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A Christian Response to Racial Tension

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A Christian Response to Racial Tension

Senator Tim Scott and Pastor Al Pittman offer their insights regarding the heightening of racial tension in the United States and the havoc it's currently wreaking. Our guests also offer guidance on how Christians can respond to this situation with God's love and grace.
Original Air Date: June 4, 2020

Today's Guests

Episode Summary

Senator Tim Scott and Pastor Al Pittman offer their insights regarding the heightening of racial tension in the United States and the havoc it's currently wreaking. Our guests also offer guidance on how Christians can respond to this situation with God's love and grace.
Original Air Date: June 4, 2020

Episode Transcript

John Fuller: Welcome to Focus on the Family with your host, Focus president and author Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller. And, you know, with all the terrible violence that we have seen over these past couple of days, the sickening sadness of it all, we wanted to address that today on our broadcast. And we have a couple of guests joining us to help us with that.

Jim Daly: John, this is an important conversation. And, yes, our hearts are heavy. Over the weekend, I did work on a blog and when you think about it, the thing that I was so concerned about is where are the answers? You know, and then with all the violence breaking out this week, it seems hopeless. But you know what? In Christ, we can have hope.

John: Mm hmm.

Jim: And I think that’s the core thing is that my biggest concern is that how do we provide hope to hopeless people? And that’s black and white. It’s both sides. It’s all sides. And to me, it comes down to that idea of spiritual revival. Especially, though, in a culture where the elites shame people of faith…

John: Mmm.

Jim: …That becomes even more difficult. And I thought it would be great to have a discussion with some good friends of ours today.

John: Yeah. And earlier you spoke, Jim, with Senator Tim Scott and we’re going to hear that first and then a little bit later today, we’ll hear from one of our board members, Pastor Al Pittman. Senator Scott is only the seventh African-American serving in the U.S. Senate in history, representing the state of South Carolina since 2013 and he was a state representative before that. Here now is that conversation Jim had with U.S. Senator Tim Scott.

Jim: Senator Scott, it’s great to have you with us. Thank you.

Sen. Tim Scott: Absolutely. It’s good to be back with you on the show. Thank you for your ministry to millions around the country and, frankly, probably around the world.

Jim: Yeah. That is – it’s an honor to be able to speak into people’s lives. And frankly, that’s the reason I wanted to have you on quickly to speak to the issue that our nation is in. You know, over the weekend, Senator, I was just heavy hearted because we’ve been around this situation so many times over the last two decades, three decades, particularly with police brutality. I don’t know a single person that agrees with the aggressive force that was used against George Floyd. This is over $20, right?

Sen. Scott: Yes.

Jim: A counterfeit 20 dollar bill that he probably didn’t even know was maybe counterfeit. I mean, you think of the cost to the culture and to those business owners, et cetera, over 20 bucks.

Sen. Scott: Absolutely.

Jim: It is sad in every way. And yet, I still found myself without an answer on how to move forward. From your perspective as a U.S. senator, what is going on?

Sen. Scott: I think we all embrace the concept that we have intrinsic value that comes from the Lord. The question is, do we have equal intrinsic value? And one of the things that we struggle with, especially in the area of law enforcement and the communities of color, is that manifestation of intrinsic value or equal value isn’t there. And that is not true in every incident, but it’s true in too many incidents and, frankly, as a guy who’s been supportive of the law enforcement community for my entire life and who will continue to be supportive of the law enforcement community for the rest of my life, because I’ve seen too many – so many law enforcement officers who are trying to do their jobs, go home to their families. But for the people within law enforcement that continue to have their thumb on the scale, it’s just hard to digest and, frankly, the history of it is even harder. It’s not Mr. Floyd alone. It’s just so many incidents where now with a camera, we can see what others have been saying for at least four decades that I know of.

Jim: Yeah. And, you know, in a blog I did a few days ago, I simply mentioned, it seems like from a Christian perspective particularly, this is like the Gordian Knot of mythical dimension. And the Gordian Knot was the knot that could not be untied. It was – that’s the myth of it. This feels like a Gordian Knot. I don’t know what we can do and how we can move forward in a human context.

Sen. Scott: Yes.

Jim: It seems like revival and commitment to Christ and forgiveness of one another, letting anger and bitterness go so that we can have a better nation to live in. How do we go that way? How do we get there?

Sen. Scott: Well, first, it does help to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and it’s one of the most important foundational truths that changes lives. It changed my life as a kid that was despondent, who was disillusioned about my own value and the value that I had in this country and because of my faith in Jesus Christ at 11-years-old and a recommitment to Jesus at 17-years-old and then a great mentor who came along in the middle of that, who happened to be a white guy who joined forces with my African-American mother who believed that prayer was the key and faith unlocks the door, that combination set me free to live out more of my human potential given by God. And so, the answer is kind of simple and it’s why I’m excited about the future of our country. I know most of us are really heavy and burdened. That’s good news. It’s a sign that we love our Lord and we are confident that there are solutions, but we’re frustrated because we can’t find those solutions. But there’s good news and the Lord shared it with me yesterday in my own heart and He basically said to me that I am a resource, but He is the source. And if I recognize my job isn’t to solve the problem. My job is to allow the Lord to use me as a part of that solution. It takes the weight and the burden off my shoulders, not the responsibility, but the weight and the burden. And it’s – we both know the Scripture that says, “My – My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” My responsibilities might be heavy, but I am now set free and I was a captive the last several days of fear and anger and challenges and I woke up this morning having spent last night in prayer and this morning in the Word of God and I realized that I have been set free and my goal is to share this sense of optimism. This leaning in that solutions will become more and more apparent as believers stand up and are counted in the fight. It’s when we find ourselves willing to tackle the issues of the heart that we find progress and it’s – it’s today where we can look into Proverbs 3:5 and 6 and I’m reminded “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. And in all your ways, acknowledge Him and He shall direct your path.” What may happen, Jim, is you may find that your path is directed by the Lord to form a friendship with a friend who’s of a different color.

Jim: Yeah.

Sen. Scott: It’s not just one time, though. It’s committing and having the discipline to walk along someone of a different race for six months.

Jim: Right.

Sen. Scott: Breaking bread and having fun and having friends. It’s the conversation you and I had several years ago, and it wasn’t about race and racism. It was just about life and living it together as one and you said that the members of your board of trustees were diverse.

Jim: Yeah.

Sen. Scott: You were talking about filling our lives in a way that reflects heaven. If we do that here on earth, we – it’s hard to hate up close. It’s hard to hate what you know. And if we’re going to be excited about our future, if we’re going to overcome the murder of George Floyd, and we’re going to rebuke the violent protesters that have nothing to do with George Floyd and everything to do with selfishness.

Jim: Yeah, abs – and that is so well said. Um, the other day I was watching the news and I think it was the former NYPD Police Commissioner, Bernie Kerik, said that last year there were 10 million arrests in the U.S. Officers were involved in fatal shootings 1004 times. Of that, 41 suspects were unarmed. Now, that’s horrible. And, you know, these police officers, I want to give the disclaimer. I get it. They’re making split second decisions about their lives, protection of others and sometimes there are errors made. I get that. But within that 41, 19 of the – those who were unarmed and shot by police were white. Nine were black. And I think the point that he made that was so interesting was within that group, 89 police officers died. But, you know, it is – it’s important to emphasize every death in that regard. But those numbers kind of suggest, wow, everybody is suffering in some degree with those, kind of, again, split second decisions that police officers have to make. But speak to that issue that, you know, some are trying to exploit these bad and poor decisions and then it kind of inflates everything, correct?

Sen. Scott: Yeah. I do think we have to take a serious look at all the statistics available as it relates to police shootings. One of the reasons why I have legislation to actually understand where the police shootings are happening, when they’re happening, and why they’re happening and what circumstance, so that we can actually lead to solutions by understanding those statistics. I’ve heard those statistics that you’ve just mentioned before, and I think of part of the understanding of the 19 white folks who were shot unarmed versus the nine blacks who were shot unarmed from those statistics – I have not verified them, but I do think that they make a lot of sense from my perspective. It’s to remember that African-Americans are 12 percent of the society…

Jim: Right.

Sen. Scott: …And whites are 70 percent of society. So, you have to understand those statistics when you’re a third – almost third of the deaths and only 12 percent of the population, it’s a different world. But, in the end, what they both suggest to me is that if you’re working in a vacuum or in the midst of darkness, you don’t have the ability to see true light. Understand the situations that surround those shootings are really important and then doing the research this year, last year, last decade. Are we making progress or are we not making progress? That’s where you find hope in the midst of statistics or patterns that need to be addressed.

Jim: Right. And it certainly doesn’t let anyone off the hook…

Sen. Scott: Not at all.

Jim: …For prejudice and discrimination. So, I don’t want to give that impression. It’s just when you look at numbers, they do tell a story. You know, the other story…

Sen. Scott: Sure.

Jim: …Is Kerik went on to say last weekend in Chicago 89 people were shot, 19 killed. Much of that black-on-black violence. And that gets me back to my weekend pondering that, you know, I think it was Senator Moynihan years ago in the 60s did a report on the breakdown of the family, the breakdown of the African-American family particularly, and the consequences of that. Now, you and I are, I guess, poster guys about coming out of a single parent household and, you know, the Lord, thankfully, allowing us to succeed. But in that regard, the deck is stacked against most people that come out of environments of difficulty. And as an African-American man, as a senator, when you look at the breakdown of the family, how much of a role is this playing in cultural decline?

Sen. Scott: There’s a new book out, I think called Coming Up – not new. It’s like three or four years old – where Charles Murray, who ran into some trouble in the 80s or 90s because of the book that he wrote about statistics, did a new book called Coming Apart where he studied the impact on the – really the devastating impact of the loss of family life. African-Americans, around 72 percent of kids are growing up in a single parent household. The new statistic he talked about is white kids are now at 40 percent. What I typically like to say is that when you see what’s happening in this country within the African-American community, just know that’s a precursor for the rest of the country. And so, one of the challenges that we have is, yes, the breakdown of the family has had a devastating impact on the African-American community. It is now having a devastating impact on the entire country. And when we start understanding that we’re all in the same boat. If someone pokes a hole in it, sooner or later, we all drown because we’re in the midst of the ocean and not in a river or the backyard. So, I’ve often said, and I love the fact that you went to the statistics as relates to violent crime in Chicago, rather, Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Detroit, those are really important statistics. Another really important statistic is to realize that 33,000 gun related deaths last year, maybe it was 36,000, 65 percent of those deaths were suicides.

Jim: Mm.

Sen. Scott: Said differently, our nation, whether it’s because of the single parent households or whether it’s because your child feels like they’re bullied in school, we should ask ourselves, what is the cost to our society of the dysfunction that typically starts in your childhood? Where does that lead? And we’re having manifestations throughout this country of where it’s been leading. And that is a serious problem we need to wrestle with. This has been a heavy year for Americans and one that really takes the Gospel of Jesus Christ and this love that is unconditional to literally saturate the souls and the consciences of the average person as well as our society.

Jim: Well, Senator Scott, you have said it well. I’m so proud to have a friend like you in the Senate – what the Lord has done with your life. Both of us coming from broken homes. And I would say to the single parent moms and the single parent dads, your child’s destiny is not set in stone.

Sen. Scott: Amen.

Jim: It’s just – it’s just going to be a harder mountain to climb. And both the Senator and I have climbed it and it’s because of Christ in our life.

Sen. Scott: Yes.

Jim: And that’s the way to go, is to embrace Christ and to be humble and to learn from Him. And I think you would say a hearty amen to that, Senator.

Sen. Scott: There’s no doubt that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Light and not just Life, but the Light. And I will say this, that as a kid who experienced the American dream brought to me on the shoulders of a praying mother and a powerful mentor, you and I both have the same story that in this country, anyone from anywhere at any time can rise to the level of Ephesians 3:20 and 21 that, “God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or imagine.” Let’s just get to it.

Jim: Man, that is so well said. I would ask our listeners to pray for you specifically.

Sen. Scott: Please.

Jim: What can we do other than pray for you? What are – again, encounter people, engage people that are different from you. What else would you suggest our listeners do?

Sen. Scott: You know, there is something about self-reflection, examining your heart. Jeremiah 17, speaks to the fact that no one knows the evil in their own hearts…

Jim: Hmm.

Sen. Scott: …Not to suggest that we’re all evil, but to suggest that we’re all unaware of our own intentions at times.

Jim: Yes.

Sen. Scott: The more we know ourselves in the light of the Lord, the more we see our actions to be directed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the more we will have fewer problems to deal with on the outside because they all start from the inside. It’s, uh – as Matthew, that reminds us that “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” And I believe James 2:17 would add to that “our – our bodies follow where the mouth leads.”

Jim: Wow. I’m so glad you’re in the Senate, sir. God bless you. Thank you, Senator Scott.

Sen. Scott: Thank – thank you for your ministry.

Jim: (Laughter).

Sen. Scott: I love, love, love Focus on the Family sincerely and completely.

Jim: Yeah. Well, I’m looking forward to having dinner with you when I’m back in D.C.

Sen. Scott: Oh, vice versa. I’ll come see you in Colorado Springs…

Jim: Let’s do it.

Sen. Scott: …One of my favorite places on Earth.

Jim: Let’s do it, my man. Take care.

Sen. Scott: Take care, now. Bye-Bye.

Jim: Bye now.

Jim: John, we just recorded that earlier today. And, man, isn’t it awesome…

John: What energy…

Jim: …To have a senator like that? (Laughter)

John: …And fire he had. Wow.

Jim: That’s what encourages all of us. Uh, his colleague, James Lankford from Oklahoma, similar spiritual commitment – was a youth pastor. I tell you, the two of them are friends. I can only imagine what their conversations are like as senators talking about the spiritual dimension of our country, which, again, so many people that don’t know the Lord that serve the country, they’re not going to have that discussion. Um, let’s turn a corner right now. You heard Senator Scott mention the Focus on the Family board. That’s something we talked about years ago at a dinner he and I had. But it is a privilege and an honor to have my former pastor here in Colorado Springs, Pastor Al Pittman of Calvary Worship Center here in the Springs, join us. He’s on the Focus board. He serves, along with others to make sure that we’re moving strategically in the right direction, that we have the financial integrity that lifts up the Lord’s mission for this place and also prays for the staff, for me, to make sure we’re doing the job we need to do. And, Al, it is an honor to have you here at the table.

Pastor Al Pittman: It’s an honor to be here. So, blessed.

Jim: And, you know, you’ve listened to that. We’ve just played it. Um, I think the first question is just what’s your initial response of what the Senator said and where the country is at, again, as a pastor and as an African-American citizen of this country?

Al: Well, I – I agree wholeheartedly with what he said. I mean, it’s – we are in a desperate situation right now as a nation. And, um, you know, it’s a sad time. But it’s also a time, I think, uh, for opportunity.

Jim: Yeah.

Al: I think the time for the church, uh, to be the church. And so, I agree with what he said. It’s, you know, our real – our only hope – our real hope is faith in Jesus Christ I believe for America.

Jim: Absolutely. And that’s the – kind of the conclusion I had over the weekend just thinking about, Lord, what – where do we go from here?

Al: Yeah.

Jim: It’s only hope in Christ and you hear that in Tim Scott and I’m hearing it in you.

Al: Yeah.

Jim: You – you are the senior pastor of an ethnically diverse church. You’ve got everybody at your church.

Al: (Laughter) Yeah.

Jim: And we just love you in this community for what you do and how you do it and, man, the zeal that you bring to the pulpit, your love for Christ. It draws people to your church and it’s awesome to see. But to pick up that conversation, where do we go from here? What are we – let me just ask you bluntly, as a white man, what am I not seeing that would be helpful for me to understand from you, my brother in Christ?

Al: Yeah. Well, you know, there’s sort of that preconditioned response that we see out there, people who believe in the world that, you know, white people are the problem. I actually heard an anchor on the news the other day say that that the problem is really white people, um, that type of thing. But, uh, I think people have to be aware, just as the Senator was saying, you know, personal reflection, saying, “Lord, you know, David said, ‘Search my heart. See if there be any wicked way in me and lead me in the way that that is everlasting.’” That, you know, when we search ourselves, we – we can’t see certain things because, you know, racism is like a blindness. You can’t see it, but other people maybe can see it in you.

Jim: Right.

Al: And, uh, but we – the best inspector we can go to is the Holy Spirit, is the Lord. Say, “God, search my heart. And, uh, am I walking in love? Am I treating people different? Am I showing preference for other people?” And that type of thing. I think that’s where we all need to start, because the problem is not the skin. It’s the sin…

Jim: Right.

Al: …As they say.

Jim: Well said.

Jim: So, it’s – is really – is really, you know, the heart of man. And so, it’s not about getting all white people in America to act certain way so then we can have a better country and black people will be more free because basically what you’re saying to me as an African-American is that, you know, my salvation is in the way white people treat me or my security…

Jim: Wow.

Al: …Is in the way white people treat me. It’s not. My security as a Christian, you know, not as a black Christian, but a Christian who happens to be black – because I live according to God’s kingdom. I’m supposed to be living according to the principles of another kingdom, not the kingdom of this world. So, my – my salvation, my security, my hope is not in how someone else treats me. It’s in my relationship with the Lord.

Jim: How do we – how do we get past this idea? And I – I think this was Tucker Carlson the other night who mentioned this and I thought it was really good. He said, “Listen, if you’ve had racial thoughts, if you’ve had that kind of bias and you’ve offended somebody, go to that person and ask for forgiveness. But if you haven’t offended somebody because you’re not a racist, the color of your skin doesn’t determine that you’re racist. It’s an attitude. It’s not your skin color.”

Al: Yeah. Absolutely.

Jim: And there are many – and I think that’s the difficulty. There are many white people that don’t believe they’re racist and they’ve never done anything to hold themselves guilty to that. You know, they’ve embraced a Christian approach, um, and said, “I love all people.” And I think that’s the perplexing nature of this, is that we know people who are racist.

Al: Absolutely.

Jim: And there’s going to be subtle bias. We might talk about that where we look at the looting and the things going on and we go, “Whoa. What is happening here?” And so, maybe jump into that discussion about guilt by association and how we have to avoid that. But if you’re guilty, man, do something to compensate for that.

Al: Jim, I couldn’t agree more in that. I know years ago there was a great movement across America where people would fill up stadiums and – and there would be someone up front, you know, a white person, apologizing for the atrocities of white people, you know, over the last 300, 400 years in America. And I always thought – that always hit me strange as, you know, a black Americans sitting there listening, they’re going, “You know, that means really nothing to me. What means something to me is that if someone comes up to me and says, ‘I have been a racist against you, please forgive me.’”

Jim: Yeah.

Al: The Bible says, “If your brother offends you, you go to your brother.” So, going to that individual – I can stand in a stadium with 70,000 people and say, “Hey, forgive me.” But it’s harder for me to go knock on your door and say, “Brother, I’ve treated you wrong” and to personally apologize. So, that’s huge. I think one of the things that – that concerns me today with some of the reaction we see in the streets and all is that, uh, we’re in danger I think many times in the African-American community of becoming the very thing we hate.

Jim: Yeah.

Al: Becoming, you know, the Klan. Becoming filled with the same hatred that they had toward white people as the Klan had toward black people…

Jim: Wow.

Al: …And racists have toward black people. I think we’re in danger of that and I think God calls us in the church to behave according to the principles of His kingdom so we’re not sucked in by that same vitriol and hatred that we see out in the streets that were once directed toward us, is still directed toward us in many ways, that now we’re becoming the very thing that we hate. And I think that’s something that we need to be careful of and, of course, without Jesus Christ, it’s hard to know the difference.

Jim: Pastor Al, let’s do this. Let’s have you pray for the country right now and demonstrate that. And again, I’m so grateful that you’re my neighbor and, uh, you’re in my life and – and, uh, you’re part of Focus. And I’m grateful for that.

Al: Thank you, brother. Amen. Father in heaven. Lord, we thank You, dear God, that in the chaos that Christ is still King. We thank You, Lord, that You’re not alarmed. You’re not – You haven’t fallen off Your throne. Father, we thank You that You are able, Lord, to be – You are Lord over this storm. And so, Father, I pray that Your people – this is a time for Your people to stand up, not sit down, to not hide behind the skirts of government, but to be bold. I pray that You give boldness to Your church. Not curse the darkness, but to light a candle because the enemy has no defense against Your great love and the Scripture tells us that we “overcome evil with good.” So, Father, I pray that for the church, I pray for our nation. I ask that You have mercy on our country. I pray for our leadership that You would give them wisdom. I pray for humility in our leadership that they would bend the knee before You, dear God. And Father, that You indeed, Lord, will bring a healing to our nation as You said to the nation of Israel, “I am the God who healeth thee.” Lord, You are our Healer. We cannot heal ourselves. We ask that You’d help us, Lord, now in this hour of desperation. We commit it all to You. And we know that You are Lord and You are God and You are on the throne. And we ask this all in Jesus’ name, amen.

Jim: Amen. Pastor Al Pittman, board member of Focus on the Family, thank you so much for being with us.

Al: Thank you, brother.

John: Obviously, we want to be in continual prayer for peace in our nation. And as you move forward in your thinking and reflection in your heart about this matter of race, we have a great book that we want to bring to your attention. It will help you examine some of the issues inside.

Jim: That’s true, John. And I want to encourage everyone to get a copy. This is written by former NFL star Benjamin Watson and a good friend of ours. It’s called Under Our Skin. And we had a broadcast taping with him some time ago and covered the content of the book and people can get that, I think, in the archives. But it’s a wonderful resource talking about the issue of race and what needs to be done, at least from Benjamin’s perspective and I think he’s got some great ideas in there. And we’ll make this available to you if you can support the ministry of Focus on the Family with the gift of any amount. We’ll send it as our way of saying thank you. If you can’t afford to send a gift in that way, we’ll get it out to you, because it’s an important time to get this right and better understand what’s happening with the racial issues that we face in our nation today. Also, when you donate today, there’s a matching opportunity. Some great friends have put up the dollars, I think almost a million dollars, to match your gift. So, if you can send $10 dollars, $25, it’s going to be, you know, $50. They’ll double it dollar for dollar. And that really will help the ministry right now.

John: And as Jim said, regardless of your ability to give right now, this is a really critical topic for us to get right. I like how you said that, Jim. Under Our Skin: Getting Real About Race, Getting Free from the Fears and Frustrations That Divide Us, that so captures the tone of the day and Ben Watson writes very eloquently. Let us know you’d like this book. We’ll send it out to you. Our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. Or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. And there is an element that’s come through loud and clear in both of these conversations, Jim. And that is, if you do not know Jesus Christ, we want you to get to know the Giver of life and peace and joy and hope. And we have a free booklet online and also, we can send a copy if you’d like. It’s called Coming Home. Just ask for that when you’re in touch or look for that online. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller, inviting you back tomorrow as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.

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