St. John’s Episcopal Church is visible as a large banner that reads Black Lives Matter is hung from the AFL-CIO building on part of 16th Street renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza, a site of protests, Friday, June 12, 2020, near the White House in Washington. The protests began over the death of George Floyd, a black man who was in police custody in Minneapolis. Floyd died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Photo: Andrew Harnik
Photo: Andrew Harnik

Opinion: We conservatives must defend black lives, rights too

White, conservative Christians like myself believe that grace is amazing and rights are inalienable. We sing songs of God’s glory and America’s greatness. Many believe all people are created in God’s image, which is not physical like skin color but is spiritual in nature. Many Christians hold that this intrinsic worth of human life is at the heart of our system of equality. However, I know both conservatives and liberals whose silence on these issues is rooted in fear. Regardless of the rationalizations, scripture says anyone who hates the brother they see can never love the God they cannot see. Any white person claiming to love God or championing the Constitution is bound by honor and logic to defend the lives and rights of black people as vigorously as we defend our own (e.g. Luke 10:30-37). Racism is a treatable form of social cancer.

I ask fellow conservatives and Christians to consider this logically with grace. If we sit by and watch the rights of black men and women be abused, we tacitly approve the very tyranny we profess to oppose. How can a system built on the premises of equality and liberty stand if not applied consistently? Either all are free and equally entitled to protection or we are all in peril.

We conservatives quip that the government must fear the people and not the other way around, which is at the heart of our rightful defense of the Second Amendment. As such, we must be consistent in defending all constitutional rights for all people. When our black neighbors cannot at times safely walk a street or drive through a predominately white neighborhood for fear of the police, something remains terribly amiss.

Our NATO alliance provides us an instructive example. An attack on one is considered an attack on all. An attack on the rights of any black American is an attack on all Americans. If the rights of black Americans are situationally contingent, then the Bill of Rights is a worthless document. The Declaration of Independence asserts the self-evident truth that all men are created equal. If the Bill of Rights is selectively applied and defended, then the basis for the Declaration of Independence was faulty.

When the breath of life was squeezed from George Floyd, many black Americans felt it as a personal and ongoing assault on their liberties. The weight of the past and lingering impacts on the black community are something white Americans cannot fully appreciate. It is uncomfortable and challenging, but it is reality. That said, we do not have to accept that things cannot change.

In our nation’s history, the rights of black men like George Floyd have been abused too frequently by evil acts of violence. Tens of thousands of Americans rose up recently to let their voices be heard. Protesting perceived injustices and seeking a redress of grievances with the government are God-given Constitutional rights afforded to all Americans. These must be guarded as fervently as the others. That said, rioting and looting must never be accepted as part of legitimate protest. .

A society based on justice and law must operate as “both, and,” not “either, or.” Black men should be able to walk the streets of America both in peace and without fear. Those of any color who seek to kill and rob must both be opposed and held accountable. It must be noted, there is no moral equivalence here. Though looting and rioting are reprehensible and inexcusable, the murder of a human being is the greater evil.

Conservatives must consistently rise to defend the rights of black people or we risk condemning the Constitution we revere. Christians must love and defend our neighbors as ourselves or blaspheme the King who has blessed this land so richly. Christ commands us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and our neighbor as ourselves. Our Constitution enumerates rights aligned perfectly with this divine decree. When we Christians fail our black brothers and sisters, we fail our King. The Lord of Glory did not give His life on Calvary for this. The Americans that fought at Yorktown, Gettysburg, Iwo Jima, and Kandahar did not give their lives for this either. We must do better.

Bro. Steve M. Kennedy grew up in Georgia and has lived in the Atlanta metro for nearly 20 years. He is a businessman and licensed Baptist minister.

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