answer to it is Christ not politics.
When asked for his thoughts about George Floyd’s death and the ensuing riots, looting, arson, and theft, Pastor Robert Jeffress gave the best response I have heard on the subject. He said (in paraphrase) God hates both racism and lawlessness. In other words, God condemns mistreating people because of their race. To God there is only one race: the human race. He created it and all members of it are equal in His eyes. God also condemns lawlessness. Just as He is displeased when His children are mistreated because of their race, He is also displeased when some of His children respond by resorting to destructive behavior such as rioting, looting, arson, and theft.
There are a lot of so-called solutions to social unrest being proposed in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death and other tragedies that have occurred recently and in the past. Some want to defund police departments while others want to require better screening of police applicants. Some want to replace police officers with counselors while others want more and better training for police officers. Some want to negotiate with violent rioters while others want their leaders and those who fund them to be identified and jailed. Some think local and state elected officials should be responsible for taking appropriate action while others think the federal government should step in and take over.
Not all of the people proposing political solutions are well-intentioned but many are, and in the short run political responses might have to be part of the mix. But political responses are just band-aids that treat the symptoms of the problem rather than the root cause. If we are serious about wanting to solve the socio-cultural problems that have plagued our country since its founding, Americans of all stripes and political persuasions are going to have to realize that the answer is to be found in Christ not politics.
Politics is the art and science of self-interest. We vote for candidates who appear to serve our individual interests or at least come close to doing so. This is why politics cannot bridge America’s socio-cultural divide and bring diverse groups together. Our interests are different, and politicians play up those differences in an attempt to win voters to their side. As a result, politicians tend to divide people by race, gender, income level, and a multitude of other factors. Divide and conquer is a favorite political strategy, a strategy that encourages socio-cultural turmoil rather than easing it.
This tendency of Americans to divide themselves into interest groups according to such factors as race, gender, and worldview has come to be known as tribalism. Tribalism is why Democrats and Republicans constantly battle tooth and nail for control of the three branches of government; the party in the majority rules. Those represented by the minority party or no party at all eventually feel powerless, marginalized, and disenfranchised.
These kinds of feelings simmer under the surface until an event such George Floyd’s tragic death becomes the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Then the feelings of disenfranchisement blow up in a sudden rush of destructive behavior. I have seen this over and over in my lifetime. The social unrest we are seeing now is unfortunate, but it’s not new and the reason it keeps happening is we look to politics for a solution rather than to Christ.
Only Christ can bridge the socio-cultural gaps in America that just seem to grow wider and wider. The key to living in peace and harmony in a pluralistic society is finding common ground with people who appear on the surface to be different. Common ground will never be found in politics. In a nation as diverse as ours the only source of common ground for people of different races, genders, and political views is Christ. This being the case, what can you—an individual Christian believer—do to help bring peace and harmony to our country? Christ gave us the answer to this question in the Greatest Commandment when He admonished us to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12). Obeying Christ’s admonition is the best way to create common ground among people. When we become brothers and sisters in Christ, the ways in which we might appear to be different are no longer the issue. The issue then becomes how we are alike.
You and I can bring peace and harmony to America one person at a time by reaching out to our neighbors of all stripes and persuasions and showing them the face of Christ by how we love them and treat them. We can do this by living out Christ’s admonition in the Greatest Commandment. If you think this sounds like a weak response and stronger measures are needed, you are under estimating the unspeakable power of Christ. Never make this mistake. Prayer coupled with a consistent Christ-like example can move mountains.
David L. Goetsch is the Author of Veteran’s Lament: Is This the America We Fought For? and Christian Women on the Job: Excelling at Work without Compromising Your Faith, Fidelis Books, an imprint of Post Hill Press