J. Warner Wallace answers questions in 4 min. or less (or more) about black lives matter and if Christianity is false.
- What is a Christian response to the black lives matter movement?
- How would it affect your life if you suddenly recognized that Christianity is just another false man made religion?
Melinda: Hi there. This is Melinda the Enforcer, and this is STR’s short podcast #STRask, and today we have J. Warner Wallace with us.
J. Warner W.: You don’t fool around as far as we just sat down, I just put the headphones and then you start the music. I’m like, “Oh my gosh. We’re not fooling around. We’re just going to go right into this, aren’t we?”
Melinda: Of course.
J. Warner W.: Without any preparation.
Melinda: That’s the whole point.
J. Warner W.: I guess. All right. I’m ready. I’m ready.
Melinda: J. Warner Wallace is the author of Forensic Faith and the founder and proprietor of coldcasechristianity.com.
J. Warner W.: That’s right.
Melinda: How’s the new book, Forensic Faith, doing?
J. Warner W.: Okay, I guess. You never quite know how a book is being received, right? You get some feedback, and it’s mostly anecdotal though, so you don’t know if it’s really...It takes a little while. I think now we’re in a culture of books in the culture where not everyone’s maybe consuming or reading books at the same pace they used to. It takes a little longer to see if the book’s having any effect. Whereas before, you know, it’s like let’s face it, we’re doing Christian apologetics books. I’m not looking for it on the New York Times bestsellers list, but still is kind of hard to...I hope it’s doing okay. We’ll see.
Melinda: I’m sure it will be.
J. Warner W.: Yeah, I hope so.
Melinda: I see it all over social media all the time.
J. Warner W.: Well, yes. That’s part of the false impression of popularity that I’ve created on social media. Is that good?
Melinda: I don’t think it’s false.
J. Warner W.: Yeah.
Melinda: This is STR short podcast. Send us your questions on Twitter using #STRask, and then whoever happens to wander into this studio on a Tuesday afternoon has four minutes or less to answer the questions.
J. Warner W.: Oh, gosh. All right, let’s go.
Melinda: Here we go. First question comes from where’s Jonathan. What is a Christian response...Now, I chose this for you. This is a little bit of a tricky one. I mean, some of these questions...
J. Warner W.: Great.
Melinda: No, it’s not tricky as in hard, it’s just tricky as in culturally sensitive. But I thought, especially as a former police officer, and then also as a Christian you might have a couple of different ways to approach the answer.
J. Warner W.: Okay, cool. Cool.
Melinda: What is a Christian response to the Black Lives Matter movement?
J. Warner W.: Well, okay, so I’m coming at it uniquely from the perspective of a police officer, right, because it’s kind of hard for me to see it any other way. I haven’t really written a lot about this because of all the groups that could talk about this, probably the least received right now are...
Melinda: Is the police officers.
J. Warner W.: ...going to be white, male, Christian, heterosexual police officers. I happen to have all five of those characteristics.
Melinda: Well, you know, Amy and I have guest hosted the regular podcast a couple times recently. It’s like two times people call up and ask us about race issues, and I’m thinking, “We’re two white girls. What are you asking us for?”
J. Warner W.: I just think we have views and the views may be very sound and they might even be theologically sound, the question is...
Melinda: Yeah, but there’s also sometimes something from a unique perspective as somebody...Anyways, but go ahead.
J. Warner W.: I think this is something that there’s...
Melinda: But it makes us want to be careful when we talk about these things.
J. Warner W.: That’s right. That’s right. And I think it also makes you realize that the messenger can sometimes damage the message, and so I just don’t want it to be seen that way, so I haven’t written a lot about this, but I have written some. My view of it is that there’s a bridge here that we need to cross on both sides and the only way you find common ground is that, number one, to admit the...to kind of cherish and uphold the virtues of both positions and be honest about the deficiencies of both positions.
When it comes down to as a white, male police officer, do I think there is racism in police agencies across America? Of course. Absolutely, because we hire out of the general population and as much as we might want to try to vet those kind of views about people that are hired by police agencies, you cannot get to the heart of every...People can mask their views when they are being hired by agencies. We have specific questions in an effort to eliminate those kinds of candidates, but people, because there’s a certain percentage of people in the population that hold these views, don’t be surprised if there’s some percentage in police agencies. There is, and to say that there’s no racism in...It’s otherism.
The problem is not racism. The problem is otherism. If there were no racial distinctions available, if we all looked identical, we would find some other reason to separate from each other. We would say, well you live on the odd side of the street and we live on even addresses, and odd people are different than even people. We’d find something to divide over because we’re fallen, and this is a problem I call otherism. It’s not racism.
Now, it’s expressing right now by virtue of race, but I don’t really think you’re going to eliminate otherism because that is part of our fallen, human condition. So, on our side, I’m more than willing for us to offer and to own up to and to repent of the racism that you’re going to see in any organization including law enforcement organizations nationally. I think that’s part of it, right?
What we don’t like on this side is when you measure bad police contacts that are always publicized, shootings, mistreatment of people that you see on TV, and I don’t even try to justify it. It happens and then we see it. No one is more angry about a bad cop than a clean cop. There is nobody who is more angry, so if you think you’re mad about it, trust me. There’s a group over here that’s even more mad about it because we’re getting a black eye from that group who’s misbehaving. Now, you’ve got to measure that versus all police contacts, because what we’re saying here is that some police contacts are inappropriate. Okay. We got to measure it based on calls for service then. How many times do officers respond? It’s in the millions, 35 - 40 million contacts annually of police officers. How many of those go south? Well, we see that, right? But it’s a very small percentage and we want to make sure that we don’t paint a broad brush.
Now, on the other side of this, African-Americans do not want to be painted by a broad brush either. It turns out that most of the crime we see in the African-American community is repeat offenders. It’s only like 7% of the entire community that gets contacted and goes to jail at all, so the 93% on that side does not want to be broad brushed either. It turns out we’re both in a similar position. We don’t want to be broad brushed from the stupid we see on our side, and they don’t want to be broad brushed for the stupid they see on their side. I think we could find common ground here, but each has to admit there’s something to cherish and something to condemn on our own side of the bridge. As long as we’re willing to do that...
It’s about repentance. It’s about one of those core...There is a solution for this, it’s called Christianity, because that’s the one solution that should be racially blind. There’s one race, the human race, and there’s all these other colors and things that are beautiful. We don’t see a distinction here, but we’d have to convince a culture to point back to an ideal that for the most part the culture...The one thing that could solve it is the one thing that nobody wants to actually say anything about, and that’s the Christian worldview.
Melinda: Yup, because that’s where there’s repentance and then forgiveness and grace.
J. Warner W.: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Melinda: And when we realize how much we’ve been forgiven, we are that much more willing to extend grace to other people.
J. Warner W.: That’s right. It’s exactly right. The reason...
Melinda: And it’s really the only basis for equality and value of all human beings, too.
J. Warner W.: And the least forgiving people are the people that think they have nothing to be forgiven for. Once you realize you have a lot to be forgiven for, then you suddenly become forgiving of others. I get sent emails every time there’s a bad...Like last week we had a verdict that came back that people disagreed with. I get it. I do think what happens here is that, in jury trials, you see that people have a tendency to think, hey, if the officer is experiencing this kind of panic or fear, whether it’s justified in his head, whether it’s even reasonable fear, I think sympathize with the fear. I think you’ll see that verdicts are going to come back the way they did last. It doesn’t mean it’s right, but I think I see the mechanism at play there.
How do we solve that problem? I think one of the ways we solve is, look, this shooting we’re talking about last week, there was a car cam that caught the entire thing on video. It didn’t change the behavior of anybody. So, the guy who got involved in the shooting knew he was on video the whole time.
Melinda: The officer?
J. Warner W.: The officer. So there’s something else, another dynamic going on. Here’s the other problem we have. We train constantly to go home at the end of the shift. That’s the highest priority.
Melinda: To be safe and go home.
J. Warner W.: To be safe. To survive the shift. You want to go...you can’t do any good to anybody if you don’t get through the shift and you’re dead in the street. We’re constantly preparing for worst case scenarios. Now, that does incline you to see the worst case scenario sometimes when it’s not really there, because you’re just trying to make sure that you’re...I think it’s necessary, but it’s an evil you have to be careful about. You can’t-
Melinda: It’s a very fine line not to cross into overreaction then. And, unfortunately, the consequences of overreaction are deadly.
J. Warner W.: Oh, absolutely. I think they’ll always be a measure, a percentage, of bad shootings, even if the people themselves really...You can look at a guy’s career and say he’s never been involved in any abuse of force, he’s never had a complaint in his entire career, yet now he’s involved in this crazy shooting and it looks totally inappropriate. Well, why does that happen? It’s because we’re always on the edge of our seats anticipating the worst because we want to go home at the end of the shift. Well, that view and that necessary approach has got liabilities.
Melinda: I think a lot of, especially black males, have a similar kind of feeling where driving while black and being pulled over at a higher percentage and all that because they’re being, like you said, they’re being broad-brushed for the 7% who commit crimes in their area. But I feel like they probably feel the same way. They want to get home safe, too, and so it’s like you got two people in this encounter who sort of have the same attitude that they just want to get home safe.
J. Warner W.: So, what happens here, we try to-
Melinda: Because they both realize they’re potential victims and targets.
J. Warner W.: Yeah. What we try to do is we try to train up officers in a way that doesn’t just look at...For example, if you’ve got a string of robberies in the North end of town involving white males with red hair, there’s two usually in the car, they’re doing street robberies in the North end in a white Celica. Okay, great. Tomorrow, what do you think we’re looking for? By the way, we brief every day not by saying, “Go out there and crush crime.” No, what we do is we look at the past crime reports for the last week and we see where’s their activity. What are the suspect descriptions? Well, tomorrow when we go out, we’re looking in those areas for those kinds of suspects.
Now, let’s say you’re a white male with red hair today, you’re by yourself and you’re driving a white Toyota and it’s kind of Celica-like. Well, you think you’re going to get looked at by the police? Yes. Now, you might argue, well couldn’t that person just get contacted immediately because he does seem like he fits the description? Well, he’s by himself. There’s not two of them. I would want to try to associate some kind of behavior along with just the physical description. If he’s driving slowly and looking at guys walking on the street, that might give me a reason to stop him because now I can associate not only a physical characteristic of, oh, he matches the subject description - he’s actually doing something that looks like...So, if you start to put those two things together, not just physical attributes, but behaviors together before you start stopping people, then you’re in a much better position, I think, to make a good stop.
What we’re trying to do is train up young people...But, you have to make a decision. Do you want us to do that? Do you want us to...We’re not like firemen. There’s no patrol firemen. There’s no patrolling firemen. There’s patrolling police officers, like we’re trying to stop the crime before it occurs, but do you really want that?
Melinda: Of course we do.
J. Warner W.: Because if we’re going to try to stop the crime before it occurs it means we’re going to have to make certain assumptions about behaviors...
Melinda: But then I can also see where black men who have been pulled over, you know, when they see a police officer, they then may be nervous...
J. Warner W.: Oh, absolutely.
Melinda: And then that causes them to exemplify behavior that is interpreted by the police officer as suspicious when they’re actually completely...
J. Warner W.: Here’s how I typically put it. If you walk up on that car that sped through that red light and...you know, went right through it, and you walk up on that guy like he’s just late for dinner, he may not go home tonight. But if you run up on that guy like he’s running from a robbery that you just aren’t aware of yet, you’re going to walk up on the car different and you’re going to be safer as you walk up on that car. Now, you’re probably going to walk up on him and say, “Sir, put your hands on the wheel.” If this is just a guy who’s late for dinner, he’s going to go, “What’s wrong with this guy? He’s treating me like a criminal. I’m just late for...I get it, I ran a red light.”
Melinda: You’re angry.
J. Warner W.: “But now you’re treating me like a criminal.” So now, it’s going to be two things. I can see why the officer might interact that way, at least in the first few seconds, but that officer better have a skill level that also helps him to explain to the stop why it is that person was stopped that way. We don’t often have officers, they maybe have one skill strength in one area but maybe not in both, and now this is a skill set we better start teaching our officers how do you walk up safely and control the setting, but at the same time, once you realize this is a guy who...
Melinda: Don’t let it escalate.
J. Warner W.: ...is late. Right. Then, you’re going to be able to explain to him, “I’m really sorry I had to walk up that way. Here’s why I did that, right? Because this happens and blah, blah, blah.” But you better be able to debrief all of your stops so they understand that you’re not treating them on the basis of anything else other than this concern for safety. I think it’s a much tougher job, and I wonder why anybody would do it. I will tell you this, nobody is applying.
J. Warner W.: In our agency, where my son was hired five years ago, we had probably about 300 candidates. We ended up hiring six we sent to the academy. Three graduated, two made it out of training, so we went through 300 to get two.
J. Warner W.: Now, that’s a pretty high level of attrition that we’re trying to control, get the best candidates. Well, now we only have 30 applicants.
J. Warner W.: Now, we used 300 to get to two. What are you going to do if you get 30 candidates? It’s not going to make it easier to find the officers who have the appropriate level of concern versus communication. It’s going to make it harder, so I am concerned for the future of law enforcement only in the sense that right now it doesn’t appear to be the kind of job that people want. We need folks who are skilled communicators in that position, and skilled thinkers so they don’t think the wrong thing and then they can at least communicate what they were thinking to the people they’re talking to. Not easy.
Melinda: Those are good thoughts. I also, kind of just on the slogan, the Black Lives Matter, we talked with Keith Plummer a couple months ago, Amy and I did, and it was helpful for me because, of course, the response that a lot of people have is all lives matter, which is completely true. But Keith pointed out, and I think it’s a fair thing, that blacks have a unique history in this country that still bears a mark on our current society where black lives did not matter.
J. Warner W.: And that’s why the expression comes about. That’s why I never would say all lives matter. I get it. The assumption, though, is that-
Melinda: There’s a unique situation.
J. Warner W.: ...you weren’t treating us like we were a life that mattered, so we’re saying, “Hey, black lives matter, too.”
Melinda: And you can say there’s truth and there’s a truth and value in that slogan, even if you disagree with the tactics of the group that use that name.
J. Warner W.: No, I totally agree. That’s why whenever I give these kinds of presentations, I find myself dividing my audience. They’ll be officers who will say, well, you know...They’re mad that I’m taking a position that would be, in some ways...offer a position of repentance on certain issues. At the same time, there are citizens who are like, “Well, I don’t get that part from an officer’s perspective.” You’re never going to make anybody happy here. I will tell you, I was offered a contract for a book on this issue last year and I just decided I wasn’t going to write it because I felt like the thing that solves the problem...
Melinda: You’re not going to make anybody happy.
J. Warner W.: Yeah, and the thing that solves the problem is the gospel. What you don’t want to do is divide a potential audience that could hear the gospel if you only hadn’t first divided them because you made a stand that they don’t agree with. On both sides. The solution is the gospel. What I want still is to have an audience that is willing to hear the gospel on me, so I just have not written on those issues.
Melinda: Last week Amy and I talked with Lisa Fields from Jude 3 Project, and she’s African-American and they particularly are trying to do apologetics in African-American community. We were talking about this and she mentioned, she just emphasized grace and I really appreciated that, because if you can’t even...because look, obviously if we’re coming from different points of view when we start a conversation, we’re likely to say something that’s going to bother or offend or irritate the other person. If you don’t have grace for that, you can’t even start the conversation then.
J. Warner W.: I know.
Melinda: I just really appreciate it. It’s like, okay, it’s safe to talk about this and potentially say something dumb or offensive because I’m open to being corrected, but you are willing to offer me grace to correct me and not just react to me.
J. Warner W.: Right. I think what I’ve started to do now is-
Melinda: So, you’re exactly right. The gospel, it just comes back to the gospel.
J. Warner W.: Yeah, and I think what I’ve started to do is, hey, every conversation with somebody on this issue I have is no longer a conversation with me and that person. It’s a conversation I’m having with God. If that person wants to say something inflammatory, that’s between that person and God. If I’m going to respond in that inflammatory way, that’s between me and God. I am not going to be in a position where I, at the end of the day, have to repent of something or apologize for something. I’d rather just not get into that position to begin with. Now, of course, you have to say some tough things, but I’m willing to say the tough things about my group first before I ever make any observation about the other group.
Melinda: Well, that’s why I appreciate how you started. You said there’s repentance and change on both sides...
J. Warner W.: On both sides. We have to...That’s right.
Melinda: ...and you started with the police officers.
J. Warner W.: It has to be us first. If you want to make the first step toward healing, you have to take a step toward the other side. If we’re not willing to do that, like hey, I want you to realize how wrong you are, then we’ll be okay. That seems to be the position of both sides. I want you to realize how wrong you guys are. That’s the problem. You don’t realize how wrong you guys are.
Melinda: Which, of course, it goes back to the Bible again because that’s exactly what we all do. We find the sin in the other rather than ourselves.
J. Warner W.: That’s right.
Melinda: I am much more skilled at finding everybody else’s fault than my own.
J. Warner W.: Oh, absolutely. We’re all that way. Isn’t that just how we’re...That’s part of the sin nature of the whole...
Melinda: And holding everybody up to a higher standard.
J. Warner W.: Right.
Melinda: Just like Paul says.
J. Warner W.: That I can’t even measure against.
Melinda: Exactly. I fall short of my own standard, but I’m going to hold everybody else up to it.
J. Warner W.: Yeah, right. This is kind of where we’re at on this issue. It’s a hot topic issue, but I hope that people who listen to us right now realize that there are level heads on both sides and we just have to be able to find a way to communicate that and a way in which to...And it’s probably not going to be on social media in 140 characters.
Melinda: Well, that’s for sure.
J. Warner W.: So we gotta stop that nonsense.
Melinda: And let’s face it, not even a lot of the news stations that are really kind of in the entertainment business, they’re in sensationalism.
J. Warner W.: Right.
Melinda: Okay, next question. We’ll just do one other question. The particular person said they wanted particularly for Greg, but I especially want to ask you and I’m going to ask all the other guys when they come and do the show. This comes...How would it affect your life if you suddenly recognized that Christianity is a false, man-made religion?
J. Warner W.: I think it would...because I’m a thinker.
Melinda: I thought this was interesting because you used to believe that.
J. Warner W.: Right. Right. I think it would affect me in a deep way. Some people may not even feel that way, but for those of us who are interested in case-1`making and have thought about these issues and we’re writing about these issues, well, let’s face it, we are probably thinkers to begin with. And so we recognize that there are certain changes in the universe and certain rules were different, if certain conditions were different, then I would have fewer obligations in certain areas. Because I have thought about this, I know I would take advantage of that, personally. I knew if there were certain...Sometimes the only difference on this side of the cross, for me, is not that I’m behaving differently, it’s that I feel...Because I’m still struggling with sin in a lot of areas. It’s that I have deep regret about my behavior today that I never had regret before about.
Melinda: That’s right.
J. Warner W.: I would have celebrated it before. If I’m angry at somebody, I would be very quick to condemn people, put them in certain categories and then just write them off altogether. They’re not worthy of my time and I did that all the time because I was dealing with a lot of people who were committing crimes or whatever. Now, I’m in a very different place. I still find myself doing that, but then I’m like, I can’t do that. Now it’s a struggle. It’s a day-to-day struggle with dealing with my own sense of fallen-ness. That would be the biggest change, is that I would have...
This is why I say it. This is not a practical, utilitarian worldview because it just leads me to constantly struggle with my sin. Every day is this constant...Wouldn’t life be easier if you just didn’t even see that as sin? If there wasn’t an ultimate judge of all things and you’re the only judge of everything? It’s just a lot easier way to live. I lived that way. So, yes. That would be the biggest change. I think I would probably make less effort. There was no such sanctification in a non-Christian world. What am I sanctifying toward? A better me? I’m already me now. I’m the best me every day I can possibly be. Now I’ve realized, no, I’ve got a long way to go and it’s a daily process. All of that would be gone and I would probably...I’d be more arrogant, for sure, because it’s hard to call people to repentance if they think they’re the final authority of something. I’d be much more arrogant, I’m sure of that. But, again, that’s not why I became a Christian. That’s just the reality of how things would be different.
Melinda: For sure.
J. Warner W.: I didn’t become a Christian because my wife was complaining I was so arrogant, I needed some worldview change to solve that problem.
Melinda: Becoming a Christian made you realize she was right.
J. Warner W.: Yeah, exactly.
Melinda: And want to do something about it.
J. Warner W.: Exactly, right. A lot of this was that just once you’re convinced this is true, then it came along with it. All these other conditions that I thought were reasonable and has changed my behavior without my having to try. So, I think the first thing would be is I would have...
Melinda: Because now you’ve got the Holy Spirit working in you.
J. Warner W.: Yeah, right. You’re still...it’s that natural man fighting the spiritual man, and that constant tug of war between those two things. I never had that tug of war before. I never thought about it. I just refused to think about it. I’m talking to somebody right now online who’s a friend of mine who believes that everyone eventually is going to get into heaven, that God is so loving...believes there’s a God, but that God is so loving that he would never judge or condemn anyone. Of course, if you’re in a position where you know that your behavior is pretty reprehensible, you’re hoping there’s a God like that.
Melinda: Oh, yeah.
J. Warner W.: Right? Because you don’t want to be judged, you want everyone to get in. It’s not because you have this sympathy towards people who are doing evil; it’s that you know in your heart of hearts that you are one of those people doing evil. That was me, so I think that’s one of things that would change probably the most is the sense that there’s no sanctification process in the old Jim’s world.
Melinda: Good. Very interesting, Jim. Thanks very much for interesting conversation.
J. Warner W.: Well, thanks for having me.
Melinda: That’s it for this episode folks. Send questions in on Twitter using #STRask. We generally do two episodes every week. This week, whenever we’re posting this, I can’t remember. Yeah, I think this is getting posted July 6th, so that means we only have one this week because it was holiday this week and, you know, figured you guys were busy.
J. Warner W.: That’s true.
Melinda: Otherwise, normally new episodes Monday and Thursday. I’m Melinda the Enforcer. I’m here with J. Warner Wallace for Stand to Reason and #STRask.