I suppose I could have used an illustration from the Bible, such as the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, to make the point rather than from Greek Mythology, but there is a reason I used the story of Pandora’s Box. For years I thought that the idea of Hope is a universal concept, but the truth is it is not. The Greeks were known for their mythology, but they were just as known for their tragedies that were connected to their mythology. Whether it was heroes such as Hercules or Achilles, or wealthy kings such as Midas, just about everyone died a tragic death where the idea of hope was something illusory, fake, and vain. It took me a while to understand why this was the case.
According to the story, Pandora was given a box that contained all the evils of the world that, if released, would destroy mankind. Curiosity finally got the better of her, and one day she opened the box to see what was inside. When she did, all the evils of the world came screaming out. She tried closing the lid, but by that time all the evils had been released; only one entity remained, and rose up very slowly from the box at last. This was Hope.
While growing up and attending school, I would hear teachers and authors try their very best to make the case that this was a positive (in the healthy, Western, sense) but this did not bear resemblance to the stories. It finally hit me: in Greek mythology and thought, hope is a negative. It was the false assurance that one would be able to achieve his aims or goals, or that his family would be near him, or that there would be peace - but this was all just false. In the end, in the Greek mythological world the fates ruled, and thus fatalism prevailed. How does this differ from the Bible’s account of the fall in the Garden of Eden? God Himself would step in to give hope. He would not be an active participant in the destruction of mankind. I hope to make this point clear by the end of this article. Hope is what is missing now.
Last Monday was Memorial Day in the United States. It was a time for this country to reflect on the lives of every soldier who has ever laid down his or her life in defense of this nation from the very beginning of this nation’s existence. Last Monday, the major question in the minds of the leaders and people in the United States was about the COVID-19 virus and how Memorial Day should be celebrated. The country has been in a lockdown for the last three months. Government officials and business leaders were discussing the speed of reopening while churches in every state in the Union were pushing to reopen their buildings to resume services. And as has been true throughout the last three months, the prognosticators in medical science and the media predicted the worst gloom and doom if the churches did reopen. The Supreme Court of the United States, by a 5-4 margin, sided with various state governments on the issue of restricting churches during this coronavirus crisis “for the public well-being”. But all of this is a moot point now. As of this morning, several states’ governors have declared a ”state of emergency” because of the widespread rioting that has taken place in the aftermath of the death of a man named George Floyd, at the hands of officers of the Minneapolis Police Department, on Monday, May 25, 2020 - Memorial Day.
According to various accounts of the incident, Mr. Floyd was arrested on a charge of suspected forgery. At a nearby deli called Cup Foods, Floyd allegedly attempted to use a counterfeit $20.00 bill. By the time the police arrived, Floyd was in his car, and according to the police, he was “under the influence” of some narcotic or alcohol. The police officers ordered him to exit his car, at which point he began to resist. According to the Minneapolis Police, the officers had Mr. Floyd in handcuffs and had called for Emergency Medical Services because Floyd seemed to be “suffering medical distress”. But the footage recorded on the cell phones of several bystanders showed police officer Derek Chauvin with his knee on the neck of Mr. Floyd, who was face down on the road with his hands still cuffed. Floyd was crying out that he could not breathe, and bystanders were also hollering at the police officers regarding his distress, but neither Chauvin nor the remaining officers did nothing, for almost 8 minutes. By the time the ambulance arrived, Mr. Floyd was dead.
There are no words to describe the terrible footage that was caught on cellphone and then made viral. It should be pointed out that the police officers’ body camera footage has yet to be made public. However, there was enough evidence (along with the public outcry from the President of the United States down to the ordinary citizen) which demanded the police officer who had his knee on Mr. Floyd be arrested. All four police officers were fired from the Minneapolis Police Department. All four are now under arrest. Now, as horrible as this tragedy was, what happened next was despicable: as in 2015 and 2016, groups such as Black Lives Matter, ANTIFA, and others (and I believe in concert with politicians at the local and national level) went to work to cause anarchy. Within the last few days, destructive riots have broken out in several cities all across the country.
It is not difficult to understand the methodology. There are people who are protesting the death of George Floyd, and I wish I could say that the protests carried the same non-violent, non-offense giving tone of Martin Luther King Jr.’s marches in the 1950’s and 60’s; but that is not the case. What has been called “peaceful” is full of the verbal assault and abuse of the worst kind, but the idea is that as long as it does not become violent, such protests will be tolerated. The problem is that since the time of the Boston Massacre, such protests will almost always become violent because there are incendiary people involved. And the bricks started to fly.
The first of these riots started in the city of Minneapolis - a city which has been a bastion for the Democrat Party for the last four decades. Every kind of liberal-left policy has always been tried here. Every kind of social welfare program is in affect here. The elected leaders of this city (and indeed of the state) are all strongly liberal or progressive members of the Democrat party, so what happened next should have come as a shock, and indeed that is what it seemed like to the mayor of this city, Jacob Frey. Businesses were being looted and burned to the ground and there was no police to stop it. The headquarters of the Minneapolis Police Department 3rd precinct was set on fire and burned down by the rioters. Soon an Auto Zone, a Wells Fargo Bank, several other stores, and even a public housing apartment complex that was due to open in weeks were all set on fire and destroyed. The mayor’s response was to treat the destruction as akin to a therapy session for people in anger management.
He mentioned that the African-American community had “400 years” of pent-up anger and frustration, and that it was basically okay for them to engage in property destruction. If you happened to be the victim of that 400 years’ of animosity, too bad - you were not going to get any answers or help; not from 911, not from the police department which had retreated, and not from governmental leaders who were more concerned about political correctness than lives and livelihood of their citizens. “Protestors” were so concerned about George Floyd that they used him as an excuse to pillage retail stores and engage in high luxury theft. One African-American Minneapolis firefighter was in tears as he told the media that a restaurant business that he and his wife had just started had been destroyed. It had no insurance coverage and therefore was a total loss. By the way, that is a point that liberal leaders like to repeat over and over as an allowance for rioters and looters - “that business is covered”. However, they will not tell anyone that insurance premiums as well as property taxes will be raised all across the board as a result. But it was not just property destruction; the human toll was much more devastating.
God only knows how many people have been bruised, battered and killed in Minneapolis, and now in many cities across the United States. The cities and states where the violence was at its worst are, conspicuously, in the very cities and states that are politically Democrat. It was way too late by the time that most of these political leaders at the local level realized that things had become dangerous for everyone (the national level still doesn’t care - it all works to their aims). A husband and wife who were trying to protect their business in Rochester, New York endured a vicious beating by rioters armed with bricks and 2x4 pieces of wood. In Dallas, one shop owner trying to protect his business suffered critical injuries as he tried and failed to protect his business against a mob of rioters, and bystanders just laughed at him bleeding on the road. There are numerous others incidents to recount here, but the point is that, now in 28 states, National Guard units have been activated to assist local law enforcement to quell the widespread violence and looting. One thing is for certain: absolutely no one will trust their local governments to protect them or their livelihoods during a state of emergency. Gun sales will sky rocket!
I will leave it to better minds in the civic world to decide what they will do about this situation, but what is particularly annoying to me personally is the posturing of many a ministry and preacher.
Before I make the main point, let me say emphatically, all acts of evil are to be condemned no matter who the victim or the perpetrator are in regards to their race, color, creed, and even sexual orientation. Each person in humanity is created in the image of God, by God Himself - the Bible is very clear about this. John Donne put it so powerfully when he said, “Any man’s death diminishes me for I am involved in Mankind; and therefore never send to know from whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.” This must be very clear.
Someone may not look like me, believe like me, think like me, talk like me; but as has been said so eloquently by others, I must see that handprint of God in that person no matter how much I differ from them. But there is a second part to this point that is no less true. The United States and every other country in the world do not have a problem with systemic or endemic racism. We have an endemic problem with Sin. And this is where my point of annoyance lies.
The talking point has revolved around “systemic racism”, not around the problem of Sin. “Black Lives Matter” is all that matters now, and God forbid if anyone says All Lives Matter - you can lose your job in an hour! And what’s worse is that preachers have decided to lead with political talking points first rather than with Biblical truth. Why? They may think otherwise, but the reason is Legalism. Legalism does not only have to be the pursuit of justification by the law of God, it can also include the pursuit of affirmation by the rules and dictates of mankind. It is not based on the Truth of God’s words but rather on facts on the surface and emotionalism, that is, from the “rules of men”. The modern term for this is called “virtue signaling”.
In the course of the last few days, I have seen political leaders kneel before protestors. Why? Are the protestors and Black Lives Matter activists somehow pacified by this gesture? And now BLM and several other leftist groups are calling for the defunding of police departments. That is insanity! And woe to any city or community that follows through with such a stupid suggestion in the name of political correctness, because crime has certainly not gone down! But don’t worry; when crime spins out of control in African-American urban neighborhoods and communities, the cry will come again - this time, to complain for lack of police! The aforementioned kneeling is nothing akin to when Jesus voluntarily washed the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper; this is just to humiliate white people and just about anyone and everyone else, but at the end, this kind of posturing will not elevate anyone or change anything, and the victim count will only increase.
Why can we not say that we all have a Sin problem? Why do we focus on man-made platitudes and rules of political correctness? John Bunyan, in his famous allegory Pilgrim’s Progress talks about a room in the Interpreter’s House that illustrates the foolishness of this particular action. Mr. Interpreter took Christian into a room covered with dust. He told one of the servants to sweep the floor, and when he did, the dust began to rise. A cloud of dust so thick began to rise that Christian began to cough. Mr. Interpreter then told a second servant to sprinkle water into the room, and as he did so, the room was easily swept and cleaned. The Interpreter then revealed the message: the room full of dust was the Heart of Man filled with dust of Sin. The first servant who attempted to clean the room by sweeping it was the Law, but his attempt only made the room dirtier, the endeavor was hopeless, and the power of Sin remained greater. The second servant who sprinkled the water was the Grace of God. Without the Grace of God, the heart of Man cannot be cleansed from Sin. Why should that principle not apply now? For the same reason that no one seems to like the idea that ‘All Lives Matter’: it’s coming from Biblical Truth - Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, Jeremiah 17:9, Mark 7:15-23.
Racism comes from the Sin nature. I have said it before that there is absolutely no way to fix this problem outside of the Grace of God. Some days ago, former President Obama in a speech regarding the riots said that people should “make their leaders uncomfortable”. He can safely say this from behind the safety of secret service protection, but the statement is absolute folly. He said exactly the same thing in 2015 when he was President. Has it changed anything? Did anything change?
Sin is the problem. Ask anybody on the street, “Will you admit that you are a sinner?” Some might readily admit that they are, but most would say, “I am not perfect but I do the best I can.” If that is an acceptable response, why can any group get away with demanding that white people need to admit that they are racists because of “white privilege”? Most secular humanists say that mankind is basically good; is it? Then why the out-and-out condemnation of anyone who disagrees with the “wokeness” and the rage and riots, or the silence of political leaders on the new victims from the riots - police officers that have been ambushed, business owners whose shops have been destroyed, and innocent civilians who were targeted for no reason whatsoever?
Dear God in Heaven! Open our eyes! Open our hearts! Why are preachers and evangelists preaching political correctness? Truth died only once. He cried out saying “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Do they not know that they play into the spirit of the Antichrist by peddling anything other than the gospel right now! There is hope nowhere else and in no one else except Jesus Christ! Every soul has a sin nature that only the Cross can remedy. The idea of “national sin” has to be put into perspective with “personal sin”. One cannot be used to buttress the other, justify the other, and excuse the other. The mentality of “victim of my environment” is completely wrong, and is nothing more than an excuse to justify one’s evil actions. No one should be humiliated into capitulation to any idea, and yet that is exactly what is happening everywhere.
The claim that there is systematic racism is false. According to the website statista.com, the 2019 statistics of the breakdown of police-related shootings revealed that 370 white people were killed in comparison to 235 black people, and the numbers followed the same pattern (and were in fact bigger) in 2018 and 2017. And yet, so many celebrities have become acolytes of the lobbyists, parroting the same lie that Black Lives Matter and other groups put forward. If they feel so strongly, why don’t they invite the rioters to destroy their neighborhoods? Former Cleveland Cavalier J.R. Smith beat up a white rioter who vandalized his car. Believe me, I understand Mr. Smith’s emotion on seeing someone destroying his property. Why does he not have any grace toward other people who are trying to defend their own businesses? NBA reporter Chris Palmer was on twitter on Thursday night as the rioting escalated in Minneapolis. “Burn that s--- down. Burn it all down”, he tweeted. But then on Sunday night, the rioters came close to the gated community he lives in, and then the tweets were remarkably different: “…get these animals TF out of my neighborhood…” At that point the police were the “good guys”. By the way, Palmer had a picture of a building on fire in Minneapolis in the first tweet: a newly constructed public-housing apartment complex. Almost all the stores in that neighborhood went up in smoke. Palmer later said he doesn’t condone the destruction of any building or property despite the fact that he enthusiastically approved of the property destruction caused in the name of “protesting”, on his twitter account.
I’ll bet the response will be no different if (and when) the rioters enter the neighborhood of LeBron James and other woke celebrities. They are all paying protection money right now to avoid such a reality from happening! Those wonderful, affluent neighborhoods where the elite and the powerful live; why not go and burn something in those neighborhoods? They will not. It’s just those “worthless” middle class business owners, families, and individuals who will be the victims whom their own civic leaders will ignore.
All of what is going on now is just political pandering and theater. Racism will not go away for the simple reason that Sin will not go away till Jesus Christ returns. The only hope is in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and a regenerated life therein, but that is certainly not the focus right now. Whether preachers, politicians, prophets, or activists focus on it or not, no one will escape judgment - neither victim nor perpetrator. Only the fear of that judgment by God in the afterlife can be a factor for change in this world.
I mentioned Pandora’s Box in the beginning of this article. In both the narrative of Pandora’s Box as well as the Bible’s account of the Fall, Hope is an element presented as a ‘minor’ detail. I should say “in small scale.” In Pandora’s story it is a weak, fluttering puff of smoke that rose last, after all the evils of the world escaped the opened box, and as stated before - in the world of Greek Mythology, Hope was used as a source of torment or punishment by the gods and fates. However, in the Biblical account, it is the promise recorded in Genesis 3:15-16: “The Seed of the woman will bruise the head of the snake.” The former’s idea of Hope is a total falsehood tickling the imagination of a person but ultimately closing in failure. The latter is a promise guaranteed by God Himself. The first is destructive. The second is redemptive, and is the great Equalizer that will lift the slave and the destitute while humbling the rich and powerful at one place - the Cross. To the victim and the victimizer, Jesus Christ is the Savior of them both - if they turn to Him.
In closing, we pray for the family of Mr. George Floyd. They are going to be used as a political football by many individuals during these days and weeks, and then all the people who make promises will leave. May God open their hearts and heal them mentally and spiritually. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, “Without Forgiveness, there is no Future.”