Ronnie Floyd, president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, said 46-year-old African American George Floyd who died in police custody in Minneapolis on Memorial Day was “murdered” in plain sight and only Jesus, not politics, can fix America’s enduring racism.
“We have witnessed with our own eyes, in the streets of one of our major cities, a black man being murdered slowly and cruelly. Over the course of a long eight minutes, George Floyd cried out for help and mercy while a white police officer continued to place his knee over this black man's neck as his face was forced onto the pavement. The end result: George Floyd died in a cruel, demeaning, and needless way,” Floyd wrote in an op-ed for Baptist Press Tuesday.
Findings of an independent autopsy released Monday said Floyd died by asphyxia. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner's also called his death a homicide Monday, noting that he suffered "a cardiopulmonary arrest while being restrained by law enforcement officer(s)." The medical examiner's office listed "arteriosclerotic and hypertensive heart disease," "fentanyl intoxication" and "recent methamphetamine use" as "other significant conditions."
Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer who was recorded kneeling into Floyd’s neck in a video online, was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter on Friday. Lawyers for Floyd’s family are calling for first degree murder charges as well as the prosecution of three other officers who were involved in the incident that has sparked protests and riots nationwide.
The SBC leader noted that racism that disproportionately impacts African Americans today is “inextricably tied to the past” and reminded members of the world’s largest Baptist denomination that it does not align with the teachings of the Bible.
“I want to remind us today that the Southern Baptist Convention believes and stands upon the infallibility, inerrancy, and sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures, and we believe those Scriptures are very clear regarding how we are to treat others. The Baptist Faith and Message states in Article XV, ‘In the spirit of Christ, Christians should oppose racism,’ and ‘We should speak on behalf of the unborn and contend for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death,’” he wrote.
“Southern Baptists must not only be known to stand for the sanctity of human life, but we must also be known to stand for the dignity of all human life regardless of the color of skin.”
Politics, he argued, could not provide a solution to racism because it is a spiritual problem that only Jesus can fix.
“There is no way the government can fix this problem. Nor can one's politics provide healing. It never has and never will. This is a problem of the human heart. It is a spiritual problem,” he said.
“Jesus Christ is the only answer to this problem, and we must start with ourselves. We need to return to Jesus Christ in deep repentance of sin. Until we repent and change the way we are looking at one another, talking to one another, and treating one another, spiritual revival and awakening will not come.”
Southern Baptist leaders previously issued a statement calling for the end of "racial inequity in the distribution of justice in our country" in the wake of Floyd’s death.
“While we thank God for our law enforcement officers that bravely risk their lives for the sake of others and uphold justice with dignity and integrity, we also lament when some law enforcement officers misuse their authority and bring unnecessary harm on the people they are called to protect,” the statement co-authored by SBC President J.D. Greear and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary President Jamie Dew said. “We further grieve with our minority brothers and sisters in the wake of George Floyd’s death, pray for his family and friends and greatly desire to see the misuse of force and any inequitable distributions of justice come to an end.”