The Antipathy Toward Authority

Quentin_Tarantino_(Berlin_Film_Festival_2009)_2_croppedMovie director Quentin Tarantino attended an anti-police brutality rally in New York a couple weeks ago. He said he was there because he was “on the side of the murdered.” His remarks have provoked ire in a number of police agencies which have retaliated by organizing a boycott of Mr. Tarantino’s next movie, The Hateful Eight, due to release in January (limited release on Christmas day).

As more police organizations—benevolent associations and unions—have joined the boycott, Mr. Tarantino has pushed back. Sides are being drawn.

Baltimore is the latest city in which police have spoken out against Mr. Tarantino. The president of Baltimore’s Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 3, Gene Ryan, said that by Mr. Tarantino’s statements at the rally, he “degraded and disrespected every man and woman who ever wore the uniform of our profession.” (The Baltimore Sun, Nov. 5).

In response Mr. Tarantino said in an interview with MSNBC, “They would rather start arguments with celebrities than examine the concerns put before them by a citizenry that lost trust in them.” (As reported by The Wall Street Journal, Nov. 5).

Police have now promised a “surprise” that will hurt Mr. Tarantino where it matters to him most—in his wallet—and he has answered that he won’t be intimidated, that he’s not a cop hater as he’s been portrayed.

As I see it, this battle is escalating, and that’s a concern. Mr. Tarantino may think citizens have lost trust in the police, but who, then, does he think will keep order in our cities?

I lived in the Los Angeles area during the Rodney King riots back in 1992. As violence spread and police seemed helpless to stop it, I got a glimpse of what true anarchy looked like.

Apparently Mr. Tarantino hasn’t thought about life without authority or that he is undermining trust, not just of officers who might go beyond appropriate limits, but of officers who dutifully and selflessly put themselves in harm’s way to serve the public.

I can’t help but wonder if such treatment of the police, who are the clearest representation of authority, might not grow more widespread. Because I believe we have a crisis of authority in our country.

Feminists don’t want wives to be submissive to husbands; manosphere gamers want to dominate and control their wives. Parents are afraid to spank their children any more because they might be accused of abuse. Students can sit in defiance of teachers, principals, and security guards, but then become victims if they are forcefully made to do what they are told.

But none of this change in our view is actually surprising because our society has turned away from the underpinnings of all authority—God Himself.

Without an understanding of who God is and how He exercises authority, all hell breaks loose here on earth. People’s perception of authority becomes twisted by our own ideas of what authority ought to look like.

Take the President of the United States, for instance. It seems we’ve worked over time to make the President and any candidates for President to be just regular people. Famous people, but they appear on Saturday Night Live and on all the late night talk shows. The day time ones too. They aren’t discussing important issues. They aren’t building an image of authority. They’re primarily hoping to come across as likable. Not authoritative.

Authoritative is an ugly word these days.

But as my fellow blogger InsanityBytes put it, the perception is not the reality:

many people have a very negative perception of authority, that it is all about fear, power, control, punishment. Those are human perceptions, often gleaned from the school of hard knocks where might makes right. That is not God however, that is God being created in our own image, in the image of those who have misused authority and done harm to us.

Because we don’t know God, we don’t have a correct view of authority, and because we don’t have a correct view of authority, we don’t understand God. What are we to do?

Part of the breakdown of authority has been in the home—parents both working and not paying attention to the children, single parent homes, shared custody homes that don’t share the same understanding of authority. Children grow up like weeds instead of nurtured flowers. They learn to play teachers against parents, parents against parents, parents against their own feelings of guilt.

In the end, they disrespect authority. They think authority is either weak or brutal. The same attitude characterizes their ideas of God.

So we’ve lost our models of authority in our society. We disrespect parents and teachers and long ago we lost any idea that pastors were authorities we were to obey. Politicians are not actual leaders—they’re most concerned about keeping their job or about trying to secure the next one.

Which pretty much left the police. And now a movie director is telling us, they’ve lost our respect too.

This set of circumstances and this attitude toward authority is, above all, the reason fathers need to be heads of their households in the same manner Christ is head of the Church and why all of us need to be in Bible-believing churches so we can learn what Christ’s headship looks like.

Washing_of_Feet008Perhaps the greatest picture of who Jesus is and what His authority looks like is His act of servanthood in washing His disciples’ feet, on the very night He’d be betrayed, arrested, denied, and falsely charged with blasphemy against His Father. He wasn’t looking to protect Himself or clear His name. He wasn’t concerned with revenge or domination or control. He wasn’t concerned about what He deserved or what others should have done for Him. He simply grabbed the towel and bowl and went to work, stooping at His followers’ feet and cleaning them up.

There’s the picture of authority we’ve forgotten, the picture that needs to be restored, the picture Christians need to live out.

Published in: on November 6, 2015 at 6:43 pm  Comments (7)  
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The Truth About The Police

Philadelphia_PoliceBecause the Bible makes some very specific statements about obeying those in authority over us, most Christians are apt to view the police as peacekeepers, just doing their job. But of late, some troubling actions by police around the country have come to light.

Some, to be sure, such as the accusations against the officer in Ferguson, have proved false, whether the general population acknowledges that fact or not. The media has a way of editing video to show one side and to tell the story they want the public to believe.

When the facts come out, the public has already made up their mind. It’s nothing short of mob mentality depicted in old westerns and in books like To Kill A Mockingbird when mobs sought to lynch people they had determined, without an examination of facts, to be guilty of some crime.

With all the fallout from those slanted stories—riots, NYPD officers murdered—and the presence of video recording devices in the hands of many, if not most, bystanders, you’d think police around the country would be especially cautious. But no.

Recently we’ve seen video of two policemen breaking into a business and stealing stock, an officer shooting a man in the back, a group of officers kicking and punching a suspect, a CHP officer repeatedly punching a homeless woman, and a SWAT officer snatching a phone from the hand of an onlooker who was filming an incident, then smashing it on the ground.

Then there was the film of officers lifting Freddie Gray upright and dragging him to the police van. (Anyone who says he was “just fine” when he was put in the van, and critical when taken out, doesn’t know what “just fine” looks like.)

In short, it’s not possible to view these events and think the police are always the good guys. Of course, they never have been uniformly the good guys. There have been corrupt police in league with various criminal elements for decades. And there have been rogue cops who abused their power. The difference is surveillance cameras and bystander videos are exposing this element.

Unfortunately, many people point to the very public and tragic instances that have made the headlines, and they conclude that “the police” are rotten to the core or that they have racial bias. (Where, I wonder, was the rioting in support of the mentally ill when Kelly Thomas, a mentally ill and homeless man, died in 2011 after being beaten by police, who subsequently were found not guilty of charges brought against them?)

Slowly a perception is forming that all these people in a confrontation with the police are innocent, and the police, out of malice, are simply abusing and killing them at will.

Police_officer_in_riot_gearJust last month, a group of people here in LA tried to paint several LAPD officers with that tainted brush when they shot and killed a robbery suspect who struggled with them. The incident was captured on video and clearly an officer repeatedly ordered the man to let go of the gun—a service weapon belonging to one of the policemen attempting to subdue him.

No matter how the “hate cops” crowd tried to stir up protest against the LAPD, the video showed the sequence of events. And no one said this, but one of the officers directly involved was African-American. As the police secured the scene, onlookers shouted at the officers, particularly at the African-American, calling him (along with a string of profane names) a sell out.

Clearly, there are people who want to destabilize our society. They may think it needs to be destabilized in order to change the status quo. Clearly some things do need to change.

We might start with our treatment of the mentally ill. Africa, the man killed on Skid Row in downtown LA, was schizophrenic as was Kelly Thomas, the victim in Anaheim three years ago. We should also address our attitude toward the homeless. As it happens, more and more cities are passing laws that prohibit people from feeding the homeless.

But there’s a more fundamental problem in play. We as a society no longer have a moral foundation. After World War II the moral ground was largely marshmallow—merely the appearance of firmness when in fact it was little more than the “this is how we’ve done it before” tradition. Now we don’t even have marshmallow.

Our relativistic philosophy is bound to play out on the the streets of our cities in the form of more rioting, more police abuse of power, more crime. Why shouldn’t it when “the Man” is making money hand over fist at the expense of the poor? If right and wrong is only what you perceive, then if I perceive unfairness, I have the right to take my pound of flesh, no matter who may suffer as a result.

Above all, the Church must not be silent. We cannot take sides in a war between police and minority communities. We must stand for justice—for police as well as for the people they serve. We cannot condone abuse and we cannot condone lawlessness. We ought not buckle to the laws that put obstacles in front of serving the least and the lost and the hopeless. We need to find a way to do missions here at home, to offer a way of escape from the tyranny of sin by pointing people to Jesus Christ.

And that includes police.

photo credit: Listening and Learning at Tuttle via photopin (license)

photo credit: Different Conversations via photopin (license)

The Tragedy Of Trayvon Martin And George Zimmerman

May_Day_Immigration_March_LA68There are so many things wrong with the scenario that led to demonstrators in the streets yesterday. First I find it sad that a neighborhood could be targeted for break-ins and petty theft–repeatedly–without some kind of intervention by law enforcement. (In little over a year, police were called over 400 times; there were dozens of attempted break-ins, eight burglaries, nine thefts, and a shooting).

I also find it unsurprising that in a state that has a stand-your-ground law like Florida’s, there was a tragic shooting. Yes, tragic. No matter who thinks which party or what government agency or media handling or lawyer errors were at fault, the fact is that a seventeen-year-old young man died. That’s the worst part of all these events.

Yet I’m also disturbed by the way the media tried and convicted George Zimmerman before he’d been arrested–before anyone knew that his head had been bloodied; in other words, before all the facts came out. People had already taken sides, drawn their lines in the sand, and had made this a case of race.

That’s another thing that is sad about the events surrounding Trayvon’s death–race has once again been trumpeted as an endemic disease in America. This, after we elected an African-American, twice, to the office of President. Fact: not every confrontation between people of different races has something to do with race.

Add to all the sad events, the fact that most people apparently don’t understand how the legal system works in the US–that it has less to do with uncovering truth than it does with winning by playing according to a specified set of rules.

Another sad part of this saga is that people disregarded Trayvon’s parents’ wishes in the name of defending Trayvon. They ignored President Obama, too. But in the end, a number of them seized the opportunity to get their faces on TV and to have a good time parading in front of the media. I can’t help wondering how many demonstrators would have showed up if the cameras hadn’t been rolling. Be that as it may, the actions of a part of the demonstrators was nothing short of self-serving and criminal.

Yet a media person who had just reported about a group of people wandering onto a California freeway and stopping traffic, had the gall to say that the demonstration was law abiding. Behind her were approximately fifty to a hundred people walking down the middle of a downtown street.

This is how our media sees law abiding.

The media also reported “dozens of cities” where people were demonstrating, and “all across the country” people were protesting. Interestingly, the “dozens” was changed in the next news hour to “half a dozen,” with no admission of the incorrect number reported earlier.

In all, I never saw on the news shots, a group larger than a hundred to two hundred in any one place. I also never heard of a place where demonstrations were being held other than New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston and … I’m leaving one out, I’m sure.

Somehow small groups can capture the attention of the media, which then blows up the event out of proportion by interviewing person after person who is part of the demonstration. Who was interviewing the people that thought George Zimmerman got a fair trial, that he had acted in self defense? Who was rallying Hispanic-Americans to defend the rights of one of their minority? Who was crying “racism” on his behalf?

Yes, Trayvon’s death was terrible. No one can deny that–even if he turned and attacked George Zimmerman. I can see that happening. In this same troubled neighborhood, why wouldn’t Trayvon think that he was being stalked by someone, perhaps with the intent to rob him? Why wouldn’t he take the initiative to protect himself? In a troubled area, it’s hard to imagine he’d do otherwise.

Is there a solution to this mess?

We need an overhaul of police procedures in high crime areas. We need a criminal justice system that is bent on getting to the truth (so no lingering suspicions and allegations can continue to haunt an innocent man). We need a media that is interested in truth more than in hype or in their own skewed way of looking at the world. We need people who are willing to forgive rather than seek revenge.

In short, we need changes in people’s hearts–from the criminal element that started the snowball rolling, right on down to the demonstrators who, in their efforts to get noticed, jeopardized the safety of countless people. No institutional fix is going to bring about the radical changes that need to take place. PEOPLE need to change, but sociology will tell you the odds are long for that happening.

Ah, but there is good news! There is a God in Heaven who longs to make a difference in people’s lives, who heals the brokenhearted, who sets the captive free, who saves and forgives and restores. Perhaps His Church needs to be about the Father’s business in a more pro-active way.

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