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Real Talk - Christianity & Race

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Bryan Schneider

Lord, thank you so much for the blessing it is to have these brothers and fathers in the faith. Lord, I thank you for their love for you and for how your Holy Spirit has worked in their lives and their hearts and how you have given them your word. Lord, I thank you for the time that they've generously given to having this conversation. Lord, we pray that it might be enlightening. That we would be iron sharpening iron. Lord, that You would care for us and that you would let this conversation do much good. In Jesus's name, amen.

Mark Brown

Amen.

Bryan Schneider

Well, I know each of you men, but my church isn't going to know you. So can you just start maybe we'll start with Reverend Truss. And then we'll go to Reverend Robinson. And then we'll go to Mark Brown. And, you guys can just kind of tell us, Mark, you're almost at that "Reverend." You guys should go ahead. Could you tell us a little bit about where you're from and your current ministry context is.

Richard Truss

Well, my name is Reverend Richard Truss. I am originally from the Pittsburgh area, lifelong resident of this area. A little town from about 15-16 miles from Pittsburgh, known as McKeesport, Pennsylvania. I think, if you want to really recognize that area, just look for Kennywood signs. I think everybody knows about Kennywood Park. So we're just over the river from Kennywood. Currently, I am one of the seminary students at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary. We just got off our spring term, and I'm trying to learn how to relax a little bit. But, I've been for the past five years pastoring the Zion Baptist Church here in McKeesport. It's a small congregation of about 75 members, primarily seniors. But we are the next oldest Baptist Church in McKeesport with a 105 year history. That's basically what I'm doing. It was good to be asked to participate and share a little bit that I have.

Mark Robinson

I'm a lifelong love born and reared here in Pittsburgh, went away for school and ministry for probably almost half of my life, then I came back to the area about seven years ago. I'm a teacher in order to PCA (Presbyterian Church in America) without call. But, what I've been doing for the last six-seven years is: consulting projects with churches, teaching part time at Geneva college, part time at RPTS seminary, and over the last two years regular itinerant ministry for churches that don't have pastors. So that's that's what I'm doing now. I was also recently a teacher doing some work with Teen Challenge, which is a faith-based substance abuse rehab center. Now, since the pandemics been lifting, I am back to preaching at a number of different churches in the region on Lord's days. So glad to be with you men, to be able to just share, talk, do koinonia via zoom.

Mark Brown

My name is Mark Brown. I am a ruling elder with the RPCNA (Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America) and have been for since about 2012. I was born and raised in Pittsburgh. And now I live in Selma, Alabama. I'm serving the church there, the Selma RP church as a pastoral intern. I hope to conclude my ordination exams successfully and, if the church will still have me, at the end of that I hope to stay here and serve this church. It's a cornerstone in the civil rights movement. And actually, I found out that, while brown Baptist gets most of the press, the movement actually started in this church building. But, they had to move up the street because they ran out of parking space. And this congregation has been in steadily steady worship since 1874. So it's an honor and a blessing to have them want me here to serve them. And it's a small group. Right now we are at about 23 members. But, hopefully we'll be able to start growing and affecting our city one more time.

Bryan Schneider

Wonderful. I think it'd be helpful to start off with defining terms. And so, one of the biggest terms that I think we need to define, and if you can give some biblical light on this possibly is, is how would you define racism?

Mark Robinson

The first thing that comes to mind is Romans where God says He's no respecter of persons but judges righteously. So, partiality. I would say simple partiality based upon someone's race - making a sinfully partial judgment based on nothing more than the race of a person. Whether that's hiring, whether that's the right to vote, whether that's "you can live in my neighborhood?" Are we going to sign off on your mortgage? The basis of that kind of judgment is race. That's racism.

Bryan Schneider

Okay. Mark? Reverend Truss?  Anything that you would want to add to that?

Mark Robinson

I would agree with that. I tend to look at racism is anytime someone ranks a people group based on nothing more than their ethnicity, color of skin. You can see this even among people of the same color skin in certain European countries and South American countries. You can see how people will divide and say, "This group is here, this one's here, this one's here", based on nothing more than either color of skin or ethnic origin. And I see ethnicity, and racism, and race tied together.

Richard Truss

Really racism itself can be classified as irrational thoughts. I agree with both brothers Mark. The attitude that solely because of a person's skin color, that person isn't deserving of any kind of advantages, the inalienable rights, that this country says that we're founded upon. Racism is based on unfounded "facts." I can't even say facts. They're just based on a false reality.

Bryan Schneider

That's very helpful. That's great. So let me ask a follow-up question to that, then. And that's something that someone pushed back on a little while ago and asked me, they said, "Well, okay, I understand if you want to say racism," and I gave them a similar to answer to you. But they said, "But is there really systemic racism? And if there is systemic racism, what is it?" How would you answer that question?

Mark Robinson

Sin doesn't just work at the individual level. Institutions are made up of sinful individuals. So institutions are going to run in ways that perpetuate sins. So, I would say an example of systemic racism is Planned Parenthood. 90% of the Planned Parenthood centers are smack in the middle of black and brown neighborhoods. That is a system, an institutional system, that is targeting black and brown women. They put them so you can see it everywhere you go in that community and you have to walk by it and drive by it. So I would say that's an example of systemic racism.

Mark Brown

I think that is an excellent example.

Richard Truss

That is an excellent 21st century example. But, we have to put systemic racism in its historical context as well. Going back to the foundation of this nation, racism was built in to the government. In the framework of our government, African Americans, black people, even some Caucasian instances, there was no equality of races in the Constitution of the United States itself. The black man was not considered as equal to the white man. He was property. He was traded back and forth just like you trade cows and pigs and animals. And then, when it came to fair representation within the government itself, you have the clause built into the Constitution itself where the founders said that when you want to count the Negro, you can only count three of every five. And that's the root of three fifths of a man. So they cut off the the possibility of being overrun, so to speak, by the African American population. So it's systemic because it's built into the system. It is intentionally built into the system.

Bryan Schneider

So this is where I'm going to ask a question. And, I hope you'll let me play devil's advocate here. Because these are the types of things that I'll hear people say. "So we understand the three fifths compromise and that that was directly related to slavery. The southern states wanted more representation within the Congress. But now that emancipation has happened and there are no more Jim Crow laws, does systemic racism even still exists then?"

Richard Truss

I don't think that all the Jim Crow laws have been taken off the books. There may be some implicit, Jim Crow-isms. Again, going back to what brother Mark said. It's that sinful heart set that individuals are not worthy of the same advantages as the dominant members of the dominant culture.

Bryan Schneider

One of the statements that I've seen made is, "We shouldn't be supporting black lives matter because it's all radical left Marxist ideology." How would you respond to that?

Mark Brown

I think that the believer has to be extremely careful in supporting any organization. You have to go in with your eyes wide open. And, you have to ask yourself, "What does that organization stand for overall?" And you can go to the Black Lives Matter website and see, very clearly, that their primary goals place them at opposition with Christian goals. The uplifting of sexual perversity, the destruction of the type of government that has made America, the breakdown of the family unit (which can't help but break down society, because the family unit is the core of society). And so, if we are going to say Black Lives Matter, we have to be extremely careful in how we say it as to not align ourselves with an organization with those tendencies, with those ideologies. Because at that moment, we've taken what they believe and compromised our faith with it.

Mark Robinson

Right. It is so easy to let us let the trumpet give an uncertain sound when we align ourselves with others. What fellowship does Christ have with Belial, light with darkness? Without question Black Lives Matter, the organization, the movement, is a dark, evil movement for some of the reasons that Mark mentioned there. Here's the challenge though; the real challenge is being able to not fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but live the parasitic truth out that is being trumpeted by the organization. So the challenge is not fellowshipping with black lives matter but showing in our life, our community, in our relationships and the way we love our neighbor, who's not like us, that black lives do matter. So I think that's the challenge. So clearly, the movement is evil. I think people are being diluted, and seduced by the, obviously, boringly obvious sentiment, that black lives matter. So reject the movement, but show by our life. Show in the John 17 way that we love our black neighbors. That's, I think, the challenge. The organization is clearly evil. But do we show the better way? In First Corinthians 13, Paul shows us the better way of charity, of love. Do we exemplify that in very obvious and demonstrable ways? We can reject the counterfeit because we have the truth.

Richard Truss

And I think that much of the attention, especially recently, with the the murder of George Floyd, brought to the forefront the difficulties, or the inequities, in the system where systemic racism has been on display, especially with the treatment of unarmed black men and boys by the police. And, I think that's one of the major pushes that black lives matter has been has been framed around. And again as brother Mark says it, how do we respond to that in such a way that we are showing that better way? That we do support the fact that all lives are valuable. But right now, it's our house that's burning down. The fire department doesn't need to hose down every other house in the neighborhood. It's our house that is being burned down as far the racial tensions are concerned.

Bryan Schneider

So let me ask, because you bring up George Floyd. One of the common things that have happened lately, that I've been seeing swirl around in certain areas of social media is, "George Floyd was a felon." "George Floyd had narcotics in his system, possibly." And then people will bring up Ahmaud Aubrey and they'll say, "Oh, well he was found trespassing and had a criminal record." And how would you respond to that?

Mark Brown

There is a level of responsibility that you have to take when you put yourself in a position to come into conflict in the first place. I tell young people, "if the police pull you over, the gun wins." "You don't fight." "You don't struggle." "You get out of there." "And if he did something wrong, that's when you pick it up." I'm not one who believes all the police are evil, by any means. But, you don't want to get into a situation where you're struggling, even with a good officer, because once it turns physical, there's no telling how far it is going to go.

Mark Brown

But, at the same time, if you've got someone who maybe has done a dozen crimes in the week before, the authority figures still bear the responsibility of self control and executing proper justice. And, there are some things that are just not excused. And, what happened to that man, George Floyd, to have a knee on the on the back of your neck, for that length of time, with four officers there (who have been since shown to have some pretty spotty records themselves, in terms of their behavior) there's just no excuse for that. Those in authority have a higher calling to execute proper justice.

Mark Brown

And, when you see them, and they're trying to talk down a bomber, or someone attempting to commit suicide, and everyone's saying, "Why don't they rush in?" They don't rush in because they're exercising that self control. That self control allows justice to happen in that situation, by all means possible. When they don't do that, and you get a situation like George Floyd's, then everyone says, "Why did you rush in like that and do that thing that you did?" So, yes, you shouldn't put yourself in that position. And if you have a record, you're more likely to suffer that type of incident. But that doesn't excuse the incident by any means.

Mark Robinson

I think Mark makes a really helpful distinction there. I think the emotion of these kinds of events caused people to think uncritically. And I think as Christians, and particularly as ministers, we have to exercise what the Apostle Paul says, "soundness of mind and judgment." I think soundness of mind means making the proper distinctions. And I think there are a couple of distinctions that get collapsed in these.

Mark Robinson

One, there are Fifth Commandment obligations that all human beings have. I love the way the Catechism puts it, we owe obedience to those in authority. Officers are lawful authorities to which we owe proper regard, when they're seeking to enforce the law, even when they're doing it a little bit imperfectly, as they inevitably will do as sinners. So, we can point out that a lot of these men were killed seemingly in the commission of a crime; and in part in varying degrees, not respecting a lawful authority. And the Proverbs has a lot to say about the way of the foolish. It is hard and tends to destruction. So I think it's right to point out, look some of these men were involved in sin which brought a kind of temporal judgment.

Mark Robinson

But let's not leave it there. We also need to get to the sixth commandment, which says we have to do everything possible to preserve life. So cops are obligated, as Mark pointed out, to use the utmost restraint, given that they have guns and the law behind them anytime they encounter the civilian. So, regardless of whether or not the person they are apprehending, seeking to apprehend, take in, is in commission of a crime, is high on drugs, whatever, is threatening to blow up a building. They are still an image bearer. They are still imago dei. And, we need to do everything within our power to protect them.

Mark Robinson

So I think both sides sides have a point. Don't be a fool. This commandment is central to civil society. Don't be overly aggressive and violent. Six commandment. Do everything you can to preserve life, whether you have a gun or not, whether you have the law behind you or not. So I think soundness of mind, soundness of pastoral judgment, is going to make proper distinctions and separate out the issue, and not be carried by our passions inordinately in one direction or another.

Richard Truss

I had heard these statements about Mr. Floyd, that there was fentanyl in his system and even that he had the Coronavirus. But it's like you're comparing oranges with with apples. Where was his crime? It's not a crime for him to have fentanyl - if it was prescribed. But, as Mark said, the law, the person in charge of enforcing the law, have to exercise a greater amount of restraint and responsibility because it's not their responsibility to try and execute an individual based upon what somebody else's notion about that individual is.

Bryan Schneider

So, let me ask, this is more of a Christian type question. As we hear these types of things come in, and I'm hearing what you're saying about keeping the fifth commandment upholding the sixth commandment, about inferiors and superiors and all that. But there's a common phrase that pastors will use, "Nothing turns a sinner to a saint faster than than a eulogy." How do we think about someone like Mr. Floyd? Or how do we think about someone like Mr. Arbery? Some are saying, "Christians are upholding, specifically George Floyd, as a model Christian, and as a gospel legacy layer. When all reality if he was a member of one of our congregations, he'd be under church discipline." And so I want to open that up, however you want to take that.

Mark Robinson

I've done funerals with people that I didn't know really what their state was, and what I did know probably wasn't that good. But, that's a ninth commandment issue. You don't preach to people into heaven. You don't lie.

Richard Truss

Right.

Mark Robinson

Human beings throughout Scripture served as righteous or wicked examples for us. So the wicked and their death is an example, they are a warning. The righteous are for an encouragement. So I wouldn't lie about George. I would say it's clear that he had some struggles and troubles. The Lord is the Lord of our salvation. He knows whether or not the torch belongs to him or not. Let his life serve as a warning where it should be a warning. Be encouraged by the things we should be encouraged by. It is a ninth commandment issue where you just need to tell the truth. The churches is the ground, the pillar, of the truth. We don't lie people into heaven. We don't turn the righteous into sinners either. So I don't have any more specific than that. Just be honest, in a way that the Scriptures encouraged us to be honest in our assessment and judgment of things.

Bryan Schneider

Well, that's really helpful. I think that's really helpful on specifically the ninth commandment. Let me move the conversation a little bit. One person said, "Oh, great, we're having all these riots over one black guy getting killed. Why don't we talk about black on black violence?" How would you respond to someone who said that?

Mark Brown

I would say, "Okay, let's talk about it." And test their genuineness in that moment. Or, if they were just saying that because they were trying to make some sort of point. And, if they wanted to talk about it and engage it, because it is an issue. It's a massive issue.

Mark Brown

It makes me think of the phrase, "The heart of the trouble is the trouble of the heart". And hearts are wrong today. And in our neighborhoods, and when I say "our" I don't just mean black neighborhoods, I mean, a generation, the last couple of generations have lost touch with that which kept them at least morally grounded for so long. The respect for the authorities around them, even if they wanted to do wrong, they had some sense that I better not do this. But as that was eroded and taken away, we did see that increase in crime. And, black on black crime is an absolutely major issue.

Mark Brown

But, for those who just use that as a club to try to swat down the other issues, I find that hypocritical, and I don't want to hear it. But, if they are serious, okay, let's talk about it. What are you doing? How are you helping? Whose lives are you pouring into? How are you loving your neighbor as yourself and showing them there is a better way?

Mark Brown

Where I live, where I serve, I've got nightly gunshots coming from about a block and a half away. I've got sirens, four or five, sometimes eight, nine times a day. And it frustrates me to no end. But, that's why our church is working hard to try and reach the young people. Because if you can reach the hearts of the children, their parents are going to want to know what's going on. Then you have an inroad to the parents. And, if you can change one family for the better, Lord only knows how far he'll take that with other families. And, if we work with them, we can achieve a lot.

Mark Brown

And then going back to the matter of Planned Parenthood, we give that a pass, because they're largely democratic supported and because so much of what is called the black community in America votes Democrat. We don't like to look too closely at them. But they are the biggest murder of blacks and brown people in this country. And not only that, they are hunting down and killing, and I'll say it that way. They are hunting down and killing brown people globally by their efforts. And they get a pass. So, yeah, that's an issue and it's one that a lot of people want to set aside. Because it's easier to say, "Look what that white guy did to that black guy." Look, it's a major social eruption that we have to focus on this, because it's easier. It's not easy when you have to look your entire community in the face and say "I'm going the other way."

Richard Truss

That question is used to deflect or divert from the the original issue. Yes, there is black on black crime. There's white on white crime. There's Chinese on Chinese crime. But the matter at hand, that has brought the whole issue of racism and inequality into focus right now is the fact that a group of white police officers executed this black man in the street. And if it had not been recorded, then they would have gotten, probably, gotten a pass.

Richard Truss

Yes, we have to deal with black on black crimes. But at the same time we have to deal with all the the underlying factors that add to that problem that is within the African American communities and so forth.  But at the same time we have that issue of dealing with the systemic racism that continues to see instances like George Floyd and the whole list of them. For example, the young man that was shot in his car. He had the legal right to be a gun carrier but he was gunned down right in front of his girlfriend and his child. It makes no sense. And again, going back to the individual who is charged with enforcing the law, what's his heart condition that allows him to think that it's right to just take this person's life because he feels threatened.

Bryan Schneider

So I'm going to ask a related question, and I'll give Pastor Robinson the opportunity to respond to this one. People will tell me, "Well just go look at Black culture. Go look at rap music and see the glorification of narcotics, of violence, of sexual immorality. And you're able to see that this isn't a racism issue, this is a immoral culture versus law issue." How would you respond to that?

Mark Robinson

Yeah. I think that is constantly a question. Whether, it is culture or color? In a fallen world, I think both are at work. But, I think culture drives a kind of behavior, and response, and things like that. We're 13% of the population and we account for, last I saw, 49% of the murders. So, if you just look at that cold statistic, that suggests, it makes it intelligible, why a cop or otherwise a normal, regular citizen, would think when they see a certain young, African American male behaving in a certain kind of way. They've raised the question in their mind, and it raises the questions for black people as well as white people, and other people. "Is this person one of those likely to do this kind of crime or something like that?" So what is that? Is that culture, is that race? What's at operation? What's not working that kind of dynamic?

Mark Robinson

I say it's largely cultural, culturally driven. But given the way the human mind works, and just the sinfulness of the human heart, we do have thoughts that make one wonder, is this tied to the fact that this person is of a certain race? Remember, for hundreds of years, there were arguments in our country, whether or not black people descended from Adam and Eve like white people, or they came from different people. So you know, people were thinking these kinds of thoughts, which shows that the fallen human heart and mind goes there. But I think culture, I think when you behave a certain way, that brings about certain consequences, certain reactions to a culture and if people don't understand your culture and it seems alien and foreign to them, they're going to be likely be a little bit more fearful of it.

Mark Robinson

But yeah, I do. I think we could talk about the fifth commandment. When there is a failure of authority at the root level in families, in their communities, you should expect to see as a consequence of that kind of Covenant breaking, bigger failures as people get older. Train the child. Discipline your child. The heart of foolishness. Look what happens to children where that doesn't happen. They end up leading lives of folly. So you can't leave that out. So I guess what I'm saying is there's a mix here. I think it's primarily just a breakdown of Covenant keeping at very basic levels, which is, I guess, we could equate that with culture.

Mark Brown

And when you add to that, that the culture is also while that's breaking down, while those chains of affection and authority, and I say affection, in that family bonds are broken, human nature is to seek out both society and affection. So these young boys and girls who don't get it where they're supposed to get it at home, in the way they're supposed to get it, and godly fashion from mom and dad, or at least from siblings, are going to get it somewhere. So when we allow our TVs and radios and every other form of entertainment to be filled with vile garbage, that's going to start affecting the people who are imbibing it. And they are going to be the influencers now. And so when these kids are thinking, "Okay, I'm not getting it at home, where can I get it? Where can I fill this hole?" And they go out into the community and those that have been filled with the garbage say, "Come with us," they're going to go. I've read several testimonials from people who were caught up in cults who said that they absolutely knew that what they were doing was the wrong thing. But they felt loved. So they stayed anyway.

Mark Brown

One pastor was just talking about that breakdown in our culture, that separation from God, that separation from family, that disobedience and dishonoring of authorities, and the failure of the authorities to exercise their rightful roles, is a huge contribution to this. So then, I guess the question has to be, why so much, in communities that are mostly populated by blacks?

Mark Brown

Now, did you notice I didn't say black community? I'm not the biggest fan of that. But in communities mostly populated by black folks, you do tend to see certain things arise. So then we have those statistics. And we have to say, "Why here?" And I do believe as both pastors have pointed out, it's been a long, ongoing thing. It's been systemic. It's been ongoing. It's been, on one hand, an active effort to break this community. It, on the other hand, it's the natural consequences of those things being allowed to take hold, to root and to grow here without being forcibly yanked out of the ground and dealt with. And this is the fruit now. I mean, for so long, how many government statements do there have to be uprooted that indicate an intent to keep the black community, black Americans, under control? What's the famous quote out from the President? Was it Lyndon B. Johnson? I don't want to misquote. "I'll have those 'n-words' voting democrat for the next 200 years." Wasn't that what he said? I'll look it up while someone else answers another question because like I said, I don't want to misquote. But there was an intentional government action to start pouring onto this community, those things that would create the nanny state, for lack of a better term, it's pretty fitting. If a man doesn't have to go to work, to get money, human nature, why go to work? If a woman doesn't have to have a husband, and she can still get a paycheck while having kids, why should she have a husband? These things, one of the worst thing you can do to someone, sometimes it's to give them everything they want, because then they stopped wanting.

Mark Brown

And, this is one of the things we talk about here in this in this congregation. It is one thing to say, generically, "I owe this generation for my right to vote." But I am looking daily into the faces of the people who bled for me to vote. They are here in this church now. They've seen how we've become so damaged in just the short generations, since they shed that blood on the Edmund Pettus Bridge just a couple of miles from here. It's been within their lifetimes. That sort of thing doesn't happen by accident. It just doesn't. That's too fast. It's too complete.

Mark Brown

But here we have to exercise that critical thinking, that brother Mark talked about earlier. We have to stop. One of my radio mentors said something to me that stayed with me from the first day he said it. He said, "Don't believe anything you hear and only believe about half of what you see." If we would exercise that and stop being reactionary we'd be in a lot better shape. If we stopped just believing things because our favorite celebrity said it, even if it's a celebrity pastor, and we investigate it for ourselves, if we were to be Berean and investigate whether or not the things being said are true, and then respond to them with a level head, not acting rashly, not not speaking before we've heard, a lot of what's happened would not have happened. And in these riots that came out of the protests, the instigators, Antifa, and whoever's backing them, they're not even hiding it anymore. They don't have to because we still give them the response they want.

Bryan Schneider

Thank you for giving us a mini sermon there! That was wonderful. I was soaking it up. But that actually is going to lead me into into my next question. There are people, some conspiracy theorists, some who are just pretty far on one side of the political spectrum who say, "All the riots and everything going on is nothing but a media ploy and Antifa trying to take over." How would you respond to that? Pastor Truss, do you want to maybe speak into that one?

Richard Truss

And again, just as his brother Mark said, we deal with the facts, as opposed to what is being stated. I know here in Pittsburgh, there were some demonstrations, and there were police cars burned, and stores broken into and destroyed, that kind of thing. Although the group was not identified, it came to the light that there were people who were from outside of this area who came intentionally, to kill, steal, and destroy. They came equipped to burn. They came equipped with bricks, and hammers, and torches, and those kind of things. When the initial protest was not going in that direction, and of course, when things get driven into a different direction, the mentality of the mob then goes in that direction. And it's hard to bring them back. Now, I don't know if these were people who were Antifa, or whatever, all we know is that their intention was to be more disruptive than the protest. Their intention was to put a bad name on the protests and transform the protests and demonstrations to purely riots. And again, that's something that is still being investigated, not only here in McKeesport, but in the original cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. There were people who were from the outside who were intentionally destructive and trying to have that tagged onto the protests.

Mark Robinson

I'd say, definitely the media is being (media is a neutral tool in and of itself) but it is being used for evil purposes. I mean, they want to make money, right? And if it bleeds it leads. So of course, the thing they're going to put in front of your face constantly is the most sensational, dramatic thing. Of course, in the editorializing you're going to spin around, around it is the most dramatic and sensational, so as to get us all alarmed so we will watch them. Everybody wants to watch a car on fire. Everyone wants to see an accident. So the media is not innocent here.

Mark Robinson

We are engaged in massive spiritual warfare against the principalities of the powers. Do we think that media conglomerates and companies are exempt from the forces at work, the evil powers that drive a lot of different things? No, of course, of course they are. So, I think a wise Christian understands that we have got to make righteous judgments in what we see. We can not be sheep that just follow along. The news only has 30 minutes. And millions of things, or thousands of things happen around the world. Why are they giving us those few that they do give us out of all the things that happened? I think dozens of people are murdered a day. Right? Tons of crimes happen. Why are we getting the very few that we do get? There's a reason. Who stands to gain and profit? Just look at that. The sinful motives of the of the heart show us what's going on. So yes, I would agree with the person that would say the media, (they're not causing all of it, because sin happens, sin as a reality of the fallen world before new creation), are definitely, through evil techniques and desire for filthy lucre, perpetually fostering a lot of evil in all of this.

Bryan Schneider

Two kinds of follow up questions. I'm going to smash them together and you can split them apart if you want. The first question is, if someone participates in one of these protests anywhere in the country, are they saying that they don't care about police officers? That's question one. Question two is, if a Christian is participating in a protest, and that protest turns into a riot, are they morally culpable?

Mark Brown

Question number one. I don't believe that participating in the protest says you don't care about police officers. I don't think that's what it's about. I think the most honest protests are, "Here is another black man killed by a white man and authority and we're sick of it." And I say "we" just to emphasize what's going on, not necessarily to join in, but that's what's being stated. And, number two, I believe that if that Christian is convicted to join that protest, they should. But if it begins to become something evil, he's either got to then stand against it or get out of it and away from it.

Richard Truss

I agree with that. The day after, here in Pittsburgh, the day after the rioting, a number of the various religious leaders had a protest demonstration that started in that exact same spot as the one the day before. And it was peaceful. There were prayers. There were, of course, the speeches that were not condoning violence, but they were having speeches that were addressing the systemic aspect that led to what was happening. And of course, it was not their intent. It was not the intent of the religious community to do anything that would be interpreted as violent.

Richard Truss

But I'm quite sure that showed that if that element had shown up, it would have been addressed. It definitely would have been squelched. That element would have been removed. People would have been advised, and counseled, and prayed for, prayed with, and so forth, so that the culpability aspect would be minimized. Because, like you said, we're living in a sinful world, and all of us are still sinners. And we have to deal with our own stuff as well as the sinful attitudes and behaviors of others, but deal with them in the manner that God, through His Word, through His Spirit, would have us deal with them.

Mark Robinson

I think Christians can be co-belligerents. I participate in the various pro life causes and there's always a ton of Roman Catholics and people who are not as my theological tribe. But I do believe in co-belligerents in the sense of being zealously affected in a good cause.

Mark Robinson

The issues that you must not ever lose sight of is to be careful to not let your good be evil spoken up. I can't participate in a Black Lives Matter march even if it's a peaceful bunch of Christians. Because I don't I see people not being able to see me there with Black Lives Matter signs and separate out any particular good I feel like I'm achieving from the larger programatic evil that is represented by an organization like Black Lives Matter.

Mark Robinson

I don't think there's a formula for how this works out perfectly. I just think we can be co-belligerent and a good cause and perpetuating, pushing forward truth and justice. But you always got to be careful to not let your good evil spoken of and not find yourself fellowshipping with unfruitful works of darkness. Where's that line? I know, it's a wisdom call. For me, I'm not participating in these protests because I feel like I'd be bowing down to a cultural bell. But I will go to a pro life march with Muslims, Roman Catholics, and all manner of men, atheists who believe that life begins at conception. So, why one and not the other? I think I give my my rationale for what wisdom looks like in that maybe someone else will reach a different conclusion. But I do think there are multiple considerations beyond just that.

Mark Robinson

Because you can't be accountable, to your question, Bryan. You can have some moral culpability if you are participating in something that leads to an evil, sinful end, even if you don't support that end or support any sin within the movement or cause that you're joining up with.

Bryan Schneider

Well, I want to be careful with your time. So, I just have a few more questions for you. And this is actually two questions. One, we can go with Francis Schaffer, How then shall we live? So, what should we do next? Where do we go from here? And the related question is, how is there any hope? And how can Christians be that voice of hope at this time?

Mark Brown

A faithful gospel presentation is always the foundational answer. And something I think we have to realize is it hasn't been that long since blacks in America were not allowed to vote or to sit where they wanted to at the lunch counter or drink from whatever water fountain etc, etc, and we're legally discriminated against. And because it hasn't been that long since those rules, those laws have been removed, effects of those laws are still being felt. And that's why that combination, first and foremost, the gospel preaching followed by clear critical thinking is the key.

Richard Truss

I appreciate what you said. I appreciate what you said and that's what we're called to do. We're called to preach the gospel. We're called to realize that God has appointed us to that ministry of reconciliation, where there's reconciliation within the, as you say, the community where black folks reside, or in inter-community aspects. I believe it's in Colossians where it says that from one blood God created every nation and therefore if he made everybody from just Adam and Eve, and that's a foundational truth, that there is not a single one of us, ethnically or racially, who is superior than the other because God created us all from that one same lump of clay, whatever that clay looks like. But that's where we began with. That message that God is God of all. That we are created in His image. And if I do something to damage you, then I am damaging the image of God in you, that I should see in you. And of course as we preach, we continually pray. Because we realize that God does have the answer. Now, how all this will pan out and settle down, I don't know, because I don't have God's mind. But it is incumbent upon us to continually stay on our knees before Him, to be that priest that intercedes for those who are unable and even unwilling to approach God on their own. It's a continual process. The fire on the order never went out. And so we have to keep that fire burning. The fire in the incense never went out. We have to keep that going.

Mark Robinson

One of the wonderful things about the kingship of Christ is Christians don't have to engage in any kind of moral panic when the nations rage. Jesus is still in the business of procuring the nations to Himself, even the raging ones at which he laughs now, but is creating his own people out of them, calling everyone to pay homage to the Son, lest they face eternal judgment. The church just needs to be about being the church. Our tools haven't changed. When nations arise, when they fall, when the world is mourning, when the world is singing, the messages and our responsibilities are the same. We have the Word rightly preached, sacraments and discipline. We always feel pressure to innovate when new things happen and we just don't have to. You can resist that and just continue to love God with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love our neighbors ourselves. I will say, this is a wonderful opportunity whenever you have these kinds of divisions break out and fracturing such in the social fabric, it's a wonderful opportunity for the church to put on display in a special way our love for our neighbor. In the first century, when there were plagues, the Christians went out and pulled people into their houses who were kicked out by their own families because they didn't want to get the plague. So it's a real opportunity for us, I think, when you're doing something like this, Bryan, reaching out to black brothers. I think pastors and other pastors I know who are reaching out in their communities, trying to seek wisdom from brothers they might not otherwise seek wisdom and seek to love them and put on display Christian unity. It's obvious that pastor Richard's got a lot of wisdom. This is, I think, where brothers can talk with him and learn his own experience and get some of the wealth of his perceptions and perspectives as a pastor and just as a man who's lived and lived out a lot of the things that are going on. Let's seek ways to love our neighbors as ourselves, especially neighbors, racially, culturally, other.

Bryan Schneider

I love it. Pastor Robinson, Will you close us in a word of prayer?

Mark Robinson

Sure. Let's pray together.

Mark Robinson

Father, we know that in Christ you are calling out a people to yourself, out of darkness into your wonderful light, from kingdoms of this world into the kingdom of your dear Son. And that's been what you've been up to throughout history, working out your plan from all eternity, electing us from the foundation of the world, adopting us as sons to the praise of Your glory. And Father would you help us in especially troubling times when the foundations seem to shake, when the waters seem to rise, would you help us to continue on faithfully loving you, being assured that you who have begun a good work in your people will complete in the day of Christ. Knowing that, by your Spirit You are present with us till the end of the age. May that give our hearts great confidence as we seek to minister to others. Lord, help us to be those beacons of light, that do proclaim and show forth the praises of the One who has called us out of darkness into light. We have an answer for the reason to hope that is within us. Lord help us not just for our own good. We desire the good of our nation. We desire the good of our neighbors. We desire the good of those in our pastoral cares. But ultimately we desire for Your great glory, that Your glorious name would be seen, known, and that you would be worshiped by all. Help us to this end. And Lord, we have great hope and confidence in you. Our hope is in the Lord who made heaven and earth. In Jesus's name. Amen.

Mark Robinson

Amen.

Bryan Schneider

Well thank you so much brothers. It's been a huge blessing to me, and I really appreciate the time that you gave.

Bryan Schneider

Bryan Schneider

Husband to Olivia. Father of Nathan, Deborah, Daniel, & Ellie. Blessed to serve Sharon RP Church. Loving Rural life.

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