Thabiti Anyabwile May Not Be the Race-Relations Expert We Should Look To

As the evangelical world looks for the cause of racism (hint **it’s sin**) and looks for the solution to racism (hint **it’s the gospel), it’s important to know where not to look. Some have looked toward Ron Burns. You know Ron Burns by his Muslim name, Thabiti Anyabwile. I would encourage against that.

The “Gospel” Coalition™ has sought Burns Anyabwile as an expert on race, because, well…I’m sure it has nothing to do with skin color. T”G”C included Anyabwile in a panel to discuss the topic back in April, along with a number of non-Christians (who happened to have the same skin-tone as Burns Anyabwile) who they acknowledged were not born again Christians, but were “co-belligerents” in the fight against racism (and if you’re not in on the inside joke, that’s why we include the scare quotes in reference to the T”G”C. When you seek for answers irrespective of the Gospel, it’s probably time to drop that moniker).

The Evangelical Intelligentsia (EI), it seems, finds the “problem is sin, answer is the gospel” to be an over-simplification. We wrote about that in a post, “Ferguson and the Soft Bigotry of America’s Leading Evangelicals.” In that post, we also covered Anybwile’s harsh tone toward police and continual defense of Michael Brown, the criminal who brutally assaulted a police officer and was killed in self defense. And as we documented, Anybwile’s sympathy for Brown’s family could not be understated, but his sympathy for the officer who was victimized was zero.

Anybwile’s position on Ferguson did nothing to call his “community” (their language, not mine) to personal responsibility, and neither did it do anything to quell the criminal and riotous behavior afterward. In fact, one could argue, Anybwile’s rhetoric during the days of the Ferguson circus was irresponsible and even inflammatory. It certainly wasn’t calming. Most alarmingly, Anybwile’s understanding of the Ferguson situation seemed to be completely devoid of the actual facts regarding reality and was instead tainted by the color of his skin.

And the Calvinistic branch of the EI didn’t help the situation. John Piper was tweeting his own solutions to the race issue, which included making police officers wear body-cams. Russell Moore was championing President Obama’s riot-inciting statements on Ferguson as “balanced, wise and on point” and even suggested that white people view history in light of facts and black people don’t (source link for both of the above). Ed Stetzer was practically passing out under the weight of his own White Guilt in Christianity today (source link). Unhelpful doesn’t begin to describe the social-justice appeal of supposed Gospel preachers trying to find solutions in virtually everything except the Gospel.

And then, recently, this happened…

HT Justin Edwards
HT Justin Edwards

This was RT’d by Ron Burns Thabiti Anyabwile. This, of course, is in response to the revelation that a Cleveland police officer will not face charges for shooting a 12 year old black young man (that I have to mention the race is both necessary and stomach-churning) who brandished a realistic-looking pellet pistol toward the officer. The young man was pulling it from the waist band when confronted by the police (some assume to show the officer it was not real) and he was subsequently shot. The officer was responding to a 9-11 call in which the concerned citizen said that a male was pointing a gun at people, frightening them. The caller also said the gun was probably fake. In that moment of uncertainty, the officer shot the young man. It was tragic.

What is not tragic is that the justice system worked. What’s not sad is that common sense prevailed.

What is sad is that some people have made this about race and not about irresponsible parenting, personal responsibility or unconquerable reality. So why the RT from Anyabwile?

Obviously no one is asserting that having a bb or pellet gun is a capital crime. Obviously the court system which they allege contains “systemic injustice” would not have prosecuted the young man for having such a gun, unless it was perhaps for criminal mischief, terroristic threatening or disturbing the peace (all of which seem like potentially reasonable charges). But it’s certainly not capital.

Obviously, the young man was shot because a police officer was informed a male was brandishing a firearm and frightening people, then brandished it to the officer. It was a mistake. It was a stupid mistake. It was something the young man should have been warned about. And it was tragic he was shot. But why does this have to be a race thing?

The answer to that is racism. Anyabwile – as commendable as his gospel-centeredness usually is – has his judgment clouded by some unseen and inexplicable variable or by something more likely…race. His prejudice and bigotedness toward law enforcement officers over the last year has been palpable.

Yes, that’s right. Black people can be racist, too. True story.

White, black, purple, rainbow-splattered, whatever you are…the answer to these issues is not race fixation. It’s not social justice. It’s not body cams. It’s not sensitivity training. It’s the gospel. And that gospel, if properly applied, ceases to make every unfortunate and awful and terrible tragedy about race.

I care about this story because I got my son, Judah, a realistic-looking Ruger pellet pistol for Christmas. Not even knowing the above story happened, let alone a controversy, his mother and I gave him the rules. Unlike his pocket knife (he has one like any other red-blooded nine year-old in Montana) which he’s welcome to take anywhere, we explained that he’s not allowed outside of our privacy fenced back yard with the thing. We explained that if he was out waving it about in the front yard or somewhere else and a police officer or armed citizen shot him, that it would be his fault. And because he knows about everything from firearm responsibility (even for toys, which he is to treat with as much respect as the real thing) to trigger discipline, he’s not prone to disobey.

I have numerous law enforcement officers in my congregation. And I don’t look at them according to the color of their skin. And should someone pull what appears to be a firearm, I don’t believe for a second they would look at the color of their skin.

Making everything about race does more to expose our own bigotry than that of others.

[Contributed by JD Hall]

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