We should all be so blessed as to have a son like Kyle Rittenhouse. If only we were all so worthy of young men like him, our land would be richly blessed. That there is pervasive moral unclarity regarding his actions and by some evangelicals, even a maligning of his character, speaks of the failure of our churches to educate the public in the realm of basic Christian ethics. And for that reason, our cities burn.
The young man (17) of Antioch, Illinois, traveled to Kenosha, Wisconsin, upon hearing the urgent pleas of a local business owner whose car dealership had already been targeted by riotous mobs on evenings prior. Rittenhouse, a lifeguard with extensive medical training, went to Kenosha (21 miles) with his medical kit and his AR-15 rifle to help others, knowing that the government was failing in their responsibilities to protect the lives, property, law, and order of its people.
There is little doubt that Rittenhouse went to Kenosha to do good. And there is no doubt that he accomplished it.
Upon arriving at the scene of riotous mob violence, Rittenhouse provided overwatch to private property to protect it from both the criminals who would burn it and from the government, who would stand by and neglect their duties to serve and protect Kenosha.
Before the shooting, Rittenhouse told The Daily Caller in an interview, “So people are getting injured, and our job is to protect this business. And part of my job is to also help people. If there is somebody hurt, I’m running into harm’s way. That’s why I have my rifle — because I can protect myself, obviously. But I also have my med kit.”
While at one business, Rittenhouse was given cause to venture to another, which requested assistance. And that is when the 17-year-old experienced first-hand the escalation of violence that mobs often produce.
From video footage that has been repeatedly removed from social media, it is unclear how the initial conflict and ensuing gunfire began. In the distance, shots could be heard fired as Rittenhouse backed away from the man who was shot. According to reports, the man had approached the youth with violent intentions, with Antifa rioters claiming the man only threw a “paper bag” at the teen, and others claiming that he had first thrown other objects in an effort to hit Rittenhouse.
You can watch the video below, which has been placed upon our servers so it cannot be deleted. WARNING: The video contains graphic language and graphic violence. Please do not watch unless you are genuinely investigating the matter yourself in order to make an educated moral judgment on the situation.
Rittenhouse then called someone on the phone and said that he had shot someone. Soon, the mob came for the teen, at which point he retreated as quickly as possible. Clearly, from the video footage, they sought to rip the young man apart.
At one point in his attempt to retreat (he was not trying to ‘stand his ground’, a reference to laws many states have that state someone does not have a duty to retreat before deploying violence), Rittenhouse stumbled and soon the mob was upon him. Seeking to hurt the young man and take his rifle – and no rational person would think they would do anything short of kill him – Rittenhouse fired upon them.
In the end, two men lay dead, with one shot in the head (the original perpetrator) and another shot in the chest. A third man, who pulled a gun, was apparently slow on the draw and got shot in the arm and is recovering.
Rittenhouse continued to retreat and did not avoid the police on his exit out of the riot. On video Rittenhouse can be seen placing his hands high into the air in a seeming attempt to surrender, at one point placing up his hand to a riot tank, trying to flag them down. In the chaos and because so many had firearms on the street, the tactical police moved forward without stopping.
These facts should remain clear in our minds:
Everyone shot by Rittenhouse had first attacked him. Even the first criminal shot by the young man, who although it is unclear what he threw at Rittenhouse, ostensibly committed either battery or assault. And in the midst of a riot, any similar action should reasonably be taken as a deadly threat.
Had Rittenhouse intended to shoot random rioters, he had thirty rounds and every opportunity to do so. Instead, as is clearly demonstrated by video, Rittenhouse exercised trigger discipline and his intentions were not to kill random people. Any comparison between Rittenhouse and school or church shooters should be immediately discounted as both disingenuous and fallacious.
Rittenhouse’s stated goal, before the shooting, was to help people. Every known fact indicates this is the case. He had medical training and brought a medical kit. He went at the invitation from a business owner to protect his property. He is on video in an interview stating his intended purpose and explaining why he had a firearm (and it was self-defense). Any assertion that his actions were premeditated should also be immediately discounted as both disingenuous and fallacious.
Rittenhouse did not run from the police as though he had done something wrong, but toward the police. Video evidence confirms that he had no desire to evade law enforcement, but to evade violent rioters and arsonists who were shouting murderous threats at him.
Rittenhouse’s actions were not race-related. This is known simply enough; he didn’t shoot a single black person.
THE DECENCY OF BEING PRESENT AT THE KENOSHA RIOTS
Some might argue that Rittenhouse had no business being at the scene of the riots. The argument is attempted several different ways.
First, some might argue Rittenhouse had no business there because his presence as a white suburban teen in the city of Kenosha amidst a race riot was incendiary. For this claim, it is sufficient enough to argue that such an assertion is a racist one, in that it alleges a person should or should not go somewhere based upon the color of their skin.
Secondly, some might argue Rittenhouse had no business at the riots not because he was white (there were in fact many white rioters, including those who he shot), but because he was ideologically opposed to the overwhelming consensus of those rioting. By having spoken support for Donald Trump or the police (both he did), he was trying to ‘add fuel to the fire.’ This is refuted easily enough; if you believe that some people have the right to assemble based upon their beliefs, but not others, you are the one who is in fact one kind of bigot or another.
Third, some might argue that Rittenhouse had no business at the riots because he was not law enforcement. The argument itself is a gross double-standard. Neither were the rioters law enforcement. In the United States, citizens have a Constitutional right to defend themselves and others from violence and the destruction of private property.
Fourth, some might argue that Rittenhouse had no business being there because of his age. One should argue in return that Rittenhouse behaved more maturely under fire than the rioters were behaving while starting fires.
With there being no rational or logical argument to make that Rittenhouse had no business at the Kenosha riots, then any argument against the moral soundness of his actions on the basis of his proximity to the riots should be discounted as insufficient. If indeed Rittenhouse had every legal right to be there, then he cannot be morally impugned for being at a particular place during a particular time. Blaming Rittenhouse for being attacked because he shouldn’t have been there anyway is like blaming a rape victim for being in a particular part of town; it is a morally disgusting argument.
And if Rittenhouse had the legal right to be present (which he did), then we must ask instead if Rittenhouse also had the moral responsibility.
THE MORALITY OF RITTENHOUSE’S PRESENCE IN THE STEAD OF A DUTIFUL GOVERNMENT
Clearly, it is unfortunate that the people of Kenosha could not count on their local, state, or federal governments to protect them from lawless hordes of criminals who were roaming the streets and setting fire to property (and property is synonymous with livelihood, and livelihood is necessary for life itself).
Certainly, no reasonable person would argue that it is ideal that the task of protecting lives and property should fall upon a 17-year-old man. That task falls to the government. But the authorities in Kenosha, like elsewhere, have been intimidated into the abdication of their lawful duty by the demands of political correctness and the threats of additional violence by groups like Antifa and Black Lives Matter.
If the world were ideal, it is reasonable to suggest that Kyle Rittenhouse should not have killed these men; the government should have killed these men. But with liberals quick to blame the police for protecting the public and coddling mobs of criminals looking for an excuse to burn, loot, and pillage, one can understand (although not agree with the fact) they’re not eager to help.
Without the shield of law enforcement to protect innocent people, innocent people have a Biblical and moral responsibility to secure their own lives and property.
THE MORALITY OF RITTENHOUSE’S USE OF SELF DEFENSE
Nearly all orthodox faith traditions teach this. The Baptist Catechism, for example, asks “What doth the sixth commandment require?” Its answer is, “The sixth commandment requireth all lawful endeavors to preserve our own life (Eph. 5:28,29) and the life of others (1 Kings 18:4).”
There is certainly a Biblical right to self-defense, irrespective of the involvement (or lack thereof) of the civil magistrate.
While it is true that Jesus told Peter to put away His sword because he must be crucified for the sins of the world (Matthew 26:52), he told them that very night to buy a sword in advance of their coming persecution (Luke 22:36).
We are to deliver the innocent from those that seek them harm (Proverbs 82:4). While murder is clearly prohibited (Leviticus 24:16-17), the taking of a murderer’s life is neither prohibited nor is it murder (Genesis 9:6). The qualifying distinctions between killing and murder are found in places like Exodus 21, Numbers 35, and Deuteronomy 19. In the commonwealth laws of Israel, delivered by God, one had the right to take the life of one breaking into their home in the night (Exodus 22:2). One should note that these riots occur in the evening, in which God declares it open season on those who prowl the streets to break into homes (Even if they are only in the process of breaking in).
Even though our enemies are not flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12), the same is true for the Israelites as they were rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls, when they were instructed to arm themselves for potential conflict (Nehemiah 4:17). The realization of spiritual enemies did not negate the reality that there might be some people should be righteously ended, and God’s people were to be prepared to fight back. When Haman’s plans went awry because of Esther’s obedience, God’s people were instructed to kill those who sought their lives (Esther 9:2-5). When Abraham’s family was in jeopardy, he raised an army and killed their captors (Genesis 14:14-18) and was later blessed by God for that action.
David’s hands were taught to operate a lethal weapon by God (Psalm 18:24). At 17, we presume that Kyle Rittenhouse was much like David in that respect.
The media and America’s leftists (but I repeat myself) clearly want something that is unreasonable. They desire that criminal hordes be able to burn down America’s cities, destroy businesses, intimidate innocent citizens with unprecedented violence, impede traffic, demonize the police, and act riotously without law-abiding citizens shooting at them.
I tell you as a pastor of 20 years, that this is an unbiblical expectation.