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  • Writer's picturesonnyholmes

Abusive authority.

There's another thin line in relational integrity. Like others it is often blurred by events and circumstances that reach explosive dimensions. In recent times crossing this thin line has been our interpretation of the events leading to the tragic death of George Floyd. Few of us have watched the video clip of his death without making assumptions about the police officers who have been charged. Vast opinion is that they crossed that thin line and were abusive in their attempt to arrest Mr. Floyd. It certainly appears that they were excessive in their tactics. In the larger picture, many Americans believe that people in authority are typically brutal in exercising their powers, especially when exerting authority over minority populations.

Before advancing these thoughts let me add a couple of footnotes.

  1. George Floyd's death was a horrible, seemingly unnecessary punishment. It is true that Mr. Floyd had some criminal history. Still, who among us would sanction death for his more recent crime of forgery? It was shameful and disappointing in every consideration.

  2. Resisting arrest is in itself a criminal offense. The officers involved were attempting to arrest Mr. Floyd for purchasing cigarettes with what was thought to be a counterfeit $20 bill. Before he fell to the ground the officer handcuffed him, then placed his knee on Mr. Foster's neck for over eight minutes.

  3. The officers persisted in their effort to subdue Mr. Floyd even after he told them he could not breathe.

  4. He died at the hospital from injuries received in the arrest.

  5. I have never been threatened by police or had a gun pointed at me. Having never served in the military I have not been in combat or personally in danger from any authority. Therefore, I cannot fathom the danger Mr. Floyd or the officers felt as the arrest occurred. Many police officers have been members and leaders in the four church I served for over forty years. None of them were thought to be abusive in their careers. What triggered the heavy handed actions against Mr. Floyd is beyond me. I do know that dangerous situations often amplify our human responses.

Whether their actions were abusive or intentional will be for the courts to decide. The court of public opinion, and the local magistrates, as well, certainly saw mistreatment in their attempts to arrest him. The weight of public opinion seems to be driving the application of law. And, that is an additional troubling factor. Public opinion shouldn't be the decisive factor in legal matters.

The Christian worldview through which I filter most life realities certainly speaks to the issues of abusive authority and public opinion. Even in biblical times powerful people in government or religion often practiced cruel and unusual treatment of those entrusted to their care. Leaders often fulfilled their duties at the urging of the crowd, like in the crucifixion of Jesus. Scripture speaks clearly about Christian submissiveness to government authority. There are also many Bible references about those who would use their powers in wrongful ways or impose authority based on what the public expected. Here is a very small sampling of the many Scriptures about them---

The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have

not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought,

and with force and harshness you have ruled them.

Ezekiel 34: 4, ESV

Do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of

you devise evil against another in your heart.

Zechariah 7: 10, ESV

So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of

Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock

of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as

God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in

your charge, but being examples to the flock.

1 Peter 5: 2-3, ESV

You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit,

siding with the many, so as to pervert justice.

Exodus 23: 2, ESV

Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the

Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice.

1 Samuel 15: 24, ESV

Then the captain went along with the officers and proceeded to bring them back

without violence (for they were afraid of the people, that they might be stoned).

Acts 5: 26, ESV

Of course, these Scriptures don't address the specifics applicable to the killing of George Floyd. They do, however, speak to the larger issues of abusive authority and governance by public opinion. The law is the law and should be applied. Abuse of authority, whether in church, government, or the home is a disgrace in "One Nation Under God", the " land of the free and the home of the brave". So, is the rule of public opinion.

Abusive authority crosses that other thin line and should not be tolerated by Americans. Our legal system should guide us, regardless of public opinion. The lynch mob is no longer how we enforce the law.

Tomorrow, the bigger picture.|&mediapopup=148280977

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