25 November 2014

In No Particular Order, Redux

by The Late 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  Michael Brown 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 Michael Brown 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 has to 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.

A while 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 Darren Wilson, the evidence presented, and concluded there was no grounds for charges.  Listen: it didn't say he was innocent.  It didn't say that Trayvon Brown was not dead, nor that George  Wilson did not pull the trigger.  It said that this man was, at the end of the day, not to be punished for the events on 9 Aug 2014.

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.

After the comments were closed here, Luke Wolford found me via Twitter and came across with this:
For which I am grateful that he offered a kind rebuke to a misunderstanding. The misunderstanding being mine actually, he deserves an apology from me. I was wrong, Luke. I apologize. Please forgive me.


jimgalli said...

I'm 62, white, conservative, worst nightmare as far as profiling for this discussion. "Did not deserve to die"? My parents, taught me specifically that "he bareth not the sword in vain" meant that if you challenged a policeman, who was armed, you were putting yourself in harms way, and God of very God would back that policeman up in whatever he decided to do. The problem is perhaps that Mr. Brown's parents failed to teach him that. It has served both me, and our civilization . . well.

FX Turk said...

Jim --

I am a huge fan of Rom 13 and the politics it presents to us as a consequence of the Gospel.

I think this is a perfect time for us to realize that sometimes true things are not loving things, and we are tasked to bring truth with love.

Brady Bush said...

I'm really confused, Frank. Brown assaulted a police officer and attempted to take his gun. He was a couple of well-timed bullets away from second-degree murder himself. Didn't deserve it? As William Munny said, "We all got it coming." Far more importantly, as Jesus Christ said, "All those who draw the sword will die by the sword."

True things are not loving things? Μὴ γένοιτο!

FX Turk said...

Brady: you are confused, and I'm here to help.

You said:
we all got it coming.

If this is true, then I guess one form of valid policing is for the police to shoot people who are speeding, or people who are parking in the wrong place.

It also means, btw, that the rioters are justified -- those they are destroying have it coming.

Let me know if that's the world you're ready to live in.

Eric said...

"He wasn't putting anyone's life in danger"

Frank, I agree with much of the angle you are taking and the empathetic view you are exhorting us all to take. I wonder, though, if you can accurately make such a statement? Does the officer's life count, too? Were you there to counter the testimony of the officer? Or, alternatively, do you mean to say that he was not putting anyone's life in danger until he was stopped by the officer?

FX Turk said...

Michael Brown, whilst walking down the street, was not putting anyone's life in danger.

That is where this incident started. Officer Wilson did not come upon a fight or a robbery: he came upon two men walking in the street. That's where this started, and to see it otherwise is not excessively clever.

FX Turk said...

For those who are anxious to say, "yes, but Brown started the fight," I am curious if you personally have ever started a fight and if so are you lucky to be alive, or what?

Eric said...


It would be helpful for you to qualify the statement in that manner. When you are speaking to the situation as a whole and you make that statement, it is in fact an erroneous statement without the qualification. There is more than one life in this story, and his life matters too. That's not trying to be clever, that's making sure that we speak the truth as well as speak in love.

FX Turk said...

Eric --

I think anyone who thinks that this all started when the fight started needs to stay out of the conversation. I said that in the post, and it's worth repeating here.

Jared Queue said...

Frank, I'm glad you're having this discussion. I'm trying to process this as well. I have a lot of respect for Thabiti and have learned a great deal from him, but for the life of me I don't understand why he or we can't simply admit "Brown was in the wrong" and then move forward from there.

I can still hold that A) Brown didn't deserve to die walking down the street (even as the person who robbed a convenient store and threatened the clerk) B) Racism still exists C) the system is not perfect but acknowledge that the innocent party given the facts we know, and the Grand Jury decision was Wilson. Wilson did not deserve to be assaulted as a police officer patrolling the streets anymore than Brown deserved to die, right?

I find it totally disingenuous and impossible to have respectful dialogue when one side can't admit to simple truths of the situation. None of Thabiti's solutions he proposed today address the hostility of people towards police officers, or re-education that needs to happen within poor, minority communities.

I'm a white, middle class 30 year old man with mostly black neighbors in Memphis, TN. I currently have black neighbors on two of the four sides of my house, and it would be 3 of 4 if not for one couple that just moved out. They were very close to us. The husband passed away just before they moved. I would get phone calls from them all hours of the night needing help due to a severe illness he had. I would get up at 2 or 3am to go over and pray for him. I would help his wife get him into the house at least 3 times a week around 7-9pm after dialysis. They loved our kids and we loved them. We have another black woman living on our other side who has her mom living with her and they are foster parents of a 13-year old white girl. And my wife and I are in the process of adopting from Uganda going on 5 years now. We refuse to give up.

I share all that to give some context for my comments.

In the same way one side needs to say, "Michael brown didn't deserve to die and wasn't doing anything wrong walking down the street." The other side needs to be able to say, "Officer Wilson didn't deserve to be assaulted and wasn't doing anything wrong by approaching Michael Brown."

Is this not a fair assumption?

Eric said...

I did not say that or insinuate that. You don't take criticism well. I guess the only one suited for this conversation is you in the end. Have fun in your echo chamber.

Unknown said...

Frank -

I agree with the thrust of your argument here and in the post on homosexuality, namely, that we as ambassadors of Christ are to bring the hope of the Gospel to bear with the people and situations we come in contact with, especially when taking certain stances on these issues can be construed as being unsympathetic, out of touch, or downright cruel.

However, how does one come to true faith in Christ without recognizing their destitute and hopeless condition before Him? This is where I think the conversation needs to go.

What you have written in response to the first question you pose ("What does anyone deserve?"), in a sense, is of no ultimate significance. Did Martin or Brown deserve to be shot and killed? We can argue those semantics all day long. Personally, based on the evidence available I believe that their deaths were not undeserved, but you seem to be arguing the interpreted harshness of this stance hinders our witness and I don't necessarily disagree. But again, it doesn't matter. Why?

Because what Martin, Brown, Zimmerman, Wilson, you and I all deserve is Hell. As Christians, this is a God-given opportunity to direct commentary in this direction. The sinfulness of discriminatory race relations or injustices of the legal system (perceived or otherwise) should serve to aid in pointing people to the sinfulness of this world in general, and their soul in particular. So instead, the starting place isn't "he didn't deserve to die," but rather, "Jesus got what I deserved." Would you agree?

Brady Bush said...

Sorry, Frank, are you comparing speeding to aggravated assault of a police officer?

Further, did you read Wilson's testimony, and do you have any reason to doubt the eyewitnesses (those whose stories do not contradict each other) and a grand jury of his peers and the corroborating witnesses? Brown repeatedly assaulted Wilson, and given his size, could have easily killed him with a few blows.

The incident did not start with an innocent young gentleman strolling down the lane, but with a felon who committed strong-arm robbery walking down the median of a road near the scene of the crime and cursing the police officer who attempted to enforce the law.

Most disturbingly, you seem eager to shut down the conversation to those who disagree with your account of the basic facts of the case. Isn't the pursuit of truth of the utmost importance for Christians?

Guymon Hall said...

"He didn't deserve to die"

Yes he did. We all do. That's why the issue in Ferguson is not about race, or victimization, or whatever other politically correct drivel we want to apply. The issue is that this display of gross lawlessness in Ferguson is simply a symptom of man's total depravity, and therefore, the issue is the Gospel.

"I think this is a perfect time for us to realize that sometimes true things are not loving things, and we are tasked to bring truth with love. "

The most loving thing a person can do is speak the truth of the Gospel! In the passage referenced, the word for love is "agape", which means "love according to God's moral preference." So it has nothing to do with the tone, inferences, etc. that our audience might perceive: speaking the truth in love has to do with our faithfulness in articulating the truth of the Gospel regardless of how it might be perceived.

Jim: spot on!

Guymon Hall said...

"That is where this incident started. Officer Wilson did not come upon a fight or a robbery: he came upon two men walking in the street. That's where this started, and to see it otherwise is not excessively clever. "

Now, that's a bit disingenuous isn't it? We now have been told of testimony that indicates this started when a robbery was committed nearby, and with reasonable suspicion the officer attempted to stop the two men and ask about it.

To see it otherwise is not excessively [honest]."

Eric said...


And I think that anyone who bears false witness and won't take responsibility for it needs to stay out of the conversation.

Andy Dollahite said...


A) Michael Brown was walking in the street and didn't deserve to die.


Z) Michael Brown perpetrated a threat of deadly force against Officer Wilson, and Wilson was not wrong to respond with deadly force.

It's a horrific tragedy (and still quite a mystery) that we got from A to Z, but can't I honestly affirm both A and Z are true without having my moral compass questioned? Is it your point that we need to flesh out B to Y more from every "side" in this dispute, starting with our own sinful brokenness, or that we just can't say anything after A? Or that depending on who we're talking to we can't say more than A?

I love your challenge here, but I suspect there are a number of dullards like me who would benefit from further commentary rather than rapid dismissal.

With love and thanksgiving.

Mizz Harpy said...

Hi Frank,

Thank you for the article. It's very helpful. It's too easy to fall for division and forget the eternal perspective.

You write, "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."

I think this 'coldness' is more about a cultural difference than about race. I experienced the same thing while I was living in Galveston. I said, "Hi" to my Black neighbors when I first moved into my apartment but rarely received a reply more often I was met with a cold stare. I didn't know what to make of it but they treated the Nigerian guy who lived downstairs from me the same way. I don't know how to 'fix' this except to keep being friendly. Maybe God will grant us oppertunities to serve in some way whether it would be helping change a flat, catch a stray pet or give someone a ride.

Robert said...


The only thing I will throw in as far as specifics are concerned is that there were reports of this young man pushing a clerk into a door as he stole some cigars. There is a video of this actually happening and Brown was the actual perpetrator of the crime in question. Now, that doesn't mean there was no profiling in mind and that this officer couldn't have stopped somebody who didn't fit the description (this definitely happens a lot in real life).

That said, it is tragic that an 18 year old was shot dead. It is also tragic to me that he got to the point where he was pushing around clerks and stealing in the first place. And there is a culture out there that celebrates this type of attitude and activity. How else does Grand Theft Auto turn into such a best-selling game series? Same with the Godfather games. And this isn't a racial thing...those games sell across racial lines and violence/crime is glorified with the theme of "I've gotta get mine" rolling around in the heads of much of all youth today. This is a topic where adults of all races and cultures should be able to come together and talk about our own children being at risk of buying into this culture. We should be allies in trying to help all children to flourish and not fall into criminal behavior.

FX Turk said...

First things first: I have a day job, and if I am not waiting to approve your comment when you publish it, be patient.

FX Turk said...

Jared said:

Wilson did not deserve to be assaulted as a police officer patrolling the streets anymore than Brown deserved to die, right?

Aha! NOW we are actually talking about what happened rather than about how we feel about what happened.

FX Turk said...

Eric --

Imagine this exchange ..


AAA: I believe X for reasons 1, 2, 3. I think you should believe it too.

BBB: Sorry, I believe Q for reasons 2, 7 and 12, and you are wrong.

AAA: yes, but when you say 12 without 1 and 3, you sound like you don't really care about the people involved. If you are that concerned about 12, maybe you should just not say anything.

BBB: Fine, live in your echo chamber. Plus: you're a liar.


Now think about which one of these you are in this discussion, and ask yourself if that's who you want to be.

FX Turk said...


Unfortunately in Ferguson, we are not talking about ultimate significance. We are talking about temporal significance.

Ultimately, God ought to throw us all in Hell immediately upon conception, and if he is somehow is tardy He would be justified to throw any of us into Hell at any moment not just because we love sin, but because we are actually sinning. Because God would be justified to throw you in hell right now, does that justify anyone -- and especially, a police officer -- in killing you right now? I think the answer is clearly "no," but you may think otherwise.

Because here's the rub: God is rich in mercy and lovingkindness. We deserve Hell, and he's willing to wait us out a bit for the sake of being merciful. And of course the ultimate step is that God is also gracious to supply the means by which we can be forgiven in Christ. So the idea that we all deserve to die right now, therefore Darren Wilson was justified to shoot Michael Brown is, at best, the wrong solution to the wrong problem.

What we are concerned about in Ferguson is actually how those given to enforcing the law under the ministry of the government ought to do it -- and how we ought to react to them. We're lucky that Rom 13 says everything we need to know about that.

But now we are also concerned about what to do about and for a mother and father whose son somehow wound up dead in the street -- and my suggestion here is a hard one to swallow for most people (until they are the parents of a child dead in the street). Because what Michael Brown did was not a capital offense, he did not deserve to die, and his parents' hope and dreams for him ought not to have had died in the street. So now our immediate (not ultimate) attention is on the real people involved, and not our idealized version of the world where everything we would never imagine doesn't exist.

More as I work down the list here.

FX Turk said...


I am comparing them since neither is a capital offense. If Brown had been apprehended, he would not have been subjected to the death penalty.

FX Turk said...


You are smart enough to recognize that there is such a thing as issuing pronouncements of truth without even a gram of love involved. My point, over and over, is to add the dollops of love before you inject the vinegar of truth.

Terry Rayburn said...

If you can't say that self defense is legitimate and enforcement of the law is important, you frankly have no place in this discussion.

Oh, wait, that's the poster.

Brady Bush said...

Assault is not a capital offense in the courts, but neither is the use of lethal force in self-defense illegal in most cases. If you break into my home, you might get shot in the head. if you assault me and I'm armed, you might get shot in the head. Neither case is an injustice, rather a just punishment for a wicked deed.

Think of it this way: Everything except capital punishment and torture is an act of mercy. We deserve what Michael Brown justly got, and the reason that we don't get it every day should be the message Christians unite around here.

FX Turk said...

And ... work calls.

Back this evening. Please keep demonstrating exactly what I was worried about in this post. It's better than the examples I could come up with.

Andy Dollahite said...


Your point is clearer as your interaction with the peanut gallery continues. Please keep it going, and give our thanks to those with whom you could otherwise spend your time and energy.

Your emphasis is on getting us to start at A) Michael Brown did not deserve to die (and really believe it!!!), and that as the conversation matures in love, to be able to also say what Jared stated about Wilson, including my "Z."

Yet the our relationships with our neighbors, secondary to our own wretched sin, are too broken and fragile to often accept A, much less move on to B...Z, or we only want fragments of the story to be true?

But now what? If I sincerely believe A (and I do), and my neighbor and I get all the way together to some point in the middle, but then he rejects the parts of the story where Wilson' is right to respond to the threat of deadly force with his firearm, what is the loving thing to do? As DP once said, "You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar, but why do I want flies?" Or are we about to find ourselves perpetually in a Anyabwile/Wilson conversation where two godly men acknowledge they've been heard accurately, respected, and yet still stand miles apart on matters of substance?

I think you've been marinating in this long enough to have more wisdom than me, so please keep it coming.

Doug Hibbard said...

I think that, somehow, we have managed to cultivate a society that does these two things:

1. Enculturates a need to resist any form authority;
2. Trains law enforcement, and equips law enforcement, that their option for dealing with non-compliance is deadly force.

What happened with Michael Brown and Darren Wilson is the collision of this. Officer Wilson gives an instruction to Citizen Brown, who then pushed back. Perhaps more than he should have--but what has he been taught to do?

As a right-wing, gun-toting nutjob myself who values what Sam Adams and Thomas Paine and others did when they felt that lawful authority had stepped over its boundaries, what have I supported teaching people to do in the face of authority that they feel oversteps its bounds? Will I teach my children to just do whatever the officer says? Not likely--how that lines out is a long discussion--but let's keep this in perspective: the difference in telling off an officer that you think is out of line and telling off a king is a difference of degree. We find telling off a king acceptable because we won.

Meanwhile, Citizen Brown resists Officer Wilson. He does so with physical force and verbal force. Officer Wilson then *follows his training,* training provided by the citizens, including Citizen Brown and family, and uses the equipment issued in the manner trained.

And Citizen Brown ends up dead at the end of it.

Because we, the taxpayers and citizens, have supported the development of a system that teaches the value of resisting authority, have ennobled the concept of violence, have praised the use of physical strength to accomplish your goals.

And then trained authority to use deadly force when they are resisted.

Consider this question: the justification for the shooting is that Citizen Brown was attempting to access Officer Wilson's service weapon. That is a legitimate reason to use deadly force--and why the grand jury refuses to indict.

Why does Officer Wilson have a service weapon in the first place? There are many societies that do not arm everyday police officers with deadly force, are there not? I hear this about places in Europe, for example, though I am going to lazy up and not research it.

As a society, we have created the need for all the Officer Wilsons to go about armed. Because of this, we as a society bear some of the responsibility for this.

Citizen Brown paid with his life for resisting Officer Wilson. Likely Officer Wilson will pay a long-term price for this, without the indictment.

But what of the rest of us? Those of us flying "Don't tread on me" flags from our pickups and demanding a wide berth from law enforcement? Who put forth the exact same attitude but without the violent response?

We are individuals, and bear individual responsibility, but somehow we also come together and do things for which there are consequences. Those consequences affect individuals but also affect us as a people. There is a systemic problem, and that is one we have to pare back down to and fix.

The system, as it is, worked for Officer Wilson because he did not act beyond the scope of the law. But that doesn't mean the system worked, nor that the system is just overall.

FX Turk said...

The longer the thread stays open, the more I am worried about our readers.

I just want to pose a hypothetical here to see what happens.

Imagine that I raise my son to be as law-abiding as the average person -- which is to say (whether you like it or not) he is occasionally drunk or high (especially when he is under the age of 22), he likes to rough-house in public, and while he doesn't drop out of high school, he only barely has a plan for college.

Now look: before we go any farther, that's a statistically-average boy in America under the age of 22. That could be any kid you know or any kid you kids go to school with. It could be any kid in America. And before you start railing on me for not raising my son in the church, let's keep in mind that most of the kids in your neighborhood are not Christians using the definition most of you blog readers would use.

Now, when a kid like this gets into trouble, he can usually escape it the first time -- but if he gets into a fight with a cop, he's probably not going to just get out of it. He will be lucky if he doesn't get shot.

What I want you to do with your imagination now is imagine that this kid who gets shot, who is my son, is the kid who lives next door to you, and I am his father over there.

Now come over to my house and tell me that my kid probably deserved it, or that we all deserve it, or some such thing as been presented here either the day after he is shot or the day after the police officer who shot him is acquitted of wrong-doing because he behaved procedurally correct.

Please imagine it, and I'll wait here a minute.
















OK, now because you have thought about this hard, I want you to finish the story for me. When you said what was said here in the thread:

1. Did that really seem loving to you?
2. How did I react, in your imagination?

savedbygrace said...

Mr. Turk,
I have read this blog for a long time and enjoyed the advice and wisdom, but I have been increasingly unable to understand you. I thought about just not visiting here anymore, but then I thought I would speak some truth in love. I realize your words are written and not spoken and can be misinterpreted, that being said, you come across sometimes like you have some sort of elitist Christianity and only you are able to understand certain things-especially in the way you answer your readers. Maybe you should ponder that for a time. Maybe that is why you have fences with people that you can't figure out how to get over.
I didn't write this for you to post, I just thought you needed to know.

Terry Rayburn said...

Frank, I believe you're doing what the world does in judging God.

They accuse Him of not being loving because he allows or inflicts bad things on people, whether through real justice or reaping what one sows.

Love involves desiring the best for the one loved. But that "best" may not be feasible due to a myriad of things, not the least of which is their own behavior.

A loving Circuit Court judge might well love a murderer who was found guilty in his court, yet sentence him to death.

We don't know, but Wilson might have loved Michael enough to tell him to get out of the street, yet proceeded to do his sworn duty to uphold the law. And an easy biblical case can be made for self-defense.

If anyone "hates", on either "side", they are wrong. But don't judge your Commenters as unloving because they see the justice in what transpired, even as we (speaking for myself) feel compassion for Michael and his family -- and indeed for all who are hurt by racial prejudice and hatred.

Lastly, regarding your last example story, if I came over to your home after that tragedy, I wouldn't be philosophizing about "deserving", or "justice". I would tearfully put my arm around you, the grieving father, and weep with you and pray with you for God's grace and peace.

Luke Wolford said...

I think part of the problem here is confusing an action deserving of death (e.g. pre-meditated murder) with an action whose likely outcome is death (driving on a dirt road at 120 mph). If Mike Brown had not died, presuming that the officer's account is true, he would not be sentenced to death. I agree with you there. Mike Brown did not deserve to die. But, presuming the officer's account is true, he did an action which a reasonable person would assume could result in death. I think this distinction is why people are talking past each other here.

Brady Bush said...

Frank, I don't know how you've gone from arguing the basic facts of the case to how one should address Brown's grieving family, but here's my problem in a nutshell. You said:

"He wasn't putting anyone's life in danger"

which is a factually false and indefensible statement. A grand jury of Brown's peers recognized this and moved not to indict. If Brown had been no threat to Wilson, Wilson would not have used lethal force.

I am just shocked that you can ignore the danger Brown posed - first to the cigar store owner whom he strong-armed, and second to Wilson, whom he attempted to kill.

semijohn said...

"Now come over to my house and tell me that my kid probably deserved it, or that we all deserve it, or some such thing as been presented here either the day after he is shot or the day after the police officer who shot him is acquitted of wrong-doing because he behaved procedurally correct."

You have a point. There's a big difference, however, in saying we shouldn't go over to someone's house and say this (which I completely agree with), versus you making a clear and unequivocal statement of the opposite, and saying that if anyone doesn't accept this statement personally as actual fact, they don't belong in the discussion.

Laurette said...


I accept that my difficulty with affirming "he didn't deserve to die" disqualifies me from talking to anyone involved, especially not "you" the father the next door.

But I want to affirm it, so imagine that these are the thoughts I'm weighing in my own mind, trying to find a way to understand that Brown did not deserve to die.

Suppose Wilson actually did react in accordance with his training in response to assault from Brown, as the facts seem to support. That is, Wilson was justified in reacting the way he did. However, at the same time, Brown did not deserve to die.

I find the word "deserve" to be very slippery. One man "deserved" (or was justified) to execute his duties with lethal force, the other did not "deserve" being acted on with lethal force. In the same situation.

I accept that not deserving to die means that, had he been apprehended, he would not have been subjected to the death penalty. The problem was that he was not in fact apprehended, because Wilson killed him. Brown's apprehension would have either required his own "coming quietly" or at least exerting less aggression himself, or it would have required a different, less forceful course of action from Wilson. The latter clearly implies that Wilson is guilty of using excessive force, and the former implies that Brown is.

If I am wrong about the fact of Wilson's appropriate conduct, then it becomes very easy to affirm that Brown did not deserve to die, and I can leave off. However, while I completely agree that this fact is not the point to be disputed over with people who are hurting, it is not irrelevant.

If Wilson did react in accordance with his training, then the situation is very different from the Rowles situation. No-one is ever justified in assaulting someone on account of their sexuality. There is no sense in which the attackers had to fend off a personal threat caused by Rowles' father's homosexuality. The question of "justified" force is completely irrelevant, and that's why bringing up the point about homosexuality is so deceptive. In no conceivable way did he deserve it.

But if it is plausible that Brown was killed in a justifiable exertion of force, then affirming "he didn't deserve to die" in an unqualified way has almost the exact opposite effect: it smuggles in the lie that Wilson is a murderer. And if that's not true - well, it is impossible to speak unthruths in love.

Tom said...

Frank, let me see if I understand this post correctly. Is it your contention that we should discuss this issue with all people as though we were talking with Michael Brown's parents about this matter?

Reformed Baptist said...

"He wasn't putting anyone's life in danger; he didn't deserve to die."

Are you saying the officer's life was not in danger? Upon what are you basing this assertion? Are you contradicting the officer's account of the incident? If so, why?

FX Turk said...

Overnight, several things have happened. One is that comments have proliferated in the moderation buffer, and many of those are simply, factually inaccurate. The #1 problem is direct knowledge of Wilson's testimony.

None of those comments will make it out of moderation. Instead, the summary of Wilson's testimony is found here and unabridged here.

Reformed Baptist said...

"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."

As Steve Hayes so adeptly noted- "Sometimes the system works, and sometimes it doesn't. It would be simplistic and inaccurate to stake out a uniform position on whether or not the system works. I can point to instances where it works as well as instances where it doesn't."

I understand that everyone is entitled to a mulligan once in a while. Feel free to take it on this one:)

FX Turk said...

SavedByGrace --

The first thing I would say in response to your note is that while there are a LOT of elitists in the blogosphere, and I may actually be one of them, the most pampered class of elitists are those who love doctrine to the exclusion of acting like the doctrine is correct. Those people need daily rebuking, and I am here to help.

The second thing I would say to your complaint is that believing someone else is wrong is not elitism. Believing it and being unwilling to engage them in a conversation is -- and here's how that looks:


AAA: I believe "X" for reasons 1, 2 and 3. Therefore Anyone who is excluding 2 from the argument needs to change.

BBB: What do you mean that 1 and 3 are wrong? Are you some kind of anarchist or liberal?

AAA: No, I believe in 1, 2 and 3. But 2 is a necessary part of the whole argument. Without 2, 1 and 3 are heading in the wrong direction.

BBB: You are a liberal! You don't believe in Law and Order!

AAA: No, I just believe that Law and Order have nothing to do with whether or not we mourn for the death of a man who did not deserve to die.

BBB: Of course he deserved to die! We all deserve to die!

AAA: Well, since you're going to keep moving the fence posts, find someone else to chase your rabbits .

BBB: How dare you not let me say what I want and then agree completely with me!


If you can find a thread in the comments here that doesn't look like that, I'll be glad to hear more about my elitism. I'm here fielding questions and offering responses to them. Good luck finding that either in the pure elitist blogs or in the camp of those who have never made an error and cannot be corrected.

FX Turk said...

Terry Rayburn --

Then it's a good thing that we're talking about a human police officer and not God's wrath. If we were talking about God's wrath, I'd be over the river and through the woods.

FX Turk said...

Luke Wolford --

The only reason your comment made it out of moderation is that it was so far-fetched that it needed a response.

You're saying Michael Brown was guilty of a capital crime at which point in this event? Because the references I found have said he was, at worst, guilt of first degree assault which is a class B felony in MO which has a max sentence of 30 years if the victim was "seriously injured." Since Wilson was not, it would have likely been a situation where Brown got up to 15 years.

Not the death penalty.

FX Turk said...

SemiJohn --

I see what you're saying - it's wrong of me to tell some people to stop talking.

Let me put it another way. I think that yammering on the internet about how much Michael Brown deserved what he got is wrong for two reasons. The first reason is that it is utterly loveless -- it ignores the fact that his death came as a surprise to everyone, including Officer Wilson. The second is that it is somewhat cowardly -- and I have explained that already in the example of the average kid. Because nobody here is walking over to the Brown household and telling his mother how much he deserved it, or would if they lived close enough, it speaks to the craven sort of triumphalism evident on the internet all over the place. You would never behave that way in public - yet here you are. Please do not kiss your mother with that mouth. The last reason is how factually-impaired it is to say such a thing. Some people know this so they try to make it a point of theology so that we can't contest what God hath said -- but God didn't say that someone caught obstructing traffic with a guilty conscience for robbing a convenience store deserves to die in a fight that very afternoon. God, as you might expect, believes in due process. God also believes in self-defense, so while Brown didn't deserve to die, Wilson is not culpable for killing him. A man died in a fight. It's a horrible tragedy, not a special act of justice. Anyone who doesn't understand that is kidding himself when it comes to ethical reasoning.

So because I think none of our readers whats to be loveless, cowardly and factually-impaired, they should consider my advice.

Thanks for asking.

FX Turk said...

Lowell --

That is actually one of the three great questions to come up in this thread, and I thank you for asking it.

Everyone you meet is not in Michael Brown's family. That's completely true and obvious. But many people you meet identify with Michael Brown for sociological reasons. For example, they may have been pulled over for driving while Black. To someone who grew up in suburbia, of course you don't walk in the middle of the street; to someone who grew up in the city, you probably see the street as a place where you share with vehicles and you walk in it all the time. Many people see Michael Brown as like them -- and the example I gave above about the average kid? They see him that way because they are not insulated from the average kid by the internet or something worse.

So to say to someone like that that Michael Brown's death was a tragedy is the price of admission. It's the price you pay to actually talk to this person rather than dismiss them. It doesn't endorse anything theologically except that every person has the image of God in them. Treating someone's fear or shock as real and justified without endorsing any falsehoods is the point here.

FX Turk said...

Reformed Baptist:

You poor fellow. You think that Darren Wilson magically appeared in the middle of a fight, don't you?

I don't think that Darren Wilson deserved to die that day; I don't think Michael Brown deserved to die that day. Walking in the middle of the street was not intended to get anyone killed, and pulling them over to call them out of the street was not intended to get anyone killed. Nobody involved in that event woke up that day believing he was going to kill or die.

And that, for the record, is the place someone needs to start thinking about this.

FX Turk said...

Laurette --

One of the things I have found most surprising as this discussion unfolds is this: the lack of categories available to come to the conclusion that Wilson could be not culpable, but that Brown did not deserve to die.

What happened in that street was not a scene from a Judge Dredd comic book where Officer Wilson was somehow transformed from law enforcement official to judge and jury and executioner. The City of Ferguson Police Department’s use of force policy (section 410.01) states:

“An officer may use lethal force only when the officer reasonably believes that the action is in defense of human life, including the officer's own life.”

That definition was been upheld by two Federal court rulings:

1. In Jones v. City of St. Louis, 92 F.Supp.2d 949 (E.D. Mo., 2000) the federal district court, in a lawsuit from the police use of deadly force, held that the use of deadly force is reasonable where the officer has probable cause to believe the suspect poses a threat of serious physical harm, either to the officer or others.

2. In Fitzgerald v. Patrick, 927 F.2d 1037 (8th Cir., 1991) the 8th circuit federal court of appeals, in another police use-of-force case out of Missouri, said law enforcement officers are justified in using deadly force in self-defense or in defense of a third person if a reasonable person in similar circumstance would believe it was necessary.

(Thanks, PoliceOne.com)

Wilson wasn't judging Brown to be guilty in any sense of the word: he believed hi life was in danger and took a legal action to defend himself.

Brown did not deserve to die, but Wilson was justified to defend himself. Both are true, and we need to be informed enough about the law and Christian ethics to see how this is possible.

FX Turk said...

With that, thread is closed.