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Memorial Day: The defenders of civilization

We have now come in the current calendar year to the nation’s annual observance of Memorial Day, where we honor the memory of our fellow Americans who have given the “last full measure of devotion” by sacrificing their lives on the altar of freedom.

I thank God that whenever America has needed them, men and women have answered the call to defend America’s freedom by serving in our nation’s Armed Forces.

Richard Land
(Photo: The Christian Post/Katherine T. Phan)

My father and several uncles served in World War II in the Pacific. In my generation, I have several childhood friends and teammates who died before they were 21 in Vietnam. I, like so many Americans, have enormous admiration and respect for our nation’s veterans, and especially, our fallen heroes.

However, this year I am going to extend praise beyond our nation’s war dead. Today, I want to talk about our domestic heroes, our nation’s police officers (many of them have served in the various branches of our country’s Armed Forces before their law enforcement careers).

Our nation’s police officers put on their uniforms every day and go to work to protect our safety and freedom as American citizens. It is a dangerous job and when they say goodbye to their loved ones every morning, they never know when or if they will ever see their loved ones again this side of Heaven.

Being a police officer has always been a relatively dangerous profession. Unfortunately, in the aftermath of the vile and inaccurate attacks on America’s police forces by Black Lives Matter (“pigs in a blanket, fry ‘em like bacon”), violent crimes in our major cities have increased drastically, accompanied by violent pre-meditated attacks on police officers.

The myth of police waging a national campaign of violence against black men is a dangerous and libelous falsehood (the national statistics on police violence against unarmed black suspects show them to be miniscule). Nevertheless, a lie repeated often enough has the power to generate significant and deadly backlash.

As the subsequent drama of “Defund the Police” played out often violently in street protests across the nation this past year, we have witnessed and experienced a veritable tsunami of criminal violence in our nation’s major cities. Sixty-three of the nation’s 66 largest police jurisdictions have experienced significant increases in incidents of violent crimes.

The extent to which “Defund the Police” has been successful, it has produced tragic, but predictable results. The United States has just experienced in 2020 the largest one-year increase in violent crime since such statistics started being tabulated in the late 19th century.  And, this unprecedented increase has continued unabated for the first three months of 2021.

For example, in 2020 violent crimes increased by 50% in New York City, 50% in Atlanta, 33% in Chicago, and 36% in Los Angeles. In the two cities perhaps most identified with anti-police violent protests, the increase was 114% in Minneapolis and 800% in Portland.

Some progressives have tried to blame these increases on COVID dislocations in society, but the U.S. is the only country in the industrialized world to experience this dramatic spike in crime. Everywhere else violent crime rates either were stable or went down.

When you vilify and undermine police authority the result is predictable to anyone not blinded by ideology.  As G.K. Chesterton observed many years ago, the most easily provable biblical doctrine that can be demonstrated by even casual observation of human behavior is human depravity, or “original sin.” The actual Chesterton quote is, “Certain new theologians dispute original sin, which is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved.”

As the great Old Testament prophet Jeremiah explained, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9). God had revealed to Jeremiah that the human heart is treacherous in convincing itself that “I’m not so bad” and so deludes itself into thinking that humans are far more perfectible than is the actual case apart from the ministry of the Holy Spirit in their lives. 

God knew that fallen and evil behavior will always be with us, so He ordained the civil magistrate to punish evildoers and to reward those who do that which is right. (Rom. 13:1-4).

Once again, I find myself asking the question, “Why do progressive policies so often end up hurting disproportionately those they claim to care about the most?”

The economically disadvantaged are far more likely to suffer from a reduction of police presence in their communities than those who live in more affluent neighborhoods, where, if necessary, the residents can employ private security to protect themselves. And, unlike the political zealots, the economically disadvantaged know this. That is why approximately 80% of black residents in such neighborhoods are opposed to defunding the police. 

We must always remember that the police are the thin blue line standing between civilization and chaos. Does anyone reading this column really think that if the police went on strike, dangerous criminal mischief and human tragedy would not quickly ensue? 

Let’s all resolve this Memorial Day to honor our nation’s war dead, and those police who have died in the line of duty. Let’s get rid of the few bad apples and let us resolve to support our living military and police and their families, and to tell them and their families how much we appreciate their service and sacrifice.

Dr. Richard Land, BA (magna cum laude), Princeton; D.Phil. Oxford; and Th.M., New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, was president of the Southern Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (1988-2013) and has served since 2013 as president of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, NC. Dr. Land has been teaching, writing, and speaking on moral and ethical issues for the last half century in addition to pastoring several churches. He is the author of The Divided States of America, Imagine! A God Blessed America, Real Homeland Security, For Faith & Family and Send a Message to Mickey.

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