Opinion: Where Do We Go from Here?
By Adrian Powell
Editor’s note—Views expressed in the following op-ed do not necessarily reflect those of Church of God Ministries, Inc., or its affiliates. We publish op-ed features to provoke thought, stimulate healthy discussion, and inspire us to be with Jesus, become like Jesus, and do what Jesus did. We’ve asked to hear from a diverse range of voices across the Church of God movement. This op-ed features one of these voices.
These are troublesome times in the United States of America. There are storm clouds on the horizon, swiftly approaching, and those clouds are swirling as a gathering funnel of a tornado. And I don’t see a reason to expect peace and safety as the storm passes for some time to come.
As you know, unless you have been on a cloistered pilgrimage in the desert, our nation has been rocked by civil unrest after the extra-judicial killing of another unarmed African American, George Floyd, by police officers. And while some of you reading may be upset and unsettled at the images of destruction that you may have seen in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Atlanta, Dallas, San Francisco, Columbus, and other urban areas, I would humbly ask you to consider another perspective.
When you saw the video of George Floyd being choked to death, did you feel anger toward the officers who didn’t allow him to breathe while he begged for his life? Did you wonder why the pleas from the bystanders who could see him losing consciousness did not make the officers move him from a prone position, a position that is known to cause asphyxia due to compression from merely leaving someone in that position, much less with three full-grown adult males adding weight and choke points on him?
When you heard that the Louisville Police Department had executed a “no-knock” raid on the apartment of Breonna Taylor, an EMT, were you wondering how such bad intelligence could have been gathered before the raid that they believed a person she had last dated two years ago was staying in her apartment?
Were your principles, wherever you may draw them from, shaken? Particularly, when the American system of jurisprudence is supposed to be blind, and beyond that we are all supposed to be equal in the sight of the law? Yet, reviews of the prosecutor’s office show the only conviction for an episode of police misconduct involving the death of a civilian at the hands of the police for the Hennepin County District Attorney’s office in the area occurred when an African American police officer killed a Caucasian woman from Australia?
Understand, I have a unique perspective on all things to do with the criminal justice system. I spent five years of my life as a law enforcement officer for the city of Columbus, Ohio, so I have had training that permits me to know and understand the issues of arrest, search and seizure, and what it takes to bring an indictment. I had been taught what actions in the course of a lawful arrest do, and do not, constitute an excessive use of force. I also have the perspective of being a person who has been called other than my name by persons who did not know me personally or my character. In layman’s terms, I have been called the N-word as a child, in high school, as an adult, and as a police officer.
As a Christian, as an African American, as a citizen of the United States, I have an interest in seeing justice be executed swiftly in this matter, as we all do. But more than that, it is incumbent upon those who bitterly complain about the actions of “those people” (whatever group of people they are), to step back, think, and attempt to understand the source of the rage that brings such actions to the surface. Don’t think this is an attempt to excuse rioting, destruction of property, or injury to anyone at all. Far from it. It is a request that everyone do the best they can to hear what the lawful protesters are attempting to bring to light.
When preaching, I am as apolitical as I can be. I try to keep politics far, far away from what I say in the pulpit. But this has nothing to do with politics, and everything to do with the biblical principles that we are all called to live by, such as Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” And from Proverbs 4:7, “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding.”
We have not become a better church by becoming more polarized; we have become absolutely tribal to the point that, if someone does not adhere to the orthodoxy of their particular stereotypical expectations, there is something wrong with them. They are not welcome; they are not to be considered brothers and they are not to be treated as equals.
Perhaps we need to adjust our collective thinking. Instead of retreating to our preferred positions, we need to find someone of the opposite position to discuss our reasoning with to find if we could, by using Scripture, logic, and classical arguments, change their mind.
Then and only then will we reach an understanding of our own personal commonalities, our need for personal repentance, and to reach out to someone to gain a better grasp of their position, regardless of our differences.
Questions or comments? Rev. Adrian Powell can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Adrian Powell is pastor of Faith Community Church of God in Grove City, Ohio. He has been published in the Columbus Dispatch, Columbus Call and Post, Columbus Post, and Vital Christianity. He has also authored two books: The Jubilee Harvest and Resident Aliens: A Living Faith in a Hostile World, available from Amazon.com.