Solomon On What Sets Cities On Fire
“Scoffers set a city aflame, but the wise turn away wrath” (Proverbs 29:8 ESV).
While it has been almost a relief to have something new to worry about instead of the pandemic and its 24/7 news anxiety cycle, the recent violence has been grim. First there was the violence against George Floyd that resulted in his death. Then there was the violence that occurred afterwards in the “space” made by his killing that resulted in vandalism, arson, looting, and even murder. In my area of St. Louis, four policemen were shot on the street and a retired policemen was killed.
Here’s the police captain talking about his four wounded men:
And here’s the family of the killed police captain:
I don’t want to address the issues of “peaceful protest” versus “violent protest” here. I’ve already pointed out that “rebellious behavior” often doesn’t lead to much good. Back in 2015, NY Magazine pointed out the same thing in our culture regarding riots. And I don’t think protests “turning violent” is as much of a problem as it is portrayed by the media. People who want justice for Floyd and want to make sure that similar things don’t happen again, don’t hold a peaceful vigil and then grab a brick after sundown.
The people we see on Twitter videos and YouTube and on local news stories engaging in looting, arson, vandalism, and other violence are not the same people protesting for a better world. They are simply criminals who see an opportunity to commit crimes more openly because they know they are unlikely to be punished. They aren’t innocent people worried about violence from police. They are violent people who are, at the moment, not worried much about police enforcing the law. Protests only “turn violent” to the extent that one group opportunistically hides within the other group waiting for their moment.
What brings this situation about? I think what we are witnessing corresponds with what we are warned about in Proverbs: The real treat to civilization is damaging speech. “By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, but by the mouth of the wicked it is overthrown” (Proverbs 11:11 ESV). Proverbs comes from a time when cities were built with walls for defense—when they were conquered and invaded, but he warns about what people say, how they speak.
How much of the damage is being done by words and speeches claiming that rioters are the same as protesters—that people who want the equality before the law are the same who want to violate the rights over others with impunity? In doing so, one wonders how the police are supposed to prevent crimes if those crimes are defined as “acts of protest.” Arsonists set buildings aflame literally. But we should think about how the words said in public gave them that power, putting fire in their hands. “Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil” (Ecclesiastes 8:11 ESV).
Originally published on Townhall Finance.
Mark Horne has been studying the intersection of ethics and the economy since high school. He was raised in Liberia, West Africa and Kwajalein, Marshall Islands, as well as on the Atlantic coast of Florida. He graduated from Houghton College in 1989 and from Covenant Theological Seminary in 1998. He was ordained in the Presbyterian Church in America and has pastored churches in Washington state and Oklahoma, as well as serving as an assistant pastor in St. Louis.