Guest post by Curtis Woods, Associate Executive Director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention
The movie entitled “The Purge” is not that farfetched in light of human depravity. For those who don’t know, the film’s theme centers on a citywide decree that all crime, no matter how grotesque, would be forgiven for a 24-hour period.
In the film, common citizens wielded “lawful swords” on behalf of the government. They had permission to destroy life without consequences. Unfortunately, in this fiction, the premise for taking life stands against reason. In the film, governmental authorities argued from a distorted philosophical presupposition. Namely, the film depicts authorities who desire to balance good with evil—a Hollywood “Yin and Yang” of sorts. As such, people all over the city became hunter or hunted, victimizers or victims.
When chaos becomes commonplace, you destroy the idea of a commonwealth. No one is safe.
Some might think that victimizers experience safety when they destroy the imago Dei or create havoc in society and face no immediate, visible consequences. They are wrong. Since the first sin in the garden (Genesis 3) and the subsequent sin of murder (Genesis 4), God declares judgment on the shedding of blood because mayhem disrupts the fabric of society.
In the biblical scenario, we are certain that the blood of Abel, which cried out for vengeance from the ground, was “innocent.” But, in the case of Michael Brown, I am not sure of the extent of his innocence or guilt. All I know is an Anglo man in authority used his power to take African-American life. And, in my opinion, that is the rub.
We are witnessing anger towards what some envision as an unlawful use of authority.
Tragically, most who are crying out for justice are not as vehement when they hear the ubiquitous cries for justice from black sons and daughters who were slain at the hands of other blacks. They neglect the timeless admonishment of Arnold Adoff, in his Black on Black, to exercise cultural agency in such a way that life is honored from the cradle to the grave. All life is precious. In fact, some erroneously think another panel discussion, conference, or series of blog posts will curtail this malady. It will not.
History reveals that those who truly change society do it life-on-life.
After watching the aftermath of the Michael Brown verdict in Ferguson, I thought, “We are not as far removed from ‘The Purge’ as some might think.”
It seems clear that the police officers were given a standing order to quarter the violence to a specific geographic location. Only when the violence escalated to the point where the centripetal force of mob rule began to sweep businesses like a herd of Zombies did the police begin to reestablish order. I watched city leaders or law-givers allow law-breakers to engage in criminal activity without consequences. Was this sanctioned anarchy? I think so.
Which raises the question, why did authorities sheath the sword in this case but wield the sword so hastily against Michael Brown?
I do not know. Neither do you. We are clueless. We cannot act as judge and jury.
What we can do is admit that we do not live in a post-racial society. The ubiquitous pain of racism is evident in the pedagogy of the oppressed even though the oppressed readily become oppressors once the tide turns in their favor. We saw that last night in Ferguson.
Under the cloak of darkness, the mob had permission to “Purge” a small area. Neither the mob nor the police modeled virtue. On both sides, there was “no justice and no peace.”