A Culture of Fear Acquitted: A Rational Explanation Of Why Zimmerman’s Acquittal Is Bothersome

In the last 24 hours I’ve had two people, one in person and the other via facebook, ask me to explain my perspective on the Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman case. As one of them put it, “You are using a rational approach to expressing the same thing I have seen expressed much less rationally but still do not understand.” I imagine there are others of you who are struggling to understand why people—in particular, black-Americans—are at the least disheartened and at the most enraged that George Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder as well as the lesser charge of manslaughter.

First let me clarify that I totally understand why George Zimmerman was acquitted. In a case with no other witnesses aside from Zimmerman it is extremely difficult to provide substantial evidence that he was lying, omitting facts or details, or otherwise twisting the truth. The justice system worked the way it is supposed to. Zimmerman was innocent until proven guilty and the prosecution had very little to work with. I am not God nor do I presume to be. The problem I have is: in a way, someone or something else was acquitted right along with Zimmerman. In the minds of myself and many others racial profiling aimed at black men was excused as well.

It was bad enough that black men have had to be concerned about being profiled and pulled over by police or profiled by security in malls and stores. Now the outcome of this trial has now a green light for civilians to profile pursue and detain black men they deem suspicious. We know better than to get mouthy or defend ourselves against police officers and security personnel, even though we’ve done nothing wrong. The outcome of this trial means that in at least 25 states with Stand Your Ground Laws, we can no longer defend ourselves against civilians who would find us—as we say—“under the suspicion of being black” and attempt to question or even detain us. That is where we feel the justice system failed us. That is where we feel the sting of inequality.

There are some making genuine attempts to look at this case objectively who would balk at my assessment because it is rooted in my and others personal experiences of being profiled. Many would suspect us of playing the race card and allowing our paranoia of racism and prejudice to shape our interpretation of these events and experiences. Many don’t understand why we assume that the interaction between Zimmerman and Martin was racially motivated occurrence. However, it’s not just black people who are greatly concerned about what the verdict of this trial means for racial profiling. There is a growing generation of white-Americans who have skin in the game.

Here is a snippet of what a friend, who is white, posted as they tried to sort through their emotions, “Right now I’m teaching all four of my children to fight back, scream for help, bite, kick or whatever they need to do to resist an attacker. But one day, when they’re older, I need to tell two of them to do the opposite, and not defend themselves because it’s too dangerous. Two of my sons are black so I’ve been reading and listening for years to black parents—who’ve lived through profiling by police, store clerks and their neighbors—that I need to teach my twins as they mature NOT to resist or fight even if they’ve done nothing wrong because it’s too dangerous. They must completely submit lest someone decide to issue their own form of justice and end their lives because they look ‘suspicious’.”

Let me reiterate I am not God nor do I presume to be. I don’t know anymore than anyone else whether or not George Zimmerman’s account of what happened that night is completely true or a lie. Nor do I presume to know what the intentions of his heart were that day. In a lot of ways, this isn’t even about Zimmerman and Trayvon anymore. Our society has packaged sold and promoted an image of black men that is overwhelmingly negative and brews fear, mistrust and suspicion. I am sure of this because I have even found myself to be suspicious of black men for no other reason than they were black all in the name of being safe. It’s an awful feeling to realize that you would be suspicious of yourself if you saw you in a different part of town and dressed differently. Popular media such as music, movies, TV shows and especially the ten o’clock news anywhere near an urban area reinforces the message that black men are a menace to society. I had a sinking feeling about the verdict not because I was convinced that Zimmerman was guilty, but because I felt as though the justice system acquitted a culture that says I’m a menace and suspicious. I feel as though the justice system justified the people who stare and keep an eye on me when I’m out with my wife or out in public with students in my youth ministry (just about all of whom are white). And that is why many of us who are fathers, mothers, wives, sons and daughters, neighbors and co-workers of black men are concerned about what this verdict means. It justified the caricature of black men in pop culture that is one of the root causes of the suspicion people have about them.

Uh Oh Cheerios!!! Backlash No Surprise Here

I’m guessing that I’m not the only one who is just finding out about the stir that was caused by a Cheerios commercial on YouTube two weeks ago. It was actually my brother in law who lives in the south of England that asked my wife and I what we thought about it, and we had no idea what he was talking about. One quick Google search and we were up to date.

The commercial, a 31 second spot, depicts an interracial family. A cute little black-white mixed girl with Cheerios box in hand asks her white mother, who is sitting in the kitchen working on something, are cheerios good for your heart. The mom gives the answer we’d all expect about Cheerios being whole grain, low cholesterol, low blah blah blah, upon which the little girl promptly exits the kitchen. It then cuts to the black father who suddenly wakes up from his catnap on the couch to discover that the left side of his chest is covered in Cheerios.

The backlash in the comments section of YouTube apparently was so ugly that General Mills, requested that YouTube disable the comments section for their video. Of course there are plenty of videos of people sharing their disappointment with the commercial. White people and black people alike were upset, really upset. Most were upset that Cheerios would even present an interracial couple as being the normal American family at all. Some were accusing Cheerios as being racist not because the family was interracial but because the black father was depicted as being a lazy good for nothing sleeping on the couch, while the white mother was busy paying the bills and doing other responsible stuff. And of course there is backlash to the backlash. There are people who are surprised that there are people who still harbor such a racist worldview.

I’ve thought about sharing my perspective on this before, but honestly I just kind of put it off. I suppose this most recent event, even being two weeks behind the curve as I don’t watch much TV news these days, is a timely catalyst to share why none of it surprises. The fact that there are people who probably wouldn’t consider themselves racist (they are), but are nonetheless bothered, offended, or simply don’t like to see their race mixing with others, and yet are not part of a secret society on the basis of their hate for other races or supremacy of their own is no surprise to me at all.

I figured the best way to organize my thoughts is to address various different groups whom this may concern.

To the Cheerios brand and General Mills Company… Thank you! As an interracial family it is important to us that our daughter occasionally see some depictions in the media of families that look like her family. I notice when commercials and television shows depict interracial families cause it’s so rare. Especially depictions that aren’t wrapped up in the social commentary and implications of the difficulty of interracial marriage like the movies Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and it’s remake Guess Who I don’t think it would be inaccurate to say that there is probably more “positive” depictions of homosexual couples on TV than there are of interracial families on TV. The most popular interracial couple on TV right now is, Scandal, which of course is an adulterous relationship (go figure). I can’t even get a Valentines Day card featuring an interracial couple, and if I could at a place like Hallmark or Target you’d likely have people complaining then too.

To the Haters aka Racists or Closet Racists… Thanks for making yourself known. I’ve always said I prefer the racist that let’s you know they don’t like you or approve, than the one who smiles in your face whilst wishing curses upon your head. A special group of closet racists happen to be Christians who have been taught and raised to believe that God doesn’t take too kindly to interracial relationships and mingling of the races beyond being cordial polite in the public arena (i.e. school, work, and recreation). Every instance in scripture of a command being given to not intermarry was an issue of idolatry not race. In the Old Testament (Numbers 25.1-3), God was concerned with Israel being tempted to follow after the gods of the foreign nations. Likewise in the New Testament (2nd Corinthians 6.14-17) Paul was concerned with those in the body of Christ becoming yoked to those who were outside of the body of Christ. If you don’t believe or agree with me then you may want to take a closer look at Numbers 12.1-8 and see God’s response to Aaron and Miriam giving Moses a hard time about his interracial marriage.

To Those Who Are Genuinely Surprised By The Negativity… I was speaking to my wife about this and we both agree, that the thing we’re most surprised by is that there is so many people who are surprised that so many people didn’t like the commercial because of their strong belief that the races shouldn’t mix.

Some friends of ours were kind enough to keep Isla overnight so Emma and I could get away. It was a white couple and of course Isla is darker than most mixed race children. They shared with us that they went out in public with her and received some disapproving and nasty looks from others. Didn’t surprise us at all cause it happens to us all the time. We never warned them that this could happen, they picked up on it themselves.

When Emma and I started dating I never gave her a heads up what to expect as in terms of people glaring at us in this manner. She being from Scotland knew about America’s racial history, however, she didn’t realize how big of an issue it still is. Early on in our dating life if we got the ugly looks I never said anything, I never pointed it out to see if she saw it. All on her own she picked up on it and knew exactly what it was, and asked me if I had noticed it. And yes we can distinguish fairly accurately between the inquisitive glare and the disapproving glare. Talk to anyone who is in an interracial relationship or have children of another race and they can tell you all about it. Typically it’s not as bad in cities, but once you get out into rural America, it can be thick.

I’ll never forget being in Georgia for a wedding, and Emma and I stopped into Target. Two black girls gave us the ugliest gawk and mumbled disapproval just loud enough to make sure we heard. I nearly snapped around and said to them, “Be mad if you want to but it was girls just like you who as a teenager ignored me because I wasn’t ‘black’ enough, ‘hard’ enough, or just plain good enough to give the time of day, because I had the gall to be myself and not worry about all the tired nonsense and stereotypes that would allow me to ‘keep it real’.”

The reality is that there are still many people who are raised to dislike, stay clear, be weary of people, or not mix with people of other races. In particular more white and black people have been taught these things in regards to one another from birth. Less than days gone by but enough for it to still be prevalent.

To Those Who Lost Faith In Humanity… Not to sound dismissive or arrogant but one of the reasons why I reject faith in humanity is because I think it is dismissive of how troubling and deep the selfishness of the human heart is and if unchecked the evil schemes it can and has devised over the course of history. That’s not to dismiss the fact that we are also capable of wondrous beauty, creativity, compassion, kindness, love, and ingenuity human beings are capable of. But we can’t just dismiss every evil plot of mankind away with mental illness and poor nurturing. At what point do we recognize that some of this nonsense is just in our nature, and is never going to be fully solved through human progress?

Melissa Harris-Perry and Our Collective Need to Respond with Grace and Peace

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Romans 12.18 “If Possible, so far as it depends on you live peaceably with all.”

In case you haven’t heard the comments made by Melissa Harris-Perry have created quite a stir amongst many. Not least some within the American Church. In case you haven’t heard it or seen the “Lean Forward” advertisement here is the quote that rose the ire of many…

“We have never invested as much in public education as we should have. We haven’t had a very collective notion of, these are our children. We have to break through our private idea that children belong to their parents, or children belong to their families, and recognize that children belong to whole communities. Once it’s everybody’s responsibility and not just the household’s, we start making better investments.”

Many have seen this as an attack on the nuclear family and the role of parents. Some have even said that it sounds very socialist. I don’t know a lot about the woman, but as a fellow Black American I can imagine that some of her comments about children belong to communities is harkening back to a part of Black American Culture that existed well into the 70s. The comedian Sinbad even told stories about this part of Black culture in one of his stand up routines; if you got in trouble at school which required a call home, then the ladies in the neighborhood and your grandmother (assuming she lived in the neighborhood), knew about it and gave you a piece of their mind/disciplined you, before you even reached home and had to face your own parents. It could be possible that Harris-Perry is harkening back to concept of “it takes a village/tribe” as a way of encouraging people to consider how they can invest in the youth in their community beyond their own (And not in the exclusively discipline fashion of the 70s).

As a member of the church and more specifically as a youth pastor this got me to thinking… No one ever freaked out when someone said, “It takes a village…”. In fact I’ve heard many in the church use the analogy in positive ways to encourage the role of community within the body of Christ. No one ever said in response to that, “it reeks of naturalism or early western pagan spirituality”. As a youth pastor I promote the idea that parents have the most potential influence in shaping their children, and while I have a role to play and something valuable to add, parents are (and always will be) the primary stewards of their kids. Personally I feel all the drama surrounding her comments just highlights something else that I’ve observed lately, which bothers me.

So many within the American church seem to be on the hunt accusing people of being socialists like its the 50s again in the midst of the “Red Scare”. It makes us look as though we are more concerned with protecting the American republic we’ve been born into (and gratefully so), democracy, capitalism and the “American Way” more than our concern for announcing the gospel message of God as King. A huge part of the Gospel is that all nations all kings all rulers, and all forms of government will be found wanting. All of them, including America no matter how much we rise or fall as a nation, will fall and be done away with when Christ returns (Revelation 17.14). His kingdom rule will fully and undeniably invade not just heaven but earth too resulting in the New Heavens and New Earth that so much of scripture points towards and eagerly awaits. Not that politics and government are insignificant, but when a sizable amount of our PR and announcements concerns our loathing and fear-mongering of liberals, socialists, or ultra-conservatives and politicians in general then the likelihood of the gospel falling on deaf ears increases. Announcing and living the gospel needs to be the foremost of our concern. The gospel calls those of us who claim to submit to the rule of the king the good news announces to do our best to live at peace with everyone (Romans 12.18), and to pray for those who are in positions of  power and influence (1st Timothy 2.1-6). Living at peace with and praying for those outside the body of Christ is a powerful witness.

Quick Reflection on 45 Year Anniversary of MLK Jr. Assassination

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On April 4, 1968 Martin Luther King Jr., was assassinated as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis Tennessee.  Much could be said of the 45 years of race relations between blacks and whites in the United States of America—some of it good, some of it not so good. Today I will say this: It is safe to say that without the vision selflessness and determination of Martin Luther King Jr. I would not be a youth pastor at a predominantly white church. 45 years later a black man can be a youth pastor to almost entirely white teenagers and families, in the south no less, due to the sacrifice of MLK. Because of King’s fearless pursuit of his dream my students don’t see me as their black youth pastor, they see me as their pastor. Because of King’s fearless pursuit of his dream parents, who like myself were born within ten year’s of his death, simultaneously understand the historical implications of their student having a youth pastor who is black and couldn’t care less.

You can say what you want about race relations between black and white Americans in this country, and how there is still work to be done for all men to see and treat men of another color as equal, but you can’t say that Martin Luther King Jr. pursued and died for his dream in vain.  45 years later if King is looking down from heaven he has plenty of reason to celebrate and be glad. 45 years later we can say of King’s dream, “mission accomplished!”

Three Lessons from Giglio and the Inaugural Prayer

Middle of last week it was announced that Louie Giglio, founder of Passion City Church and the global Passion movement had been invited to give the benediction at the Inauguration Ceremony next week. The current White House Administration has been very impressed with Giglio’s efforts in recent years to help bring an end to modern slavery across the globe. It only took two days for those who took issue with a sermon he preached 15 to 20 years ago, that had been archived online to raise a big enough stink that, depending on how you take it, Giglio decided to withdraw from delivering the benediction or was asked to step down by the Inaugural Committee. The sermon from 15 to 20 years ago that started this controversy was on homosexuality where amongst other things he said that homosexuality is sin.

Since then the blogosphere has been littered with commentary on what unfolded by countless in the Christian community. Some of them are suggesting that Giglio was bullied, that his first amendment rights were violated, or that he should have taken a stand and done the prayer anyway. Many have forecasted that this spells trouble for Christians in a country that is growing less and less Christian.

While this is yet more Christian commentary, and albeit a little bit behind everyone else, here are some thoughts I had about the situation. More specifically, since this is a blog for parents of teenagers and those who work with teenagers, youth workers, pastors and volunteers, what can our young people take from this?

  1. Nothing is Private in Public: The climate and general attitude towards homosexuality in America has changed significantly in the last 15 to 20 years, thus it may seem a little unfair that Giglio is getting raked over the coals for something he said well over a decade ago. To say it’s not fair is not the point because the reality is he said it, it was recorded, and it can be found. Young people need to be sobered, not scared, by the reality that anything they say and do that makes it’s way onto the internet is not private. More importantly it is accessible. They need to be mindful of what they post on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Vimeo, and strongly consider, “is this something that could come back to bite me later?” Crying that it’s not fair is not going to get you anywhere because that is the reality.
  2. Stand Up or Sit Down?: I’ll be honest. Initially I wished that Giglio had gone ahead and done the benediction anyway. But upon further reflection, conversation with a friend and looking back over his statement I can’t help but wonder, “Could it be that Giglio stepped down in an effort to obey Romans 12.17-18?” Romans 12.17-18 instructs us, under the heading of Marks of the True Christian in the ESV, “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Nowadays young Christians and Christians in general are being encouraged to take a stand. That these controversial issues, like abortion and sanctity of marriage, are the tasks that we as Christians are called to take a stand for if we are really about the gospel. However, take a look at the second part of Giglio’s statement, “Due to a message of mine that surfaced from 15-20 years ago, it is likely that my participation, and the prayer I would offer, will be dwarfed by those seeking to make their agenda a focal point of the inauguration. Clearly speaking on this issue has not been in the range of my priorities the past fifteen years. Instead, my aim has been to call people to ultimate significance as we make much of Jesus Christ.” Did you catch that last part? Giglio is saying that ultimately the gospel has is and always will be about making ‘much of Jesus Christ’. What a great example of wisdom, discernment and self-control to seek peace with all as far as it depended on him, that Giglio has given us and to the millions of young Christians he ministers to nationally. We need to help teenagers learn wisdom and the ability to discern when is the time to stand up and when is the time to keep calm.
  3. The Plank in Our Eye: Recently the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy reported that 80% of unmarried evangelicals between the ages of 18 and 29 had engaged in sex. Likewise the National Association of Evangelicals, using a stricter definition of “evangelical” reported that 44% of 18 to 29 year olds had sex outside of marriage. It’s pretty clear in scripture that God does not endorse sex outside of marriage in the same manner that it does not endorse same sex sexual relations in or out of marriage. Based upon the research of those two organizations it might be time for the church to start directing more of our attention towards heterosexuals within the body of Christ, encouraging them to live rightly ordered sexual lives as opposed to outsiders? This needs to start with parents and youth workers continuing to call young people to live sexual lives in accordance with the Creator’s design out of reverence and love for God and being consumed with the love of God for them, rather than fear of God’s wrath for getting it wrong. People outside the church have access to the Bible and can see what it says. How can we expect them to take us seriously about our standards if we don’t appear to take them seriously by our own actions?

Conclusion: At the end of the day I think we have three tangible ways we need to encourage young people to be mindful of their witness. What are they putting out in public even if they believe it to be private? As far is it depends on you are you living at peace with everyone including and especially those outside of the body of Christ? Are you living a life that is rightly ordered driven by the knowledge of and love for the God you claim?

A Cornball Brother? I’ll Be That!!! (An Open Response to Rob Parker)

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I’ve often told people when asked about my experiences with racism that I have experienced as much if not more racism from my fellow black brethren as I have white people. Whether in candid conversation, in talks about my adolescent struggles with identity to the students of my youth ministry, or guest speaking to sociology classes at the university I was attending at the time, this comment has caught many off guard and by surprise. They often ask me to explain what I mean.

Well ladies and gentlemen I need not explain anymore. Look no further than sports journalist and ESPN personality Rob Parker and his comments or question about whether or not Washington Redskin Rookie Quarterback and 2011 Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III is a “brutha”or is he a cornball brother”. His little “honest question” as he calls it is exhibit A of what I’ve had to put up with for a good portion of my life from “bruthas” who suspected or straight up tagged me as a cornball brother as he so eloquently put it. When I was in school they didn’t come up with, no pun intended, corny names that beat around the bush of what they were really getting at. They were very much to the point when they called me an ‘Oreo’—black on the outside and white on the inside. They didn’t hide their feelings when they called me a sellout. It’s ironic to see a man of his ilk, a black journalist that has had some good measure of success to stoop to such an ignorant assessment of the quality and character of a man. I wish I had the opportunity to see Rob Parker so I could give him a piece of my mind. I know exactly what I would tell him…

“I’LL BE THAT! If given the choice between being what you deem a brutha and being a cornball brother then I’ll take the latter. See I discovered something in the midst of the struggle to be more than okay with who I am, and who I was raised to be. If talking proper English brought my blackness into question, so be it. If wearing my pants on my waist and not half way down my butt brought my blackness into question, so be it. If attending an all-white church made me a sellout then so be it. If having mostly white friends made me an Oreo then so be it. So be it because I know who I am. If having a straight-laced image with clean cut hair as opposed to braids makes me unworthy of hanging out with you then so be it (even though I had cornrows for a few years). I AM so much more than the ignorant, shallow, close-minded, negative stereotypes spin-doctored into being a definition of blackness and keeping it real. And I feel sorry for you that even with all your success, education and accomplishments that you are still trapped in that pathetic mental prison, that ghetto of the mind, that says to be truly black you must conform to the following standards of life and living that boxes you into a life that has done little more than yield a life expectancy of no more than 60 years old for black males in America. You can have your brutha life and all the fruitless accolades it garners you and I’ll stick to my cornball brother life.

You see, cornball brothers like me and RGIII, don’t need bruthas like you to tell us where our true value lies. Cornball brothers like me and RGIII were raised by parents who didn’t wipe the tears from our eyes after another day of being ridiculed for not being black enough by you bruthas. They looked us dead in the eye, and told us that the world is bigger than where we are currently; our neighborhood, our school, and our town. The world is bigger than the world you ‘bruthas’ try to make it out to be. We eventually learned to have the courage to simply be who we are, and surround ourselves with people who accept us for who we are regardless of what they looked like. You may find it surprising that surrounding ourselves with people who accept us for who we are is a big part of the reason why we date and even marry white women. As it turns out there’s a lot of sistas out there who are stuck in the same mental prison as you bruthas and won’t give us cornball brothers the time of day.

But that’s all right though. I’m not mad, cause as I said I know who I am. If it wasn’t for ignorant bruthas like you Rob, who made me feel like I was nothing I might not have been pushed to the point of searching deep within to find my true identity and worth that you bruthas wouldn’t know a thing about, and that is why I feel sorry for you. So as you bruthas would say, “I’ma do me dawg! You do you!” I don’t need to be included in whatever your cause is, you don’t need to worry about hanging out with me. I’ll be busy getting my cornball on!

Dark Night… Evil Rises Again Will it End?

With yet another tragic, senseless, act of evil, the Dark Knight massacre has us reeling again. Once again we are grappling for some sense of understanding how and why things like this happen. We wonder what the appropriate answer or response should be. Not surprisingly the 2nd Amendment debate will spike for a time as the national wound of this lays bare (the irony being that conservatives are capitalizing on building fear on a privilege not an inalienable right, and liberals will never change that privilege because they would lose one of their rallying cries).  We are amazed that someone with “obvious intellectual capacity” is capable of such deranged evil, as if only intellectual limited people are capable of such evil because they are “stupid” and uneducated. As if education is the antidote to evil. At the end of the day there is twelve graves being dug, each one representing a collection of family and friends for whom none of this discussion helps, because evil has struck a fatal blow. There are at least 38 other people for whom just going to the movie theatre again may never happen. Not because it’s likely to be repeated, but because the replay of that dark night on July 20th, 2012 is all to painful and accessible for them.

It’s not the movies. Any good story has conflict in it Good stories involve problems that need a resolution. The great stories, and therefore great movies, go beyond the basic good versus evil plot, but deal with more systemic evil. Evil that is systemic is so huge, so all encompassing, that no simple resolution is going to put an end to evil. Blowing up the Death Star only solved that problem, but it didn’t end evil all together. Casting the One Ring into the fires of Mount Doom solved that problem, but it didn’t end evil for good. Defeating Lord Voldemort and learning to be cordial with Draco Malfoy solved that problem, but it didn’t end evil.

Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy, especially the latest and last installment, takes an honest look at systemic evil. Its subtle brilliance is in the way it juxtaposes proposed answers to the problem of evil. Dark Knight Rises demonstrates that even those with good intentions can and do get sucked into the vortex, and the evil that lies dormant inside them stirs, and often is unleashed. All they need is a little push. The complete body of work of Nolan’s Batman movies show us how just when you solve one problem more, and often greater, problems arise. The new problems are often greater in scope and magnitude than the one just resolved, but it’s the same evil. Too often those who seek to solve the problems of evil become an instrument of evil or provide temporary solutions that are themselves riddled with problems. Problems are only symptoms of something much darker, the presence of evil. Peace is only evil catching its breath, unless of course evil dies once and for all. Humanity with all our achievements, politics, progress, enlightenment, technology, philosophy, organized religion, and compassion must face the facts that we are only capable of treating symptoms. We will never have the means to end evil once and for all.

The Christian Story is ultimately a story of evil meeting its end never to rise again. It claims that God has the means to end evil once and for all, has been and is in the process of ending it, and will eventually once and for all end evil. Pastors and preachers often don’t highlight this enough as they make the Christian Story more about personal relationship, personal salvation, personal happiness, and personal help (self-help/behavioral modification).  Jesus on the other hand tells his disciples to “take up your cross daily and follow me” (Matthew 16.24-26)? One way or another humanity is destined for death, because ever since the fall evil resides in the heart of man (Romans 3.10-18), and evil must be dealt with. Though we may never, we are all capable of what this young man in Aurora, CO did, and deserve the exact same judgment from God as he (Romans 3.23). Because the only true way to end evil forever is to kill evil forever, every last drop. The Christian Story calls us to a point of decision, which has been communicated shorthand many ways. We can either die daily now, put on the new-self daily now, or we can die daily later. One kind of death leads to life, the other kind of death has no end. God has made a way for all to receive life by dying the first death, and desires that none experience the second kind.

Praying a prayer doesn’t end evil, avoiding bad behavior doesn’t end evil, adherence to a moral standard doesn’t evil, service projects, mission trips, church attendance, evangelism doesn’t end evil. All those things are good but they don’t end evil, only death does. But death is not end of the story, not for all. Those who choose to die with Christ now will rise again and enter a world where God’s reign is complete and evil can’t touch it (Revelation 21.1-8, 26-27)