In Galatians 3:28, Paul writes that “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” He argues in this verse that we are all part of the church of Jesus Christ. That we are to be united in our belief in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
This vision is one that needs to be heard in an era of polarization, especially on matters of race relations. While radical movements have arisen from genuine racial inequalities, there are many Americans of all races who have allowed the knowledge of disparity to drive us apart instead of uniting us to correct them.
Are we perpetuating prejudice?
A poll from Monmouth University indicates that while Americans believe that the largest of these movements has made people more aware of the problem of racial disparity, 70 percent also believe they have not improved race relations.
Unfortunately, the recent riots and violent protests have likely done nothing but validate this perception. Although the desire for justice is righteous and understandable, the means that have been used to try to achieve it will likely lead to nothing better than a hollow and violent “victory” that will only validate preexisting prejudices.
Building unity for systemic change
Although many of us can empathize with the desire for revenge, historical facts and data indicate that the most successful cultural changes are brought about by largely peaceful protests that are able to build large coalitions of allies without scaring them away with violence.
This exact alienation is demonstrated by the words of African-American athlete Richard Sherman, who said that those who are “saying it’s time to kill police…They are generalizing police just like they are asking police not to generalize us. It is very hypocritical…”
Violence is not the long-term answer to this problem. A systemic problem requires a systemic change. To use an analogy: if you want to fix a problem with your computer software, you cannot smash the computer and expect it to run better.
In the words of Dr. Gordana Rabrenovic, an associate professor of sociology and director of the Brudnick Center on Violence and Conflict, “Violence might be the quickest way to achieve your goals, but in order to sustain your victory, you would need to use coercion and have some kind of apparatus in place that keeps people in constant fear of punishment…And nobody wants to live like that.”
As Christians, we are “called to peace”
Using violence to pursue one’s goals will only lead to more violence. As it says in Matthew 26:5 “‘Put your sword back in its place,’ Jesus said to him, ‘for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.’” Incidents like the murder of a young mother for allegedly saying “all lives matter” have done nothing but provide fodder for prejudice.
Colossians 3:15 commands Christians to “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” If we want to solve lingering racial disparities in our country, we must start by building a coalition of change and alliances that will actually solve institutional problems that remain as holdovers from prior eras of racism. Although violent protests are easy, they help nothing and risk making any remaining prejudices far worse.