So I have been thinking about the tragedy in Beirut which occurred on August 4, 2020. A tremendous explosion occurred in the capital’s shipping port. This blast claimed over 160 lives (and still counting), 6,000+ injuries and 10-15 billion in general destruction to structures. Some of you may have seen cell phone videos of the event – it was devastating.
The saddest thing is that this tragedy was completely avoidable. Twenty-seven hundred tons of ammonium nitrate erupted in one of the largest accidental explosions of our time. It seems the ammonium nitrate was confiscated by governmental forces years ago and (through a series of events I know little about) was then stored there at the port.
Ever since the explosion, the city/country has been rife with riots and accusations and complaints of systemic corruption. These complaints regarding the government were not new - but protests did reach a flash point following this extremely horrible event. Because of this rather large misstep of public safety; this morning (August 11) I learned that the government of Lebanon was now stepping down. The civil unrest in Lebanon was the catalyst for change.
In our own country, we have seen similar things. No, not ammonium nitrate exploding in our capital; no, not our government stepping down; but rather, a series of awakening moments of the people that “things are not quite as they should be” within all of our governmental agencies - specifically the police department. I am talking about our own national protests calling attention to the “Black Lives Matter” movement. Friends unfortunately, sometimes it takes a horrible event (George Floyd) to unleash the societal complaint that needed to happen in the first place.
Sadly, in 2020 America, we still have a problem in the way we administer justice in our country. Now, I am certainly not saying that all police officers are racist (there are many fine and upstanding police officers!); it simply has become clear to me that some of our officers are. This has a negative impact on our life together. Of course, this has an enormous impact on those whose rights are being violated personally, but I would argue that it also has an impact on every citizen’s ability to live into the community, which should be fashioned by our own Laws (not to mention our Christian call to become “one in Christ”!).
Friends, the fact that these public servants hold such a powerful position in our community raises the bar for their behavior (and accountability). Law enforcement officers represent and enforce our collective rules – the
way we want to live together. When that enforcement doesn’t happen in an even handed way – we, as a people, should object.
Objecting however, is not a call to violence or lawlessness! Our heritage of non-violent protest is deep and rich in our own county and around the world: Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela. I encourage non-violent protest as a way of standing up to power. I sincerely believe that the vast majority of the folks protesting these past many months are approaching this topic in a non-violent way. So, I invite you to consider their position on this matter - not from the lens of sanctioning violence but from the lens of listening to what is actually being shared. As Christians, as Americans, we are at our best when we listen.