When Ed Harrell brandished his firearm to confront the demonic white supremacist, Gregory Alan Bush, who had viciously murdered two black image-bearers, Maurice Stallard and Vicki Lee Jones, at a Kroger grocery store in Jeffersontown, KY, time stopped. Harrell did the right thing. He armed himself to protect innocent lives by any means necessary. Harrell was cautious, realizing the legal penalties that could follow when one employs deadly force against a threat. Harrell’s heart raced. Everything around him stood still. Tunnel vision had set in.
Time stopped, that is, until the attacker’s horrific race hating words were uttered, “Don’t shoot me. I won’t shoot you. Whites don’t kill whites.” Translation: Sir, you are safe. I came to kill blacks. My mind is clear. My targets are specified.
In the Christian community, we should have little patience with hate crimes that are sedated by mental health arguments. Bush was indeed a mentally ill terrorist who affirmed and acted on racial hatred, and those who possess this sickness are not a “protected class.” They are demonic.
The problem is, “white supremacy is both individual and institutional” since institutions are governed by individuals who establish laws in favor of the dominant group. When we hear the term “group” with selective prejudice, our presuppositional bias automatically demeans anyone who does not resemble our tribal affiliation. This disposition annihilates the idea of a community and contradicts the notion of a commonwealth. Wendell Berry, a famed Kentucky literary sage, writes,
“A community identifies itself by an understood mutuality of interests. But it lives and acts by the common virtues of trust, goodwill, forbearance, self-restraint, compassion, and forgiveness. If it hopes to continue long as a community, it will wish to—and will have to—encourage respect for all its members, human and natural.”
In Augustinian terminology, one of the greatest impediments to community is a disordered, self-centered love for one group above those labeled outsiders. C.S. Lewis was right when he surmised that “one of the greatest acts of the devil was convincing people that he did not exist.”
Satan, the unseen ruler of this age, will cause humanity to draw swords against one another on the basis of color. Do not become victim to the Serpent’s bite. He is a liar. If you are a believer in Christ, put on the full armor of God so that you may stand against the schemes of the devil during this season of lamentation and pain. Let your anger be bathed in love. In other words, righteous indignation inspires a distinctly Christian posture toward racial hatred and social injustice. Image-bearers are not our enemy. Satan uses them as a cognizant victimizing tool to wreak havoc; which, in a sense, means that these victimizers are victims of our enemy. Our enemy is an ancient foe who deceived the first family in the garden. This serpent is the author of confusion and unrighteous anger.
Rage, steeped in hatred, is demonic. Rage, motivated by love, is divine. Our brother James provides us with a God-honoring understanding of rage. He states, “My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness. Therefore, ridding yourselves of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent, humbly receive the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (1:19-21).
Any conversation about properly appropriating rage requires us to avoid secularism by listening well to the voice of the Spirit. Scripture reveals how the triune God responds to unrepentant sin. Romans 1:18 says, “For God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” We must remember Jesus’ anger when he overturned tables in the temple (John 2:14-15).
When Paul tells believers to “be angry, but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your wrath” (Eph 4:26), he sets parameters for rage because some people are mean and wicked. They drink from the bottle of violence. They love calamity. The proverbial sage said, “A fool always loses his temper, but a wise man holds it back” (Pro 29:11). “A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression” (Pro 29:22). The Spirit will produce hearts that “let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away, along with all malice.” He inclines us to “be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Eph 4:31-32). Do not allow the devil to cause you to hate those who hate you. Jesus spoke those words, knowing every aspect of sin that would infest this planet before His return.
We must challenge anyone who believes that rage will change society for good to balance their anger with love. Let’s hear again from Wisdom literature, “Keep away from strife is an honor for a man, but any fool will quarrel” (Pro 20:3). Solomon said, “Do not be eager in your heart to be angry, for anger resides in the bosom of fools” (Eccl 7:9).
Uncontrollable anger will produce more anger. The answer to anger is peace and humility because a “gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Pro 15:1). Friends, I was an angry young man. I have the scars to prove it, but when the Lord revealed Himself to me He melted the heart of stone, teaching me “a hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute.”
We are not smarter than God. The inerrant Word gives us wisdom saying, “Patience is better than power, and controlling one’s emotions, than capturing a city” (Pro 16:32). If anyone is angry because they lack power, then their anger cannot produce the righteousness of God.
The only counsel I can give individuals who are grappling with this blatant display of racial hatred is, “Lament, weep, love, and work for a better tomorrow. Point those who are hurting toward the inerrant Word of God and pray for an opportunity to enter their pain with the gospel.” In his incarnation, life, death, burial, resurrection, and His blessed return, Jesus gives new meaning and motivation to handle our anger righteously. We belong to a new tribe. A tribe with image-bearers from every nation, people, and tongue who walk in grace, mercy, love, and peace. The poet Annie Johnson Flint said it well:
We are the only Bible the careless world will read;
We are the sinner’s gospel, we are the scoffer’s creed;
We are the Lord’s last message, given in deed and word;
What if the type is crooked? What if the print is blurred?
Curtis A. Woods, PhD, is the associate executive director for Convention Relations at the Kentucky Baptist Convention in Louisville, Ky.