17 July 2013

In No Particular Order

by Frank Turk

Recently, someone said we have to keep on talking about race in this country.  While I think I agree with the essay where he says that as a whole, it's not the most helpful turn of phrase as I see it.  But I have a couple of thoughts that are, it seems to me, useful.

In no particular order:

What does anyone deserve?

A long time ago in blog years, I posted an essay at my old blog about the primary pitfall in engaging with homosexuals and the people who love them.  I know most of you have not mastered clicking thru (maybe: you're just committed to not driving my page counter, you stingy louts), so I'll copy the key bit right here:
See: if I say, "well, homosexuality is a sin, Dustin," what Mr. Rowles hears -- and I think he's listening just fine -- is the subtle hint of this outrageous lie: "he actually deserved what he got." I know none of you regular readers of this blog would actually mean that, but the ones who harnessed that conclusion up to the horse of my assertion are the ones who pounded his Dad's face in for being gay -- you know, God hates fags, boy, so I'm going to smash a coke bottle in your face. ...
So the problem in talking to Mr. Rowles now is not trying to convince him what the Bible says about (for example) homosexuality. The problem is convincing him that you don't want to bash his father's head in over it. That kind of ferocious evil is what Dustin Rowles associates with the moral affirmation "homosexuality is a sin". My suggestion is that helping him believe what you believe about homosexuality is frankly a stupid gambit.
The application from the question of evangelizing homosexuals and the people who love them to evangelizing people who are committed to measuring anything by means of race is this: the problem is that somehow the facts are all interpreted right now toward the interpretation that anyone who is the victim of a cross-racial crime "got what he deserved."  Referring to the facts simply sounds, to the people you are talking to, like this statement: "When you think about it, he got what he deserved."

Your righteous indignation at the crime rate of blacks against whites? It sounds like you're saying that the victims of non-black-on-black crimes got what they deserved.

Your erudite notification of statistics which indicate that far more black people are killed by black people than by white people?  It sounds like the victims here, therefore, got what they deserved.

Your socio-economic analysis of what is the problem behind the problem?  It sounds like the victims here, therefore, got what they deserved.

What if we start here: it doesn't matter what Trayvon Martin was doing in that neighborhood.  He didn't deserve to die. He wasn't putting anyone's life in danger; he didn't deserve to die.  Until and unless you are willing to say that out loud -- and I don't care which side of the argument you are on here -- if you can't say that Trayvon Martin did not deserve to die, you frankly have no place in this discussion.  Your moral compass and your real empathy for other people are both broken.  You can't do anything to make this or the future better until you deal with that.

Having it both ways

The problem with our legal system is that, ultimately, it will make a decision.  That is: when something comes before it, it's meant to take action and not merely take it to committee for deep pondering.

Two weeks ago, our legal system decided that the Federal Government had no business saying anything about what constitutes marriage in this country.  That, apparently, was a victory.  This weekend, the same system at a different level reviewed the charges against George Zimmerman, the evidence presented, and concluded he was "not guilty."  Listen: it didn't say he was innocent.  It didn't say that Trayvon was not dead, nor that George did not pull the trigger.  It said that this man was, at the end of the day, not to be punished for the crime which he was brought before the court.

You can't have it both ways: either the system is working, or it is not working.  You can't say that the system works only when you like the outcome.  That every outcome does not benefit you politically or socially or even in terms of your self-esteem is probably about right.

Never Coming

Is racism a problem?  I live in a cul de sac where the families are mixed about 70-30 white-to-black.  There is no open animosity on the street (except for the one guy who posts anonymously to the neighborhood watch about his problems with every other person's yard, pets and children)(who is not me)(as far as you know)(no seriously: not me), but let me admit something: there is also not always the most neighborly atmosphere.  Maybe: it's a southern thing.  Maybe: its a local culture thing.  Maybe: the middle class changed from when I grew up and people just don't make friends the way they used to. But there are some families who do not even come out of their houses, and never come to neighborhood parties.

Without a doubt, what is happening is better than open hostility -- but only just barely.  It worries me that there are fences in place I don't understand and don't really know how to cross.  I am open to suggestions because I have tried the normal stuff, and it is received, at best, with kind indifference.


Anonymous said...

Concerning what people "deserve" and homosexuality, what do you do with verses like these: "If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads." (Leviticus 20:13). Pretty straightforward verse if you ask me. Presumably God doesn't want us to follow this law any more. But how do we know that? And was God wrong to institute this policy?

A Patriot said...

Race problems in America will never go away so long as people can profit politically or monetarily from them. That is the sad but true truth. I would imagine that is true in all countries with many different groups of peoples.

The church needs to be above those problems. Churches should be reaching all people regardless of skin color and social groups. The Bible does say to go into the highways and hedges.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Frank. Timely and well said.

I've never been closer to deleting my facebook account than this past weekend. Tired of people justifying a person's death. Sick of people using this to push their own ideological agenda(s).

And yes, racism is apparently still an issue. It makes me sick that it is.

I wish I had suggestions to tear down the fences and walls, but I am as lost as you. People are people, y'all. But for too many, the need to be "right", the need to "win the argument" trumps the call for us to love our neighbors. Especially when they are not like ourselves.

Thanks for this, Frank.

Michael Coughlin said...

Well, I for 1 know how to click through and when I click the first link it just goes to your signature.


Thanks for sharing your thoughts. What I find interesting is the implied assertion that "because Trayvon Martin wasn't doing anything wrong, he didn't deserve to die."

It is statements like this that I've heard which I believe cause some people to react by saying - "hey, he wasn't such a good guy, didn't you know?"

But there is an implied assertion that it is because of his goodness that he didn't deserve it, so the debater in us wants to refute what we think isn't true - even if we wouldn't necessarily take it down the same logical road someone else would.

Ultimately, you're right, we need to be clear when we communicate and be careful what is left unsaid because we can reasonably predict what some people may read into even our silence.

Eric said...

Hi Frank,

1) You're link to "the essay where he says that" doesn't work.

2) I appreciate the call the be conscious of how our arguments will be heard/perceived/received, and our need to be sensitive to this. I'll seek to apply this advice in my own interactions.

3) I'm not sure I fully agree with your point on having it both ways. It seems entirely consistent and reasonable to me to assert that the legal system is good, often just, and yet flawed. In other words, many times justice is achieved, sometimes it is not. To that extent, I think we can rightly conclude that some outcomes are just and some are not. Perhaps I misunderstood your point.

4) Unless I missed it, I see you didn't use the word racism. I don't know if this was purposeful or a matter of how you chose to approach the subject. I would posit that the church would do well to eschew the language of racism speak instead of love or neighbor, or the lack thereof. Of course that is the issue: any and all of us are capable of hate of neighbor, it matters not the color or the direction of hate. Speaking of love of neighbor as the second great commandment which is to order our lives and our relationships seems to me to be more productive than digressing into grievance listing and history flinging that so often accompanies racism discussions.

Eric said...

Oops, I now see that you did use the word "racism".

Frank Turk said...

Paul Reed --

It bothers me that I can think of 5 biblical reasons which answer your question and you can think of none.

If I can list all 5, will you apologize for being an inflammatory ignoramus? If I can't, I'll apologize for calling you an inflammatory ignoramus.

You let me know if you are willing to apologize if the Bible makes your question look stupid, and I'll respond based on your reply.

Frank Turk said...

A Pat: somehow, race is not the same kind of problem in England that it is in the US. I wonder why?

Frank Turk said...

FYI: the link to Trip Lee's essay is fixed. Thanks for the head's up.

Frank Turk said...

Eric said:

3) I'm not sure I fully agree with your point on having it both ways. It seems entirely consistent and reasonable to me to assert that the legal system is good, often just, and yet flawed. In other words, many times justice is achieved, sometimes it is not. To that extent, I think we can rightly conclude that some outcomes are just and some are not. Perhaps I misunderstood your point.

I think there's a huge gap between saying, "we have a flawed system," and the wild public manic-depressive swings from the approval of gay marriage to the exoneration of George Zimmerman. I think it's totally fair to say that the Legal system isn't perfect, and that from time to time it passes judgments which aren't good for the country or inside the bounds of the law.

However: I think it is actually far more legitimate to say, using the examples we have in my post, that the legal system is either doing exactly what we want -- which is: rule by caveat in which how one feels causes one to call the police -- or it is utterly broken (which, btw, is the line drawn from Scalia's assessment of the DOMA ruling to Durshowitz's assessment of the trial of Zimmerman).

I think there is a more-consistent view of what's happening here than the press is able to muster, and that's my point.

Eric said...

I am embarrassed by my (lack of) proofreading skills.

My point in number 4 above is that Christians individually and the Church corporately would do well to frame the conversation as a matter of love for one's neighbor, and avoid (where possible) focusing on racism, per se. It seems to me that this would help clarify the issue at hand, which is matter of the sinful heart hating one's neighbor. And it is something that every last race is capable of and can relate to.

Eric said...


Thanks for the clarification. I think I understand more clearly what you were driving at.

Nash Equilibrium said...

I might be the exception here, but I seriously have not heard anyone in the Christian community make the assertion that Trayvon deserved to die for what he may have done to Zimmerman. Just like Zimmerman, Trayvon was not found to be either guilty, nor was he found to be innocent. One can only say that the defense showed that Trayvon may have attacked Zimmerman and thereby put himself in a situation where he could be killed, legally. Anyone who says anything more, or less, kind about what the law has said about either Zimmerman or Trayvon is mis-stating fact.

Frank Turk said...

I deleted two comments like Nash's and posted Nash's because it was the most coherent.

Here's my test for the matter: find someone who is not happy about the verdict and make the case that George acted in self-defense against Trayvon. Then ask them: "look: I don't expect you to agree with me, but I have to know this. When I explain what I believe is true here, what do you hear me saying?"

I'll bet the answer will surprise you.

Jim Pemberton said...

"He didn't deserve to die."

1) Morally, we all deserve to die.
2) Legally, we deserve what the justice system determines we deserve.
3) Socially, we deserve whatever those in authority determine we deserve.
4) Constitutionally, we deserve life according to the gracious right that God has given us to it.
5) Biblically, we only have life according to the grace of God, which follows the point I stared with.

Since they both morally deserve death and have the constitutional right to life and biblical access to the gospel, it's better to look at whether Zimmerman had the legal right to kill Martin. The jury has decided that. Otherwise, we are only exerting some social authority that none of us really has in this case. Best thing for Christians in any case is to mourn Martin's death and mourn the horrible experience of killing someone that leaves deep scars on one's mortal soul that Zimmerman has to live with for the rest of his life.

Nash Equilibrium said...

Frank, I have no bone to pick with that being a possibility, although I ought to point out that it is only a possibility and not a certainty that they would answer as you presume they would. I'm not sure how you would know how they'd answer any better than the rest of us would.

In light of the relatively fact-free media circus of emotions that have surrounded this case, I'm not so sure I'd really care what they hear me saying, either. I doubt anyone is actually being heard for what they have actually said, in regard to this case. Instead, this seems to me to be one of those cases for which the old saying "you can't please all of the people, all of the time" was coined.

I'm all for promoting understanding between the races in the USA, but it seems to me this is a poor opportunity indeed in which to make an attempt. I lay the blame for that mostly at the feet of media people on both sides who have tried this case in public, without knowing the facts.

Webster Hunt (Parts Man) said...

I'm glad guys like Frank and Doug Wilson, in another post, have taken the time to break down the "how" of responding, because I was concerned about that aspect when most other Christian leaders were posting about the racism that was there with little or no application as to HOW to engage those things in our own hearts, and with the folks who would be talking about it in the days to come.

What you suggest has worked for me in the past, just admitting cultural differences and understandings if there are any. I've learned that you can understand someone without agreeing with everything they say, and they with you. That usually helps me to break down fences that I know are there. But to be honest, the racism fence feels more like a wall sometimes that, just when I feel like I've cleared the top, suddenly grows 1000 feet more. It's honestly frustrating sometimes when folks of an opposite color expect you to be racist, and you're trying your best in Christ not to be.

Frank Turk said...

Jim P -

While your last sentence is probably right, nobody who is outraged over the outcome here is going to get to the last sentence.

You're saying, "He deserved it, but..."

Frank Turk said...

Nash -

Blaming the media for my point is really saying, "well, nothing I can do about it."

Frank Turk said...

And I'm stunned that Paul Reed has nothing else to say here today.

Nash Equilibrium said...

I agree, that's exactly what it is. Nor am I obligated to do anything about the Zimmerman case, I might add.

Anonymous said...

@Jim Pemberton
Well said!

@Frank Turk
I've often found myself (and others) blasting theological liberals for disregarding bible verses are plainly spoken, and then wonder if I do the same thing when a verse makes me feel uncomfortable. While I ask a liberal how he gets gay marriage form the Bible, most Christians in history might ask me how I get legal homosexuality from the Bible. To bury the hatchet, I close with a funny anecdote by Paul Washer: Paul Washer was doing open-air preaching at a liberal college or seminary (or the like), and he read a controversial passage. A woman from the audience gets really angry and says, "I hate your interpretation of that". To which Washer replies, "Dear lady, I didn't interpret that verse. I read it."

Frank Turk said...

So Paul --

1. You do not accept my challenge.

2. You do not see any biblical reasons -- let alone 5 -- that the Christian does not want to see the Homosexual stoned to death?

3. I have met Paul Washer. You are no Paul Washer.

Jared Queue said...


You're right that we don't really know the hypothetical response of people that disagree with us on the verdict of the case, however, as someone who runs in a large variety of circles, and is adopting a child from Uganda, I can say that I've had some conversations with my liberal co-workers and parents in the African-American community, and the response that Frank is suggesting is everything I've received so far.

My summary: Their sense of justice has been offended/attacked. Regardless of what you think of the legal system and our moral standing before God, Trayvon should not have died that night by the gun of Zimmerman. It could have been avoided by both parties, but those outraged by it see that only Trayvon suffered the consequences.

Nash Equilibrium said...

To your statement, "My summary: Their sense of justice has been offended/attacked."
No doubt that is true: That's how they see it. But that's exactly my point: They are going to see it that way independent of any facts that have already been, or may yet be, presented to them. So I'm not sure why I would either be obligated to try to see things their way (i.e., inaccurately) for the mere sake of conciliation. Conciliation based on dishonesty is unsustainable and well... dishonest. Therefore being someone who doesn't take on inherently losing battles, I'd opt to find some other venue for conciliation other than the Zimmerman Caper, that's all.

Frank Turk said...


Well, if you don't want to change their mind, and you don't care how they hear what you are saying, and you don't want to influence them, suit yourself.

However, if you would do better at work, you should do better for the sake of our nation -- or better still, for the sake of the Gospel.

Nash Equilibrium said...

The question there would be, change their minds about what?

Your premise seems to be self-refuting: First you imply that no matter what we say, they are going to hear "he deserved to die." Then you say that there is some magical stance we can take that will "change their minds," even though your first statement requires that they are not even listening to what we are saying.

But my larger point is that I don't think the advance of the Gospel depends on me, or the rest of the Church, standing up for Trayvon (or alternately, for Zimmeran, either). If you think it does then in my view you are coming dangerously close to the error of the AHA has been saying about abolition of human abortion, a stance which I think you made a well-founded objection to, earlier this week.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the points made by Jim Pemberton in his first comment. Now, as to whether the outraged person hearing those points will "get them," I do see a great deal of wisdom in the original post, but I will also say that whenever we tell someone (who is outraged at the time or otherwise) that they or someone else "deserves or deserved" to die, then they actually might very well "get it" - but probably only under the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, Who can reveal it to them. I could be theologically wrong, but my understanding of Scripture is that the proclamation of truth in unfeigned love tends to elicit the help of the Holy Spirit in evangelism.

As an aside, I too met Paul Washer once (a long time ago), and I stood three feet away while he told a very outraged young man that - according to the Bible - his recently deceased loved one did in fact deserve to die (just like we all deserve it). It took a while, and Washer was way more patient than I could have been, but the young man did appear to finally "get it." (At least he professed that he did.)

Anonymous said...

I'd submit one way to help, when it comes to this particular instance, would be to stop acting like this trial was SOOOO cut and dry and the only reason someone could disagree is because they haven't been following the case, don't have the facts, have some bias or another that is causing them to view the case inaccurately etc.

Just by allowing that reasonable people can disagree about this communicates a desire to understand another perspective rather than the condescension that certainty communicates. We aren't talking about God's word here. The Truth is not in question. Humility is appropriate and helpful in this case, as usual.

Tom Austin said...

I think what you're driving at is crucial for any kind of reconciliation, but I'd like to clarify -

You're saying, "He didn't deserve to die for looking suspicious to a guy on the neighborhood watch." and not "He didn't deserve to die for attempting to kill (or grievously harm)another person."

Frank Turk said...

Nash said:

Your premise seems to be self-refuting: First you imply that no matter what we say, they are going to hear "he deserved to die." Then you say that there is some magical stance we can take that will "change their minds," even though your first statement requires that they are not even listening to what we are saying.

You poor fellow. You haven't spoken to any adults ever, or to anyone not on the internet ever?

They are actually listening. The problem is that what they are listening to is you (or whoever) saying things which (as I said in my post) do not reflect the compassion which ought to be necessary to think this one through.

Last night I was watching about 2 minutes of that nice Catholic fellow of Fox -- what's his name? Not O'Reilly? Sean Hannity. Hannity was interviewing a fellow (as I read it) NAACP, and Hannity's point to this fellow was that George Zimmerman acted in self-defense against Trayvon Martin, which is why he was not convicted of either second-degree murder (unintentional killing subsequent to an intentional assault) or manslaughter (killing under any circumstances which is unjustifiable).

The other fellow was telling Hannity that while it is utterly true that Trayvon was beating up George at the time of the shooting, the events that lead up to the fight are relevant. That is: while Zimmerman may have had a reason to defend himself at the moment he used the gun, Martin had a reason to fear for his own safety because he was the one being followed.

Now, think about this: Trayvon Martin was not breaking any laws when George Zimmerman started following him. (fact check) Whatever happened during the fight that occurred, Martin was not breaking any laws when Zimmerman started following him.

So when Hannity tells the NAACP that Zimmerman was cleared by a jury for what happened because Zimmerman was defending himself, you'll excuse the fellow from the NAACP from being more than a little disbelieving because it's easy to reason that Martin started from a position where he probably believed he was defending himself.

You say they are not listening, but I think they are listening just fine. I think you are not listening, or reasoning through the matter, with any basic sense of human fairness toward those who see Trayvon's fear as their own fear.

Frank Turk said...

As to what we might be trying to change their mind about, I think we ought to be working to change people's minds about whether or not they should fear us. Ignoring the fact that they are afraid does nothing of the kind.

Frank Turk said...

Swim The Deep:

There's a huge gap between the question of whether or not human beings, before God, deserve to die as punishment for sin, and whether or not Trayvon Martin, walking in a neighborhood where he was visiting one of the neighbors as a house guest, deserved to die in a street fight.

Neither George Zimmerman nor Trayvon Martin deserved to die that night, and that one of them did ought to cause any human being to worry about why such a thing should happen. Confusing God's justice and a horrible and unfortunate misunderstanding is not biblical, and not even very kind.

Frank Turk said...

Tom Austin --

I think the right answer to your question is in my the last 2-3 comments I just made. If it isn't, please e-mail me.

Frank Turk said...

Comments are closed.