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Politics and Policing: What’s a Christian to do?– Part 1
Archived – September 13, 2020

Politics and Policing: What’s a Christian to do?– Part 1

September 13, 2020

Our Christian Reality

  • Today’s sermon and series is about how to respond to our current political and policing crisis as a .
  • No matter who you are or what uniform you wear, if you are a Christian, your loyalty to Christ must come before all other .
  • People will address you based on what they see on the outside, but you must respond based on who you are on the . (2 Corinthians 5:16-17)
  • If you are a Christian, your identity is in ; all other identities are secondary and . (Colossians 3:1-5; Colossians 3:8-11)
  • The truth we must all face is that righteousness and justice begin and end with . (Psalm 89:14; Ephesians 1:20-21)
  • This is why Christ is ; people do not naturally prefer His of right and wrong (John 15:18; John 15:25)
  • However, the basic premise of Christ-following is to yourself and to follow Jesus. (Matthew 10:37-39)
  • Keep in mind that when we speak of self, we are not merely talking about you , but about all of the and ideas and practices that have influenced you.
  • What you think about policing is heavily influenced by historical and cultural .
  • In fact, many people have a perspective on policing and politics that they think is Christian, but it is really just and deeply tied to historical .


The Nature of Authority: A Biblical Perspective

  • Romans 13:1-6
  • There are people who quote this passage as if it alone the debate on how to respond to the police.
  • However, no principle of Scripture is from all the other principles of Scripture.
  • Authority figures are also held .

  • Luke 3:7-14
  • Divine authority placed in human hands is a .
  • There is accountability on of the equation, to the one exercising power and to the one submitting to it.
  • In essence, God is asking us to submit to , not to .
  • As a safeguard against abuse, God’s system of authority requires that parties on both sides of power are submitted to .

  • Ephesians 5:22
  • Ephesians 5:25
  • Ephesians 5:28-29
  • Ephesians 6:1-4
  • Ephesians 6:5-9
  • The million-dollar question: How do you respond to people in power who their ?


The Good Ol’ U.S. of A.

  • There is a biblical answer to this, but the nature of authority in America this question.
  • When the Bible was written, governments were mostly
  • The king or queen would have been considered to be and the word of the monarch was .
  • The kings and queens of old literally their kingdoms: the land, people and resources.
  • America’s system of government and culture of authority is different.
  • The spirit of America is to protect those by authority as much as—and sometimes more than—it is to honor those authority.
  • While this principle has clearly not been applied consistently and , it is nonetheless the prevailing idea.


The Declaration of Independence

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and

organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

The Bill of Rights

(First Ten Amendments to the Constitution)

Amendment 1

Key Idea: Freedom to protest authority

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment 2

Key Idea: Freedom to fight the power

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Amendment 3

Key Idea: Freedom to resist law enforcement

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment 4

Key Idea: Freedom to resist law enforcement

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment 5

Key Idea: Freedom to resist criminalization

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment 6

Key Idea: Freedom to defend our innocence

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

Amendment 7

Key Idea: Freedom to defend our innocence

In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment 8

Key Idea: Freedom to resist the physical abuse of power

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment 9

Key Idea: Freedom from inadvertent oppression

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment 10

Key Idea: Freedom from inadvertent oppression

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

A Christian response to the abuse of power is further complicated by

  • The of race in America
  • The fact that the tension between law and enforcement and the black community began ago.


A Brief History

  • Slave Codes – laws that in principle “expressed. . .that slaves are not people but property and that laws should protect the ownership of such property and should also protect whites against any dangers that might arise from the presence of large numbers of slaves” (John Hope Franklin and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, From Slavery to Freedom, A History of African Americans, 9th Edition, 2011. pp. 137-138)
  • Southern Law Enforcement Culture – Law enforcement culture in the colonial South was significantly influenced by measures to enforce slave codes. Slave code enforcement involved slave patrols and vigilante justice leagues.
  • The Fugitive Slave Law – A signature piece of legislation passed as part of the Compromise of 1850 to pacify the South. The law required that free states were required to cooperate with slaveowners to apprehend fugitive slaves that would otherwise find safe hiding places outside the borders of the South. This made citiziens of free states liable for fugitive slaves.
  • Southern Expansionism – The Fugitive Slave Law helped to foster what I call “southern expansionism,” the extension of the power dynamics of slavery beyond the South.



Joshua D. Smith’s version of southern expansionism: “Uncle Tom’s Cabin Showdown: Stowe, Tarantino and the minstrelsy of the Weird West” in Weird Westerns: Race, Gender, Genre eds. Kerry Fine, Michael K. Johnson, Rebecca Lush and Sara Spurgeon, Nebraska UP, 2020, pp. 313-347 by Joshua D. Smith.

John Hope Franklin’s version of southern expansionism: “The Southern Expansionists of 1846” in The Journal of American History, Aug., 1959, Vol 25, No 3 [Aug., 1959], pp. 323-338 by John Hope Franklin.


History Repeats Itself

“While I heard of numerous murders committed by slaveholders on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, I never knew a solitary instance in which a slaveholder was either hung or imprisoned for having murdered a slave. The usual pretext for killing a slave is, that the slave has offered resistance. Should a slave, when assaulted, but raise his hand in self-defense, the white assaulting party is fully justified by southern, or Maryland, public opinion, in shooting the slave down. Sometimes this is done, simply because it is alleged that the slave has been saucy.”

–Fredrick Douglass, My Bondage and My Freedom, 1855


Let’s Begin with the Basics

“Nothing is as fast as the speed of

–Stephen M. R. Covey

  • No progress will be made faster than the speed with which we can establish —first with and then with .



© Joshua D. Smith, Ph.D., 2020

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