Body Count. Death in the Streets!
By Pastor Hal Mayer
Welcome to Keep the Faith Ministry. Thank you for joining me as we consider how close we are to the close of probation once again. And thank you for your support and prayers. They mean so much to us. I am concerned that many of God’s people are being consumed by things that distract them from preparation for the coming crisis. Their minds are filled with everything but the Bible. For most, the only Bible instruction they get is the scripture texts used in church each week.
I fear and tremble when I think of what Satan is doing to so many people on all sides of the controversies, social upheavals and political disruptions around the world. It seems there is no escape from the violence that is now pervading our planet almost everywhere. Mass migration creates clashes in culture, political instability and more violence. Oppression and injustice divide nations and creates racial tension that undermines peace and stability and leads to more violence.
As we begin, let us bow our heads in prayer and seek God’s wisdom. Our Father in heaven, thank You for all You do for us, but especially I thank You for Your Holy Spirit that reveals to us what we need to understand in scripture about how to be saved, and how to live in this wicked and degenerate age. Moral corruption and violence is everywhere and it has infiltrated and calloused the hearts of many of Your professed people. Please help us wake up to the times and to the mechanisms of Satan to derail our faith. As we study today, please help us understand the amazing fulfillment of prophecy. Thank You for hearing and answering my prayer. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Please open your Bibles with me, if you can, to Genesis 6:11, 12. Listen to these verses that describes the time of Noah. It is also describing our own times. Here it is, “The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.”
My friends, have we reached a time when violence is such a prominent feature of life on planet earth that God will soon have to destroy it once again for its wickedness and corruption? I dare say we are living in a time when the history of Noah before the flood is being repeated. And there is no hope for a political or social solution. Some men and women delight in violence just as many did in the antediluvian world. It gives them a sense of satisfaction that they have accomplished their own form of justice. By taking matters into their own hands, all of us lose the tranquility protected by the rule of law, and the rule of the mob becomes the norm.
Many of us are desensitized to the crimes and violence that is out in the open. Heaven must marvel at the inhumanity to man and the extreme lust for blood. And it pervades every level of society, from individual lone actors to top leaders of government who engineer war, which results in bloodshed. It even extends to the highest echelons of power at the United Nations who send out peacekeeping troops that dominate and subjugate the people they are supposed to protect, while raping and abusing women and children for their own pleasure. It’s just terrible!
I’m sick of it all, my friends. Even the violence in a gay bar in Orlando, Florida made me sick. Then there is the endless war and violence in Syria, terrorism in Europe, America, the Middle East, and civil war in the Central African Republic, Nigeria and the Sudan. The bloodshed, pain and sorrow is just continual, eternal, and horrific!
Homes around the world are also filled with violence, whether it is child abuse, drunken fights between husband and wife, conflict, arguments, tension, silent pain and anguish. Rebellious children, Hollywood’s violent movies, constant lust and immorality, incessant corruption in government… the list is long, and it goes on and on. This world is corrupted through and through, and Jesus was absolutely right when he said that as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be in the end time.
Speaking of Hollywood, now there is a new movie out depicting the violence of war in Okinawa featuring Seventh-day Adventist soldier Desmond Doss. Though he should be lauded for his faith and his efforts to save wounded and dying men, the movie, directed by Mel Gibson, apparently emphasizes the violence of World War II.
And there are many other ways that violence destroys the peace and serenity that most people long for. Satan delights in this.
Even those who are charged with the commission to serve and protect, are sometimes, even frequently involved in unjustified bloodshed. Yes, they are dealing with very difficult situations and have to make snap decisions whether or not to use deadly force. While no one has perfect judgment and there will always be mistakes, when judgment is clouded by underlying hatred, spite, or racism it is easy to over-react.
Friends, I am just sick of it. This world is not our home. Our home is in heaven and I want to go home. This corrupt and violent world is anything but pure and holy. I want to be away from all this and live in the pure, totally peaceful atmosphere of heaven, don’t you? What a contrast it will be!! How different from what we know now!!
Listen to this wonderful scripture from Isaiah 11:6-9. It is a promise that is certain to be fulfilled. “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.”
Are the wolf, the leopard and the lion, real beasts that will be changed in the new earth also a symbol of human nature, tamed by the Holy Spirit? These beasts are violent and dangerous. They fight and kill for prey on this earth. But in the new earth, they will passively live together with the beasts they once sought to destroy. They will no longer be dangerous. They can be trusted and will have no fear of human beings and human beings will have no fear of them. What a blessing it will be, my friends, to live in the atmosphere of heaven.
Only Christ, my friends, can overcome the violence in our hearts. Only Christ can tame our carnal and violent natures. Only Christ can restore broken human relations and redirect our attention to the most important things. And this has to happen now before Jesus comes again. It has to happen in this life, not in the next.
We all, probably, felt a sense of anger and disbelief when Andreas Lubitz, co-pilot of the German Wings aircraft deliberately flew it into a mountain killing himself and 149 other people with him. Those innocent people did not deserve to die. They had done nothing to him. His depression led him to an act of violence that has affected many families who lost loved ones in the crash.
Perhaps, we are a little less outraged by the extremist attack by a Muslim man on a gay nightclub in Orlando, though we should be just as horrified. And we tend to be even less concerned about death and violence in Syria to a myriad of families living in that war-torn hotbed of violence. Up to 470,000 people have died in that war and more than 7.6 million people displaced.
Have you ever tried to enter into the feelings of those who are affected by these things? I have and it is difficult to do. It’s mind numbing. And that doesn’t account for the violence involved in human trafficking, slavery and abuse that claims the lives of many every year. The sheer volume of violence in this world is staggering. We only see the tip of the iceberg in the news.
Though I feel deeply for those that get caught up in violence, I feel as if my own sense of it is dulled by its frequency and magnitude. It is overwhelming in many ways. And it is so easy to slip into a zone of indifference that brushes it off because it is a long way from me. This makes me even more insensitive to the feelings and hurt that goes with it. In fact, the death and destruction comes so fast and furious at times, that it seems overwhelming and I can’t comprehend its significance.
But let us think about something closer to home. Imagine a mother’s heart when she learns that police have just killed her unarmed son while his back was turned to them. Imagine the pain and anguish she must go through when she sees her son, now 6 feet tall and who she still thinks of as her “baby boy,” lying in his own blood on the streets of Chicago, Dallas or Baton Rouge. I’ve tried to put myself inside the mind and heart of such a mother. It is impossible to imagine its depth if you haven’t been through it. But even though I have no children of my own, and I have never been through it, it still grabs me by the throat. Yes, many of those killed by police are criminals, but they are still human beings who no longer have probation and are probably lost eternally.
And Christ grieves like that mother over every casket lowered into the ground. His heart is pained by the loss of even one life, and there are a myriad of them every year. Yet Christ must permit Satan to work out his evil plans to a certain extent so that everyone will be able to make informed decisions about whom to serve in the great controversy. Remember serving Christ is always voluntary, and therefore it requires choice and information to make that choice.
Satan loves violence. He instigates it whenever he can. He loves to stir up all manner of feelings, suspicion and hostility between people. He promotes war, terrorism and racism, all of which lead to hatred and violence.
Today our world is in great need of reform. But friends, I hate to tell you, but it isn’t going to happen. As long as the great controversy between Christ and Satan continues, the world will continue to spiral down into the abyss of moral corruption, extremism and violence. As the scripture says, we are living in the last days and they are increasingly like the violent times in which Noah lived.
Yet Noah was a pure man. He was righteous in the sight of heaven. And God chose him as His representative, His evangelist, His spokesman and His prophet. He warned the people of the coming destruction. He pled with them to turn their backs on the world and join him in the ark. And while the violence of his times raged around him, it only made him yearn for purity and righteousness in his own life. And this should be the way violence affects us. We should long for purity of heart, soul and life like Noah.
Friends, we have the same mission in our violent and chaotic world today as Noah had in his day. We have essentially the same message, the same purpose, and probably the same or similar outcome.
But there is something deeper that we need to understand. How should we relate to the glaring injustices in our world? To have purity of heart means that we must live above all the moral corruption going on around us. We must not participate in it, or encourage it in any way. We must recognize its foundations and reject them. Yet, we have to understand it so we can relate to it in the right way, don’t we?
The carnal nature cannot forgive. Did you hear that? The carnal nature cannot forgive. Injustice stirs up anger that eventually turns into violence. Often the violence itself is cultivated by government leaders bent on creating chaos so that they can justify taking more control over their citizens to quell the violence that it helped to create.
For instance, by accusing U.S. police officers of racism in their application of the law (in which at least some cases appear to be true), the police in many cities have had to back off of their aggressive approach to solving crime, which has resulted in a spike in shootings and homicides in major cities across the nation.
Chicago, America’s third largest city, is now involved in an unprecedented epidemic of violent crime. And the wave of violence continues unabated with over 445 homicides in the city in 2016 (at the time I prepared this sermon), a 50% year over year increase. It is on course for a total of over 700 murders by the end of 2016, a 63 percent increase from 2014. The city has also seen a substantial increase in shootings with the number so far more than 2620 in 2016 as of mid-August.
In spite of having the most restrictive gun laws in the country, Chicago is out of control with gun violence. The New York Times wrote in 2013 “Not a single gun shop can be found in this city because they are outlawed. Handguns were banned in Chicago for decades, too, until 2010, when the United States Supreme Court ruled that was going too far, causing city leaders to settle for restrictions some describe as the closest they could get legally to a ban without a ban. Despite a continuing legal fight, Illinois remains the only state in the nation with no provision to let private citizens carry guns in public.
“And yet Chicago, a city with no civilian gun ranges and bans on both assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, finds itself laboring to stem a flood of gun violence that contributed to more than 500 homicides last year (2012)…”
Gang members number at least a combined 150,000 in the “windy city,” more than any other city in the country. And recently senior leaders of the three major West Side gangs, the Vice Lords, Black Disciples and the Four Corner Hustlers held a summit. Police officers were warned about a security threat involving possible attacks by gangs on the city’s West Side. The alert described the summit and said that gang members “agreed to use automatic weapons against Chicago police officers,” and said one gang [the Four Corner Hustlers] provided guns and placed a sniper at an unknown location. Where they get the weapons is unclear, but they don’t have to get them from within Chicago.
The problem is that while regular citizens have difficulty getting guns to protect themselves, the gangs of criminals, drug lords and dealers seem to have no problem acquiring weapons that they then use prolifically. By taking guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens who would only use them for self-defense, it essentially opens the door for criminals to use them with near impunity.
What precipitated the “summit” of the major gangs was the shooting death of 18-year-old Paul O’Neal, a black teen who stole a car and got into a chase with police. Demonstrators in downtown Chicago blocked streets and traffic while protesting the shooting.
Chicago has a massive gang problem and only 13,318 law enforcement officers of all descriptions are employed in the city. So, the police are hugely outnumbered by more than 10 to 1. And now the gangs are planning to use automatic weapons.
The police whose mission is to protect the citizens from crime, can no longer do their jobs as effectively as before the allegations of racism, and now the city is out of control and spiraling down into the abyss of violence, murder and mayhem. Even children are caught up in the violence.
The chaos continues unabated in other cities as well, like Memphis TN, St. Louis MO, Washington DC, Buffalo NY, Atlanta GA, Newark NJ, Cleveland OH, Detroit MI, Oakland CA, Birmingham AL, Baltimore MD, Stockton CA, Milwaukie WI, and the list goes on an on.
The spirit of unrest and violence has dramatically increased in American cities and the number of police officers that were shot and killed during the first half of 2016 was 78 percent higher than during the first half of 2015. We are living in the end times. So, don’t expect it to get better. You can expect it to get much worse.
But a larger, national problem is brewing. Tragic killings of black people by police have stirred up considerable racial tension, hatred and animosity toward the police and toward white people in general.
It started back in 2012 with the tragic death of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida. Trayvon was a typical kid with a few bad habits, like the use of marijuana, bad language, and an obsession with girls, but basically intended to do well. He apparently went out one night to purchase some candy and a drink at a local 7-11. As he walked back to the home where he was staying he was spotted by volunteer neighborhood watch member George Zimmerman. Zimmerman called police and reported him as a suspicious person. An altercation between them shortly afterward led to Zimmerman shooting Martin and killing him.
Zimmerman was eventually charged, tried and then acquitted of second degree murder and manslaughter charges. The story got traction in the media. Then on March 8, 2012, Kevin Cunningham, a social media coordinator for KinderUSA created a petition on Change.org’s website, which became the largest in the website’s history a few weeks later with 2.2 million signatures. Cunningham realized that if social media was used, Martin’s death “could trigger a reevaluation of society, and revolutionize the justice system and the culture.”
The media focus on the death of Martin developed into a national debate about racial profiling and self-defense laws with marches and rallies held across the USA. The marches included activists from other causes and the movement took on a political nature. Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law came under pressure from activists.
In 2013, President Obama himself commented on the Zimmerman trial after the acquittal. He discussed racial disparities in the USA as he was growing up, and said it was those disparities that affected how the African-American community interpreted what happened that night in Florida, and said, “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.”
The angst over the death of Trayvon Martin and Zimmerman’s subsequent acquittal simmered for nearly two and a half years. Then on August 9, 2014 Michael Brown of Ferguson Missouri, near St. Louis was shot and killed by a Ferguson police officer. It sparked existing tensions and civil unrest erupted. The protest attracted protesters from outside the region, and soon a confrontation took place on the streets of Ferguson with police. The whole event sparked a national debate about the relationship between law enforcement and African Americans, and about police use of force.
Here’s what happened. Brown and an accomplice had stolen a pack of cigarillos from a convenience store and shoved the clerk who tried to stop him.
Officer Darren Wilson had been notified by police dispatch of the robbery and had been given descriptions of the two suspects. Brown and his friend were walking down the middle of the street when Wilson approached them around noon. He backed up his cruiser and blocked their path. “An altercation ensued with Brown and Wilson struggling through the window of the police vehicle for control of Wilson’s gun until it was fired. Brown and Johnson then fled, with Wilson in pursuit of Brown. Brown stopped and turned to face the officer, then moved toward him. Wilson fired at Brown several times, killing him. Witness reports differed on whether Brown had his hands up as he approached Wilson, and eventually the U.S. Department of Justice found that the witnesses who said he had his hands up were not credible.
The “hands up” account was widely circulated however which contributed to the strong protests and outrage about the killing of an unarmed man that roiled the nation for weeks. “Protests, both peaceful and violent, along with vandalism and looting, continued for more than a week in Ferguson; police established a nightly curfew. The response of area police agencies in dealing with the protests was strongly criticized by the media and politicians. There were concerns over insensitivity, tactics, and a militarized response.” Police confronted protestors who marched with their hands up chanting slogans such as “Hands up, don’t shoot”, or simply “hands up.” The gesture became a rallying cry against police violence.
When the grand jury decided not to indict Wilson, anger and frustration set off another round of protests in Ferguson with buildings set on fire and looting. “As news of the decision spread, protesters surged forward, throwing objects at officers in riot gear. The sound of gunfire could be heard. Police officers used tear gas and smoke to disperse people who were hurling rocks and breaking the windows of parked police cruisers. A vehicle was set on fire. At least a dozen buildings were set on fire around the city, many in the vicinity of Ferguson Market and Liquor, the store Michael Brown robbed before he was killed by Officer Wilson.”
While robbery is wrong, and assaulting a police officer and trying to get his weapon is wrong, Brown didn’t deserve to die because of it. Though it is hard to determine Wilson’s perceptions, such as whether he felt threatened or not, “Brown’s death prompted weeks of demonstrations and a response from the police that include tear gas and rubber bullets. Confrontations between protesters and law enforcement officers continued even after Gov. Jay Nixon deployed the Missouri National Guard to help quell the unrest.”
In a scathing report issued in March, the Justice Department called on Ferguson to overhaul its criminal justice system, declaring that the city had engaged in so many constitutional violations that they could be corrected only by abandoning its entire approach to policing, retraining its employees and establishing new oversight. The report described a city that used its police and courts as moneymaking ventures, a place where officers stopped and handcuffed people without probable cause, hurled racial slurs, used stun guns without provocation, and treated anyone as suspicious merely for questioning police tactics. Shortly after the report was issued, Thomas Jackson, the embattled police chief, stepped down.
The case pitted the predominately black community against a nearly all white police force. It brought a lot of attention to the issue of police officers killing unarmed blacks. “Brown’s death has been cited as one of several police killings of African Americans protested by the Black Lives Matter movement.”
Ferguson was not the only case of officers killing black suspects. On April 30, 2014 Dontre Hamilton, 31, was fatally shot 14 times by a police officer in a Milwaukee park, Wisconsin. The officer was responding to a call from employees at a nearby Starbucks alleging that Hamilton, who had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, was disturbing the peace.
The officers who arrived first determined that Hamilton wasn’t doing anything illegal. Officer Christopher Manney showed up later and, after trying to pat Hamilton down, engaged in a struggle with him that led to the shooting. Manney was not charged
On July 17, 2014 “Eric Garner, 43, was killed after he was put in an illegal chokehold for 15 seconds by a white police officer — allegedly for selling loose cigarettes. Garner said “I can’t breathe” 11 times as he was held down by several officers on a sidewalk.
The officer who put Garner in the chokehold was not charged. Garner’s death sparked peaceful protests across the nation, with demonstrators adopting the phrase “I Can’t Breathe” as a symbol and slogan of protest.
On August 5, 2014, John Crawford, 22, was shot and killed by a police officer at a Walmart in Beavercreek, Ohio. There did not appear to be a confrontation with the police, and Crawford was unarmed — he had been holding a toy BB gun. The officers involved in the shooting were not charged.
On August 12, 2014, Ezell Ford, a 25-year-old mentally ill man, was shot three times, including once in the back, by a white police officer. He was unarmed. No charges have been filed against the two officers involved.
On August 12, 2014, Dante Parker, a 36-year-old father of five, died in police custody after being repeatedly stunned by a Taser in San Bernardino County.
On November 13, 2014, Tanisha Anderson, 37, died after officers in Cleveland allegedly slammed her head on the pavement while taking her into custody. Anderson’s family said she had bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. No charges have been filed.
On November 20, 2014, Akai Gurley, 28, was shot and killed by a police officer while walking in a dimly lit New York City public housing stairwell with his girlfriend. Gurley, who was unarmed, was pronounced dead at a hospital. The officer, rookie Peter Liang, was charged with second-degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and two counts of official misconduct.
On November 22, 2014, Tamir Rice, 12, was shot and killed by Cleveland police after officers mistook his toy gun for a real weapon. No charges have been filed.
On December 2, 2014, “Brisbon, 34, was shot and killed by a Phoenix police officer who mistook a pill bottle for a weapon.” No charges have been filed.
On December 30, 2014, “Jerame Reid, 36, was shot and killed by police officers in Bridgeton, New Jersey. He was a passenger in a car driven by his friend, who was pulled over by police.” The investigation is still ongoing. The shooting sparked protests.
On March 6, 2015, “Tony Robinson, 19, was shot and killed by a Madison police officer who was responding to reports of someone disrupting traffic. Police said Robinson allegedly assaulted the officer, who then shot him three times. Robinson was unarmed.”
On March 31, 2015, “Phillip White, 32, died while in police custody in Vineland, New Jersey. Police had responded to a call about White acting erratically and called an ambulance because he appeared to be in medical distress. A violent encounter ensued, and video footage appears to show a police dog biting White while he is on the ground. White was later pronounced dead at a hospital.” No charges have been filed, but the investigation continues.
On April 4, 2015, Walter Scott, 50, was shot by a police officer while running away from a traffic stop for a broken taillight. Officer Michael Slager claimed Scott had taken his stun gun. Slager was subsequently fired and charged with murder after a video surfaced showing Scott running away, his back to the officer, as Slager fired his gun.
On April 19, 2015, Freddie Gray, 25, died of a spinal cord injury a week after he was arrested by Baltimore police. It’s still unclear how Gray sustained the injury. Officials say he was stopped after fleeing “unprovoked upon noticing police presence” and arrested for allegedly possessing a switchblade. He was put in a police van, which is where police say he suffered a medical emergency. The officers involved were placed on leave and criminally charged.
Gray’s death sparked protests in Baltimore and other cities across the nation. The following Monday protesters and police clashed, prompting hundreds of arrests and Maryland’s governor to declare a state of emergency.
All of these cases and more have caused national outrage over deadly use of force by police. But it got worse…
On July 5, 2016, Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old black man, known as the “CD Man,” had a criminal record that included violent offenses and drugs. Sterling was shot several times at close range while held down on the ground by two white Baton Rouge, Louisiana police officers. Police were responding to a report that a man that was dressed in a red shirt was selling CDs, and he had used a gun to threaten someone outside a convenience store. The shooting was recorded by multiple bystanders.
About 12:35 p.m. police responded to a call that a man, believed to be Sterling was threatening another man and waving or brandishing a handgun. The officers tased him and wrestled him to the ground “with one kneeling on his chest and the other on his thigh, both attempting to control his arms.”
One officer exclaimed, “He’s got a gun! Gun!” Then one of the officers said, “he’s going for the gun!” One of the officers aimed his gun at Sterling’s body, and shot him six times. The officers retrieved a firearm from Sterling’s pocket.
That night more than 100 demonstrators in Baton Rouge shouted “no justice, no peace,” set off fireworks, and blocked an intersection to protest Sterling’s death. The police cleared the crowd, but the organizers announced that they would regroup in front of City Hall.
The next day, July 6, Philando Castile 32, was fatally shot by a Minnesota police officer in a suburb of St. Paul. The officer had pulled him over. His girlfriend and her four-year-old daughter were in the car. When the officer asked for his driver’s license and registration, he told the officer that he also had a license to carry a weapon and that it was in the car.
Apparently the officer, a Mexican American, said “don’t move!” and as Castile was raising his hands up, the officer shot him in the arm four or five times, according to his girlfriend. The county medical examiner ruled Castile’s death a homicide. Castile was attending the University of Minnesota and was a nutrition services supervisor at an area Elementary School.
Castile’s girlfriend posted a video of her interaction with police after the shooting on Facebook, which was viewed 2.5 million times by the next afternoon.
Though the officer’s attorney says that the shooting had nothing to do with race, and everything to do with the presence of a gun, area blacks don’t believe it. The facts in the case are “hotly debated.”
By 12:30 a.m. on July 7, about three hours after the shooting, more than 200 protesters gathered at the scene, “peaceful but visibly angry.” Crowds also gathered outside the Minnesota Governor’s Residence in St. Paul, chanting Castile’s name and demanding that Governor Mark Dayton make a statement, which he did. That night, demonstrations in St. Paul continued, remaining “peaceful but forceful.”
On July 8, over 1,000 demonstrators shut down Interstate 880 in Oakland, California for several hours to protest Castile’s shooting death and that of Alton Sterling the day before. After a week of peaceful protests and vigils, violence between protesters and police in St. Paul broke out on July 9 and 10. Some 102 people were arrested and 21 officers had been injured, one of them seriously. A group threw rocks, bottles, and Molotov cocktails at police who used pepper spray and tear gas to disperse the crowd. The protesters shut down a section of Interstate 94. After they were dispersed, another protest took place at another area of the city, and a group of activists established an encampment outside of the Governor’s Residence. On July 19, 21 protesters were arrested willingly after blocking a street in Minneapolis and refusing orders to disperse.
U.S. Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, said, “I am horrified that we are forced to confront yet another death of a young African-American man at the hands of law enforcement. And I am heartbroken for Philando’s family and loved ones, whose son, brother, boyfriend, and nephew was taken from them last night.”
U.S. Representative Keith Ellison, Democrat of Minnesota, denounced the “systematic targeting of African Americans and a systematic lack of accountability.”
President Barack Obama called on the U.S. to “do better” and said that controversial incidents arising from the police use of force were “not isolated incidents” but rather was “symptomatic of a broader set of racial disparities that exist in our criminal justice system. Obama expressed “extraordinary appreciation and respect for the vast majority of police officers” and noted the difficult nature of the job. “When incidents like this occur,” he said, “there’s a big chunk of our citizenry that feels as if, because of the color of their skin, they are not being treated the same, and that hurts, and that should trouble all of us. This is not just a black issue, not just a Hispanic issue. This is an American issue that we all should care about.” Obama telephoned Castile’s mother to offer his condolences.”
As the tension across the country mounted, on July 7, police in Baton Rouge, LA received multiple threats to police officers and warned of potential violence against police and civilians.
Then the unthinkable happened. On July 7, Micah Johnson, a former soldier who served duty in Afghanistan ambushed a group of police officers in Dallas, Texas, killing five and injuring nine others plus two other civilians. As bullets flew, screaming crowds including families with children went in every direction. Johnson was mobile and apparently planned to “wing it,” as he tried to kill as many white officers as he could. The violence struck near one of the city’s busiest districts, filled with hotels and restaurants as well as county government buildings, and hundreds of people spent much of the night trapped in buildings that were placed on lockdown.
Johnson was angry over police shootings of black men and said he wanted to kill white people, especially white police officers in revenge. The shooting happened at the end of a peaceful Black Lives Matter-organized protest against the police killings of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota, which had occurred in the preceding two days. Johnson pulled up in his SUV, parked it sideways on the street with its hazard lights blinking. He talked with two police officers before pulling out his weapon and shooting them.
A standoff with police followed. Then in the early hours of July 8, police killed Johnson with a C-4 bomb attached to a robot. It was the first time U.S. law enforcement used a robot to kill a suspect. Three officers were killed in the initial assault. A fourth was killed at point blank range when Johnson attacked him from behind as he was hiding behind a concrete pillar. A fifth was killed as Johnson took aim from above the street in a building across from a 7-11 convenience store where a police officer was standing.
Johnson had planned the attack well. He knew at least some of the buildings at El Centro and had tactical experience. Johnson had an interest in black nationalist groups including the New Black Panther Party, Nation of Islam and Black Riders Liberation Army, all of which are considered to be hate groups. He “liked” them on Facebook. He also “liked” the Facebook page of the African American Defense League, whose leader had called for the murders of police officers across the U.S. following the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald. After the police killing of Alton Sterling the organization had “posted a message earlier in the week encouraging violence against police.”
It was also reported that Johnson had repeatedly watched video of the police beating Rodney King in Los Angeles, which occurred many years before. Johnson had also expressed a desire to harm black preachers because, he said, they were more interested in money than God.
Johnson amassed an arsenal of weapons and ammunition in his home, including bomb-making materials, semi-automatic shotguns, handguns with a high-capacity magazine, lots of ammunition, ballistic body armor with plates, etc. The killer had no criminal record and no known terrorism ties. But he turned a peaceful march into a scene of chaos and bloodshed.
The shooting was the kind of retaliatory violence that people have feared through two years of protests around the country against deaths of black people in police custody, which had deeply divided the nation.
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Then, ten days later, it happened again, this time in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “On July 17, Gavin Long shot six police officers in Baton Rouge, killing three and wounding the others.”
Long had been trained in the Marines. He had quite a number of medals and was honorably discharged. Long travelled over 700 miles from Kansas City where he lived, in a stolen Malibu rental car, and appears to have been in Baton Rouge several days before the shooting. Governor John Bel Edwards said Long came to Louisiana specifically to kill law enforcement. How he got the semi-automatic rifle and other weapons is unclear. But he knew how to use them. Apparently, Long intended to attack police headquarters in Baton Rouge.
Long was involved in the Black Separatist Movement and was a member of at least two associated organizations. “Mass shooting scholars said he displayed hallmarks of a “disgruntled, paranoid loner” (a common type of mass killer), and described his overall ideology as involving “a lot of narcissism [and] grandiosity.” He was an active member of the anti-government New Freedom Group. Apparently, he was also a member of the Washitaw Nation, which is a group of African Americans associated with the sovereign citizen movement. He also expressed his support for the Moorish Science Temple of America, another African American organization associated with sovereign citizen. In a YouTube video he claimed to be a former member of the Nation of Islam and referred to Alton Sterling. However, before the shooting, he disavowed all his former connections, saying in a video, “Don’t affiliate me with nothing… I’m affiliated with the spirit of justice.”
In a ten-minute video, Long claimed that he arrived at Baton Rouge not to protest Sterling’s death, but to educate local blacks. He also expressed his distaste for white people and mentioned Huey P. Newton, co-founder of the Black Panther Party.
In another video, Long said, “One hundred percent of revolutions… have been successful through fighting back through bloodshed.” In another, he said the act of peaceful protesting was a futile method based on emotion and was easily forgettable. Long also maintained a personal website in which he described himself as a “freedom strategist, mental game coach, nutritionist, author and spiritual advisor.” Long told his nephew that “only advanced survival skills and decisive action” could overthrow the U.S. government and that “the government was using police to control and kill people.”
Less than an hour before the shooting, Long purportedly emailed a three-page, handwritten letter, self-described as a “manifesto”, to a Columbus, Ohio musician. Long described his belief that the shooting was necessary to “create substantial change within America’s police force. He also wrote his belief that there was a “concealed war” between “good cops” and “bad cops”, and that he had to attack “bad cops” as vengeance for perceived destruction that they continued to inflict on blacks.
Long arrived at Hammond Aire Plaza, a shopping complex sometime before 8:40 a.m. and began scouting the area in search of police officers. He first spotted a police patrol vehicle parked at a B-Quik convenience store; it belonged to a sheriff’s deputy who was working security in the area. Long parked his vehicle behind an adjacent building, got out, and prepared to shoot, but found that the vehicle was empty. He then drove north and noticed a police officer washing his vehicle a short distance away, but the officer left before Long could get close. About 8:40, police received a call about a suspicious person carrying a rifle near the plaza, with one dispatcher describing him as a “subject walking with a coat and an assault rifle.”
When officers arrived at the scene, they found Long clad in black and wearing a face mask. Two minutes later shots were fired. Then after two more minutes more shots were fired and there were reports that officers were down. According to investigators, Long fired upon the first responding officers, killing one and wounding one. When a third officer tried to help the wounded one, Long shot and killed him and then shot and killed the wounded officer. Long shot another police officer and then moved to another part of the complex, where he shot two sheriff’s deputies. As police converged on the scene, officers fired on Long from behind the cover of patrol cars. Eventually, a SWAT team responded to the scene; one member took aim at Long from about 100 yards away and killed him. It was all over in a total of six minutes.
The shooting occurred during a period of unrest in Baton Rouge, with protests following the death of Alton Sterling. On July 9, a protest in Baton Rouge turned violent, with one police officer having several teeth knocked out. Eight firearms (including three rifles, three shotguns, and two pistols) were confiscated from members of the New Black Panther Party. Police arrested 102 people. On July 10, another 30 to 40 people were arrested.
After the shootings in Dallas and Baton Rouge, “local law enforcement agencies across the U.S. began readjusting response strategies, with more officers being paired up in patrol vehicles. Departments also began to increase security and surveillance at anti-police protests.”
On July 11, a home in Baton Rouge was raided in connection with a pawn shop burglary in which seven or eight guns and ammunition were stolen. Three people were arrested during the raid, one of whom said that the group was planning on using the stolen firearms to shoot police officers at protests.
Speaking shortly after the shootings of Sterling and Castile, President Obama called upon the U.S. to “do better.” He also said “Americans should feel outraged at episodes of police brutality since they’re rooted in long-simmering racial discord.”
Then after the police shootings, he said, “We may not yet know the motives for this attack, but I want to be clear: there is no justification for violence against law enforcement. None. These attacks are the work of cowards who speak for no one. They right no wrongs. They advance no cause. The officers in Baton Rouge; the officers in Dallas—they were our fellow Americans, part of our community, part of our country, with people who loved and needed them, and who need us now—all of us—to be at our best.
“Today, on the Lord’s day, all of us stand united in prayer with the people of Baton Rouge, with the police officers who’ve been wounded, and with the grieving families of the fallen. May God bless them all.”
While the President got the Lord’s Day wrong, he’s right that violence rights no wrongs. It only adds insult to injury and ratchets up tensions. Just look at the animosity between the Israeli’s and the Palestinians. Their cycle of revenge and counter revenge has continued for centuries. It gets nowhere, and the killing and bloodshed is endless.
America is in big trouble. As the Holy Spirit is being withdrawn America is in big trouble. We are in the last days of earth’s history. At some point, the people will connect the dots and will see that they have turned their backs on God and that the nation is in big trouble because of it. This will lead to the final events and the religious crisis that the Bible declares is coming.
In one of his videos, in which Long identified Micah Johnson, the Dallas shooter, as “one of us!,” he also said, “#MY Religion is Justice.” Is it really? It seems it is more about revenge than justice. Taking matters into ones own hands is not true and pure religion. James 1:27 says, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”
While some claim that there is a war on black people by the cops, others claim that there is a war on cops by blacks. And the roiling controversy threatens to tear apart the nation. And friends, I hate to tell you this, but don’t expect political solutions to solve the problem.
America has a major problem on its hands. There is no solution to the rising tension, anger and violence. Jesus Himself predicted the violence, when he said there would be, “distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring…” Luke 21, 25.
As the Holy Spirit is being withdrawn from the wicked, their aggressive behavior only gets worse, and more people die. Friends, this is what is really happening. This is the time for God’s people to give up their own cycle of revenge to whatever extent it exists, and connect with Christ. Let him have all the feelings of hatred, anger and revenge. And this goes for all sides of the racial controversy. As God’s people we have no business engaging in such things.
America and many other nations face considerable racial tension. It’s easy to get caught up in it and begin to have feelings of anger and self-righteousness when crimes happen that have race at its root. Perhaps many of us have cherished the idea that racism has been done away with, when in reality it hasn’t. Others of us have had to live with it all their lives. It still simmers under the surface. And when it shows its ugly head, we want to somehow focus attention on other things instead of what is really at its core.
Racism is a tool of Satan that threatens to explode as he stokes it repeatedly through the cycle of revenge that he loves to see.
Friends, how should you and I relate to the major changes going on in America, and specifically to the resurrection of racism, which never really went away. How did Christ relate to the awful things going on when He was on earth? Did he participate in political activity to agitate change? Did He work for social reform?
Listen to this interesting statement from Desire of Ages, page 509. “The government under which Jesus lived was corrupt and oppressive; on every hand were crying abuses,–extortion, intolerance, and grinding cruelty. Yet the Saviour attempted no civil reforms. He attacked no national abuses, nor condemned the national enemies. He did not interfere with the authority or administration of those in power. He who was our example kept aloof from earthly governments. Not because He was indifferent to the woes of men, but because the remedy did not lie in merely human and external measures. To be efficient, the cure must reach men individually, and must regenerate the heart. Desire of Ages, page 509.
Think about what that statement says to us. If we are followers of Christ, we will have the same mission as he did – to change hearts rather than correct national or international abuses. Our spiritual mission in these last days is far more important than entangling ourselves in the political or social conflicts of the day, as galling and as extreme as they are. This tells us that getting involved in correcting racial abuses is not our mission. Yes, we can and should help individuals who are caught up in the strife whenever we can, but there is no solution to the issues that roil society. Satan knows this. That’s one of the reasons why he stirs them up. Revenge will not solve the problem. It will only cause counter revenge. Electing a new president or Governor will not solve these problems no matter how much tough talk they engage in. More educational programs will not do it either. Stricter laws will not change hearts that are filled with cross-racial hatred. There is only one solution.
Let’s face it, the fact that God’s people have not opened their hearts for Christ to live there, and who have not perfected their characters, have essentially dragged out the controversy between Christ and Satan. And now we have these evil problems that are unsolvable.
No matter what color your skin, in Christ we must put away racism. If you are a white Christian, it means that in Christ, you love your black brethren and encourage them and stand by them. If you are a black Christian that means that you do not hate your white brethren, but love them and stand by them. We must all successfully, through the power of Christ, resist the temptation to suspicion and evil surmising.
Racism is an evil and galling monster wherever its ugly head is raised. It stirs the worst passions of the soul. It leads to violence and further abuse. It separates the very ones who should be friends and co-laborers together with the Lord.
Friends, we need Jesus to change our hearts. The people of the world need Jesus, but they will not accept His power in their lives. I pray that your heart will not be hardened by the offenses on either side of the race problem. I pray that Jesus will soften and remove any angry feelings and give you His peace, and a strong measure of His Holy Spirit. Let us pray.
Our Father in heaven, we see the evil that has come upon the world through sin, the carnal nature and through violence. We need Your presence and peace in the midst of the current chaos. May we live according to Your principles because that is the safest way. If there are those living in the cities, which are the targets of Satan, and where violence is concentrated, and they want to get out of them into the country, I pray that You will open the door for them and show them the way. But most of all, I pray that we will be filled with the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit, to mold and shape us into the image of Christ. That is the only way to defeat the enemy in our lives. And it is the safest and most secure way to live in this present evil time. Thank you for being our God, and giving us Your love. In Jesus’ name, amen.