by Keith Tucci, NRP Apostolic Team Leader
With all of the recent police brutality we have been witnessing, I’ve noticed that the word “systemic” is often being used in relation to the cause of this abuse. In one sense, this is good. It offers an examination of the systems that may contribute to and produce this type of reckless police behavior. This analysis offers a broader look instead of merely looking at the individuals and their separate actions.
The danger or concern in this is the avoidance of personal responsibility by the perpetrator. Another concern is making sure that the “systemic analysis” has the ability to accurately diagnose the problem. This means not just the actions, the chain of command, and obvious prejudices, but all influences.
Any attempt to do this must be a search for real justice, not just to lay blame. Jesus Himself set the standard of justice in Matthew 25:40, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” This, by the way, does not just have to do with temporal life and how we live now, but what will happen when we stand before the Lord. Matthew 25:41, “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’” Sounds like Jesus is very serious about the issue of justice.
Establishing an understanding of the “least of these” has proven and established the civility and kindness of cultures and nations. It is often referred to as “human rights.” When one group is neglected or considered unequal in their humanity, the result is systemic. This prejudice will spread, much like a virus. As an example, Jesus said if we treat people in jail as less than human, that’s bad. More specifically, He said if we don’t visit them, if we deny them human concern and care, despite their violations that put them in jail, then we are not acting in accordance with our Creator’s design. His point here is critical to our thinking because it does not give us the liberty to write people off who have committed transgressions and have obvious flaws. The assumption is that they are in jail for doing something wrong. He is not addressing the justice or injustice of them being incarcerated. He is directing us to treat them with dignity.
By not reflecting God’s heart toward people, there will be a two-fold penalty:
1. We will give an account of our actions to Him when we stand before Him.
2. By dismissing others as less than equal, we are spreading the human virus of prejudice.
If we are going to take a thoughtful look at this systemic problem, we must attempt to trace and eradicate its origin and excuses. With all of our sophistication, materialism, and high ideals as a culture, it seems we are in a steady drift of frustration at not being able to cement some of the values that 99% of us affirm and believe. After all, who really believes in police brutality?
Here is the systemic challenge: Who are the least of these in our current culture? Let’s look at Jesus’ list: hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, those in prison. This was His litmus test of justice. Without arguing the cause and effect, it is a fair statement to say that minorities suffer these things to a greater degree than others. To deny this or not see this (which is what Jesus said the problem was) would be in error on our part as followers of Jesus.
This list talks about vulnerable people. Despite their vulnerabilities and weaknesses, they are still human and in need of God’s mercy and love. In our culture, who is the most rejected and neglected among everyone? It is my firm conviction that the unborn child, the most vulnerable among us, would be at the top of Jesus’ list today. These unborn little boys and girls of any race or origin can be killed for any reason or for no reason at all. Rejected is their humanity, that their body parts are sold on the open market. Two generations of this wholesale murder have dulled our senses to the shedding of innocent blood. The virus is spreading! What has any unborn child done to be so prejudiced against that they are not allowed to live? There are even many who actually advocate their killing. To somehow think that this has not affected us as a people, I believe, is to deny the “systemic” reality of inhumanity. If all people are not people, and some people are treated as less, then who decides? If one group can be segregated and killed, does it not open the door to a lower standard for life and dignity?
Interestingly and sadly, the abortion rate among black, American women is five times the rate among white American women. The leading killer is Planned Parenthood. Their founder, Margret Sanger, said, “Negroes are human weeds.” She was an avowed racist. There are many eugenicists today who still clandestinely stand in agreement with her. The dismembering of human babies indeed has a systemic connection on how we treat the least of these. Genesis 4:10 teaches us that innocent blood being spilled cries out for justice. If we cannot find it in ourselves to defend the least of these, it is unlikely, despite our great aspirations and ideals, that we will have the moral power to seek justice for those who, likewise, need God’s love.
Prejudice against the least of these will not stay harnessed. It is a deadly virus that will produce the worst kind of human sickness and hatred. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”