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Injustice, Walter Scott, and the Christian Response

Jarvis Williams

Michael T. Slager, a white police officer in Charleston, S.C., has been officially charged with the murder of Walter Scott, a black man. Slager initially stated that he shot Scott because he feared for his life after Scott had taken his stun gun during a traffic stop. However, a recent video, filmed by a bystander during the shooting, shows Slager fire his weapon in Scott’s direction eight times as he is fleeing.

Is Justice Really Blind?

The video does not appear to show anything that suggests Scott was a threat to Slager’s life. The footage from this video will likely secure justice for Scott and his family. But what if the video did not exist? Would there be any justice for Mr. Scott or his family? Will there be justice for black people in the future without video evidence?

Certain Americans would answer those questions affirmatively without hesitation, since justice is “blind”. Yet, this country’s troubled past and tumultuous present in the area of racial justice and race relations should cause one to pause before answering too quickly. In Scott’s case, a video has provided the “spectacles” that will not allow justice to remain blind…this time.

Injustice and Walter Scott

Of course, certain people will suggest that Scott’s death had nothing to do with racial injustice. Others might say that if he would not have run away from Slager, he would still be alive. Indeed, one cannot say with absolute certainty at this point that Slager was a racist and killed Scott because he was black. Moreover, I agree that Scott should not have run away from Slager. But the video suggests that Slager still did not have the right to shoot and kill Scott as he fled, since officer Slager’s life does not appear to have been in danger.

The Christian Response

God’s providence and a video are the main reasons Walter Scott will likely receive justice in this world.  Prior to the video’s release, early reports suggested that Slager acted according to protocol. The possibility of injustice for blacks and other minorities should make all gospel believing Christians want to pursue gospel-centered racial justice for all people in Christ’s name; even when there is no video evidence. Such a pursuit will require Christians to pray and to listen carefully to sound arguments from the socially marginalized and from the socially established. It will require Christians to evaluate evidence, to suffer, and to proclaim—and appropriately act out—the gospel of Jesus Christ when any form of injustice rears its ugly head.

Even when there is not video evidence, the gospel demands Christians to pursue justice for all people in the name of Jesus in gospel honoring ways. Jesus himself says that he came to preach the gospel to the poor, to the blind, and to the oppressed captives who need liberation (Luke 4:18–19). Many aspects of the Sermon on the Mount emphasize that citizens of Jesus’ kingdom should live horizontally, in community with each other in ways that reflect the ethics of King Jesus or else so-called citizens of the kingdom will not inherit the kingdom of God (Matthew 5:13–7:27).

2 thoughts on “Injustice, Walter Scott, and the Christian Response

  1. ken bowersox jr

    I agree to a point, but too much emphasis is on race. What if Walter Scott was white? Then this story is only a big thing in S. Carolina. In this case I do agree though with the murder charges against the officer, he simply could’ve chased Mr. Scott down and cuffed him then without firing a shot. I see it on COPS all the time, most of these criminals can’t even outrun the guy with the camera! And I don’t think Mr. Scott was a violent man. I wonder how many white people are legitimately shot by black officers, the media doesn’t seem to care. While we should be coming together in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, we continue to let an earthly entity, the media, divide us. We need to keep our minds on heavenly things above, not earthly things below.

  2. Dave Sherrill

    Dr. Williams,
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts here. I request the favor of indulging a couple of questions surrounding these recent tragedies. I struggle to understand how, practically speaking, I as a Christian man should make racial justice an appropriate priority in an already overwhelmed and busy life.

    As a white man, I do not wish any ill to my neighbors or sisters or brothers of any color. However, I am not a police officer. I am not an educator. I am not a public figure or politician. I have not read deeply or widely in the field of race relations. It would seem that I have little opportunity to effect change apart from my immediate surroundings and circles of influence. I have no platform to speak from and certainly do not deserve any public weight to what I would say or do in that broader context.

    In trying to cut to the chase without belaboring the point… are individual lives lived for the cause of Christ and the good of our neighbors an appropriate communication of our own deep desire for all to be treated fairly and justly, or must there be some other more visible, more public, more deliberate effort made?

    Best Regards,

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