A Charismatic Historian’s Response to the George Floyd Demonstrations

A Charismatic Historian’s Response to the George Floyd Demonstrations
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William DeArteaga, Ph.D.

Like most Americans I was appalled by seeing the video of the killing of George Floyd, and also am appalled by the looting and violence that followed in American cities. In these events we see the fruit of dismissing biblical morality form our public discourse and relying on secular vocabulary to analyze the situation.

On the first night of the demonstrations which included looting many commentators opined that although the looting was harmful, it was the result of long held frustrations and anger over the treatment of African Americans by the police, and thus understandable. The major of Atlanta, Keisha Bottoms said this on the first evening of the demonstrations/riots. The next day, after she walked among the crows and saw first hand that the looting was instigated by specific outside groups (mostly Antifa) and had nothing to do with the protest demonstration, she changed the tone of her remarks. With the Atlanta chief of police by her side, she declared that there would be “zero tolerance” to further looting and arrests would be made. Thankfully, her forceful words and the firm actions of the Atlanta Police and State troopers have kept Atlanta free from further serious looting and mayhem – a contract to what has happened in New York City.

Historically, the assertion that frustration leads necessarily to violence is nonsense.[1] Such statements give the TV commentators or politicians who says that a feeling that he or she are making a worthy moral observation. In fact, in regimes where injustice and tyranny are highest but the police apparatus brutal and merciless, the public swallows its anger and suffers its injustices without comment. Think for instance, the decades of brutality in Stalin’s Soviet Union, or in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. The dumbest citizens in those countries knew full well that any protest would be met with years in a Gulag with hard labor and torture.

Rather, the looters in America know that there is a built in reluctance by the political

establishment and police to use force to stop looting. They could probe the limits of looting while the authorities argue how to react.  As mayor Bottoms learned, the proper response is “no tolerance” with pepper spray and stun guns, followed by arrests.  That worked in Atlanta and other cites where the politicians and police agree in the need to stop looting and mayhem. President Trump statement “When the looting stops the shooting stops” was his bluff. It was a useless and exaggerated statement, true to his character.

The Biblical response to injustice, as in the killing of George Floyd, is not violence, as sin cannot be the response to sin. For instance, suppose a person is in an abusive marriage, where the wife constantly berates the husband and insults him in front of the children. The husband’s frustration builds up, and one day he severely beats her. Her sins of constant reviling (1 Cor 6:9-10) do not justify his sin violence. He could have sought counseling, prayer, etc. The Christian life should be one in which difficulties and injustice are met with prayer and guidance from the Holy Spirit to channel answers constructively and non-violently with win-win solutions.

As a whole, Christian clergy have been remiss in their biblical and prophetic ministry in denouncing this false coupling of frustration and anger with violence. It would have been spiritually beneficial for prominent clergy to say the simple, biblical thing, “Sin should not be met with counter-sin. Police brutality is a sin, but looting is evil and a sin also.” The present moment is complicated by the fact that we now have a president who is not trusted to tell the truth by most people, and especially those in the opposition.[2]

Yes, an unnecessary and violet killing took place. The police officer probably had racists motives in his use of force in this case, and the other officers indeed should have intervened. All of that is true and worthy of protest, since it repeats a pattern that is all too familiar.

But as a pastor, historian and a person familiar with classical Christian spirituality, I am also suspicious of some of the spiritual dynamics of the present George Floyd protest movement. Mass protests of this kind can be a double edged sword. They can bring society to a better and more just place, as in the original civil rights demonstrations and marches led by Martin Luther King, of the 1960s. These demonstrations led to the 1964 Civil Rights Act which opened up African-American voting in the South and led to major gains in civil right. But mass demonstrations can also produce destructive “collateral damage” that the organizers and participants cannot anticipate, or sometimes refuse to consider even after they manifest.

For instance, the years of anti-war demonstrations that led to the American pull-out from Vietnam are seen by many as a great achievement. A war was ended, and the US Armed Forces could no longer bomb innocent civilians as in the famous picture of “napalm girl” who was running away from a bombed area.

Demonstrators who took part in the anti-war movement thought themselves as more moral or enlightened than those (like myself) supported the war effort. But that view has proven a superficial analysis. We “cold war warriors” believed in the justice of the Vietnam War as necessary to stop the spread of Communism, and believed a communist victory in Vietnam and South East Asia would ensure massacres again as perpetrated in Stalin’s Russia and Mao’s China. We lamented the collateral damage done on civilians as a tragic necessity of war. The protestors only saw the current conflict and death and had little historical wisdom, or naively trusted that the triumph of the North Vietnamese would lead to “peace and justice.”

We can now see that the end of the war turned out closer to the “cold war warrior” historical understanding than the anti-war protesters. The triumph of Communism in South East Asia led to the triumph of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and they carried out one of the great genocides of the 20th Centuries. Slaughter, too a lesser degree, was perpetrated on South Vietnamese in provincial areas away from the view of the world press. Vietnam was unified as a Soviet style state and attempted a central planning economy like the Soviet Union. This led to great poverty and near starvation in the immediate post war years.

After the Chinese Communist Party realized that Communism and central planning as a economic system did not work out, and morphed into a free-market economy, the Vietnamese Communist Party followed suit and made Vietnam into free market society, After that change it has prospered greatly. But it is still a police state with no human rights. Cambodia has semi-recovered from its period of horror as a more or less democratic country.

 The famous Russian dissident and prophet, Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, in his Harvard commencement address of 1978 noted that the abrupt end to the VietanmWar, forced by the anti-war movement, cost millions of lives.[3] I and many of us who were in Vietnam agree. Had we stayed a bit longer, and continued to give the South Vietnamese Army our air support, we would have today in South Vietnam a democratic economically vibrant and spiritually healthy county similar to South Korea During the Korean War there was no significant ant-war party which forced the US to abandon the anti-communist fight.[4]

In summary the anti-war protesters were not morally more enlightened or superior to the Cold War warriors, but rather morally presumptuous and less wise by the fact they refused to take Communist history seriously and trusted too much their emotions and desire for a quick peace. They would not like to admit it, but their collateral damage was genocide and the continued political oppression of the Vietnamese people.

I suspect that there may be serious collateral damage to the present round of demonstrations, not as serious as the Vietnam ant-war movement, but potentially still serious. Much prayer is needed to keep the “fruit” of the present demonstrations positive and restrict further collateral damage as already manifest in the lootings.

The Watts riots of 1968 left scars and economic dislocation in that city, and especially its African American residents, that has never fully been healed. New York City is a in a particularly precarious position now. Brick and motar stores like Macy’s had already suffered great loses from the Covid-19 pandemic and the relentless growth of e-commerce, such as Amazon. The looting of the commercial area of New York and various malls in the US may tip the balance to bankruptcy to many stores and bring an immense cost to it in jobs lost (and the pleasure of shopping in a “real” store). Amazon will prosper, further eliminating middle class jobs of store owners and employees.

The anger of the public to the present George Floyd killing may eventually reduce the meaning of manslaughter as a criminal category. My emotional response to the Floyd video before I checked myself was, “That SOB cop deserves to hang” Countless others must have thought or said the same thing. Well maybe, but biblically, manslaughter should not be confused with murder. In the George Floyd case that is very difficult as the video is ugly. But the Book of Numbers spells this out:

Select some towns to be your cities of refuge, to which a person who has killed someone accidentally may flee.  They will be places of refuge from the avenger, so that anyone accused of murder may not die before they stand trial before the assembly.  (35:11-12)

Politics normally breeds exaggeration, and protest movements exaggerate the exaggerations. The TV reporters and pundits often use the phrase “endemic racism” of Americans. This is an exaggeration that is convenient to the protest organizers and politically Left groups, but this can be a sin of false or exaggerated judgment. Yes, some whites are racist, but it is also true that some African Americans are racists (note the “Out of Africa” racist lies). But in both cases some does not mean many. Also note how many Whites participate in the demonstrations. This alone should be cause to temper the accusations of “endemic racism.” Let us begin using the phrase “vestigial racism” to signify those who have not yet overcome their prejudices.

.There is always the threat of the protest movement being taken over by extreme radical elements. This is a danger of any mass movement, and the most serious danger to the present movement. As a historian I have studied this played out many times, as in the democratic anti-Czarist movement in Russia taken over by the Bolsheviks (Communists). This led to the worst genocides of the 20th Century. We will note below how to pray that this not happen to the present movement.

The present protest movement may serve to unintentionally marginalize and occult a deadlier problem in the African American community, Black on Black killings. Every year thousands of young blacks, including some children caught in the cross fire, are killed in Detroit and other inner cities in America by gang violence. Many of these murders are not prosecuted. The police try to gather information, but the inner city populations are terrified of the gangs and do not cooperate. Thousands of murders every year go unsolved. The families of the murdered persons receive no justice, and the communities have no peace.

The gang violence and effective take-over of inner city areas are tremendous problems, similar to the ongoing drug cartel takeover Mexico. Both are unsolvable with the present day laws of court procedures and criminal justice. Every judge in Mexico knows that if he or she prosecutes a cartel king-pin his family might be kidnapped, tortured and murdered. That is, the cartels have more authority and power than the legitimate state. This is similar to the situation in some of America’s inner cities. A person who cooperates with the police to identify a gang suspect is in danger of death by torture.

On a secular level, a solution to both these examples involves more police and military force than the public would like to consider. But ironically, what if in the future, the gang violence in the inner cities reaches such a level that some Black major wants to move in and arrest the gangs. Will the police be hamstrung to the point of ineffectiveness by the new procedures and checks put in place through the current demonstrations?

Actually, one effective remedy is for the problems of inner city gangs or Central American cartels is to have true, nation shaking revival. Not just a  “preach and altar call” revival, but one as happened in Wales in 1903 where the gory cloud of God  moved trough towns and instantly transformed people. That cannot be legislated into being, but prayer could certainly help bring it about. A hint of how this could happen is indicated in the tremendous transformation that has happened in Juarez, Mexico, when a Pentecostal pastor coordinated prayer and ministries of mercy in that city.[5]

How should we pray?

  1. The most important prayer focus should be that the present protest movement not be hijacked by its most radical elements (Antifa and various anarchists groups) who truly want to destroy America rather than make it a better place to life. These elements are demonically influenced to a major degree as were the Bolsheviks who took over the Russian revolution.[6] They can be prayed against to be ineffective (and ultimately converted) in the manner of “command disablement” that Paul used in Acts 13 against the sorcerer who was opposing the Gospel. For details and scriptures on this consult my blog posting, “The Ministry of Command Disablement.”[7]
  2. We should pray for wisdom on the part of local, state and federal legislators in forming laws to restrict police violence, and such things as neck holds, without making it more difficult to apprehend the truly violet and criminal.
  3. We should pray for wisdom of local and state officials in having action ready policies on looting. The point being to be like mayor Bottoms and have a “no tolerance” policy in place and reject the secular alibis such as the frustration-aggression link. To be truly spiritual in the biblical sense is to understand that the government must on occasions wield its sword of authority in unpleasant ways to restrain and punish evildoers. (Romans 13).
  4. We should pray for the leadership of the “Black Lives Matter.” Specifically that they expand their focus and activities to try the Black on Black violence in the inner cities. They would quickly come to a more biblical position that all sons of Adam (all races) are equally sinful, although sin manifests differently depending on cultural and economic circumstances. This sounds improbable, but with God and prayer all things are possible, including a Wales type glory cloud falling on the inner cities and transforming them into places of peace.

[1] This concept has been in circulation for over eight decades, made popular by the early psychoanalytical work, Frustration and Aggression, by John Dollard, et al, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1939). Nonsense then and nonsense now.

[2] See my blog  on “Donald the Dishonorable: On the spiritual damage of the Trump Presidency,” Pentecostal Theology, Posted Dec 26, 2019. http://www.pentecostaltheology.com/donald-the-dishonorable-on-the-spiritual-damage-of-the-trump-presidency/

[3] Alexandr Solzhenitsyn’s Harvard Commencement Address, June 8, 1978. https://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/alexandersolzhenitsynharvard.htm

[4] I go to more detail as to the possible positive ending had we stayed the course for a few years, in my article “Which Way the Trolley? Pneuma Review, data

[5] For an example of how a Spirit-filled pastor made a tremendous difference in a Cartel controlled city in Mexico, see: Jenny Rose Spaudo, “Pastor’s Simple Obedience Sparks Revival Among Mexico’s Assassins,” Charisma, (April, 2020)  http://www.charismamag.com/spirit/revival/44697-pastor-s-simple-obedience-sparks-revival-among-mexico-s-assassins

[6] Fyodor Dostoevsky understood the domonization of the Russian revolutionaries, wrote about it in his prophetic novel, The Possessed., (1871-1872) decades before the Bolsheviks took power.

[7] Pentecostal theology, blog. Posted Nov 7. 2019. recovered from a blog done years earlier but removed by Blogger as “against community standards.”   http://www.pentecostaltheology.com/the-ministry-of-command-disablement/

William DeArteaga

William L. De Arteaga, Ph.D., is known internationally as a Christian historian and expert on revivals and the rebirth and renewal of the Christian healing movement. His major works include, Quenching the Spirit (Creation House, 1992, 1996), Forgotten Power: The Significance of the Lord’s Supper in Revival (Zondervan, 2002), and Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal (Wipf & Stock, 2015). Bill pastored two Hispanic Anglican congregations in the Marietta, Georgia area, and is semi-retired. He and his wife Carolyn continue in their healing, teaching and writing ministries. He is the state chaplain of the Order of St. Luke, encouraging the ministry of healing in all Christian denominations.

45 Comments

  • Troy Day
    Reply June 9, 2020

    Troy Day

    PLS note everyone – this is NOT a political OP but a theological RESPONSE Pls lets talk apologetics

    What was your church theological response to the current protests in AMERICA How can we adequately minister toward a racial reconsideration What is the Biblical role of the church here ?

    Neil Steven Lawrence Steve Losee Philip Williams

    • Steve Losee
      Reply June 9, 2020

      Steve Losee

      sorry; have to go to work.

    • Troy Day
      Reply June 9, 2020

      Troy Day

      Steve Losee most churches go to work and miss on taking part in a social reconciliation resolution

    • Steve Losee
      Reply June 9, 2020

      Steve Losee

      I did all that before the crises were manufactured. And I don’t care for comments like that when I’m being responsible.

  • Nikki Sheppick
    Reply June 9, 2020

    Nikki Sheppick

    All, prepare to defend your position …. in an Apologetic (“defense) way for the Faith in which you hold …. for instance, as a Christian believer, bear in mind how Jesus defended Himself against the father of lies …. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by EVERY Word that comes forth from the Mouth of God.” What have you learned from the Holy Scriptures (recorded Word of God) that would respond to this position, therein “engage” in a CIVIL discourse/discussion/peaceful “argument”. Thank you. (Y) <3 (Y)

    • Tim Spangler
      Reply June 9, 2020

      Tim Spangler

      Apologetics is limited and sometimes curtailed via the powers that be….whether governmental, societal or even right here

    • Nikki Sheppick
      Reply June 9, 2020

      Nikki Sheppick

      Tim Spangler 2 Corinithians 10:5 NASB – 5 “We …. are destroying …. speculations (imaginations) …. and every lofty thing …. raised up (that exalts itself) …. against …. the knowledge …. of God, and we …. are taking …. every thought …. captive to (putting it in jail, casting it behind us) …. the obedience …. of Christ,” – other translations found here: https://www.biblehub.com/2_corinthians/10-5.htm
      a•pol•o•get•ics ə-pŏl″ə-jĕt′ĭks► DEFENDING …. the Faith.
      n. – The branch …. of theology …. that is concerned with defending …. or proving the truth …. of Christian doctrines.
      n. – Formal argumentation (back and forth CIVIL discussion) …. in defense of something, such as a position or system.
      n. – That branch …. of demonstrative or argumentative (CIVIL Christian debate) …. theology …. which is concerned with the grounds …. and defense …. of Christian …. belief and hope.

    • Tim Spangler
      Reply June 9, 2020

      Tim Spangler

      Nikki Sheppick You dont think much of me, do you?

    • Nikki Sheppick
      Reply June 9, 2020

      Nikki Sheppick

      Tim Spangler Oh contrare, Tim …. but, it is always more important what our Lord and Savior sees, hears, and knows. <3

    • Tim Spangler
      Reply June 9, 2020

      Tim Spangler

      Nikki Sheppick Then why do you address me?

    • Nikki Sheppick
      Reply June 9, 2020

      Nikki Sheppick

      Tim Spangler The Administrators are making some changes going forward, just trying to give a heads up to everyone. Not exclusive to you. The Body of Jesus the Christ is made up of those with varied gifts and talents.

    • Tim Spangler
      Reply June 9, 2020

      Tim Spangler

      Nikki Sheppick What does that mean?

    • Nikki Sheppick
      Reply June 9, 2020

      Nikki Sheppick

      Tim Spangler First, Tim, as a Moderator, I put some information for everyone (not just you), but you then responded to what I wrote, and I am being patient with you. So, then, do you want to enter into some kind of useful dialogue, or is there something else that you have an issue with? The current rules are up above to the right, scroll down, but going forward, there are going to be other more definitive rules and announcements going forward. Blessings ….

    • Tim Spangler
      Reply June 9, 2020

      Tim Spangler

      Nikki Sheppick all spoken in code

  • Troy Day
    Reply June 9, 2020

    Troy Day

    THANK YOU again Nikki Sheppick Pls note author of this article is well known Anglican Charismatic William DeArteaga, who in 1996 authored Quenching The Spirit: Discover the real Spirit behind the Charasmatic controversy

    TODAY he writes
    The Biblical response to injustice, as in the killing of George Floyd, is not violence, as sin cannot be the response to sin. For instance, suppose a person is in an abusive marriage, where the wife constantly berates the husband and insults him in front of the children. The husband’s frustration builds up, and one day he severely beats her. Her sins of constant reviling (1 Cor 6:9-10) do not justify his sin violence. He could have sought counseling, prayer, etc. The Christian life should be one in which difficulties and injustice are met with prayer and guidance from the Holy Spirit to channel answers constructively and non-violently with win-win solutions.

  • Romualdo Venturanza
    Reply June 9, 2020

    Romualdo Venturanza

    For the fault of one idiot, all of the law enforcers and honest policemen have been demonized as racists and turned cities into mayhem, looting, anarchy.

    • Troy Day
      Reply June 9, 2020

      Troy Day

      tell us more about this – what do you mean?

  • Philip Williams
    Reply June 9, 2020

    Philip Williams

    “For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” Romans‬ ‭13:4‬

    • Troy Day
      Reply June 9, 2020

      Troy Day

      should we all bow to the Caesar ?

    • Philip Williams
      Reply June 9, 2020

      Philip Williams

      Troy Day give respect to Caesar for the job that God has assigned him. We are Christ ambassadors and ambassadors respect the governments to which they are assigned.

    • Troy Day
      Reply June 9, 2020

      Troy Day

      taxes yes – respect hm Let’s consult the BIBLE

  • Troy Day
    Reply June 9, 2020

    Troy Day

    Nikki Sheppick you may have a secret admirer with this feller Tim Spangler Now can we get back to the apologetics of the OP please?

    • Nikki Sheppick
      Reply June 9, 2020

      Nikki Sheppick

      Apparently, God knows …. (Y)

    • Troy Day
      Reply June 9, 2020

      Troy Day

      Nikki Sheppick I think Chris Westerman may have a solid take on this one too WHEN he wakes up 🙂

    • Nikki Sheppick
      Reply June 9, 2020

      Nikki Sheppick

      Troy Day We, the Mod’s and Admin’s will keep watch …. (Y)

    • Troy Day
      Reply June 9, 2020

      Troy Day

      Nikki Sheppick I love your take on life
      Wish I was so balanced
      you must not like coffee at all

    • Nikki Sheppick
      Reply June 9, 2020

      Nikki Sheppick

      Troy Day Sometimes I imbibe of tea …. LOL

  • Philip Williams
    Reply June 9, 2020

    Philip Williams

    Bill DeArtega is a dear friend. I see that he has modified his views in respond to my criticism, the mark of a mature thinker.

    • Troy Day
      Reply June 9, 2020

      Troy Day

      what were those views? I also see Mike Brown is publishing book after book each week for every social issue They must sell

      Bill on the other hand is presenting a very balanced view He even silenced his internal anti-Trump voice At least until his book comes out from the publisher WHY do you feel he modified his views in respond to you personally ?

    • Philip Williams
      Reply June 9, 2020

      Philip Williams

      Troy Day concerned whether there were any saints who were candidates for President.

    • Troy Day
      Reply June 9, 2020

      Troy Day

      Philip Williams what about his advisors Any of them saints or not really?

    • Philip Williams
      Reply June 9, 2020

      Philip Williams

      Troy Day I think most of those evangelical leaders in the pictures are just marketing themselves. None of those are saints.

    • Troy Day
      Reply June 10, 2020

      Troy Day

  • Troy Day
    Reply June 9, 2020

    Troy Day

    This is NOT a RACIAL debate – or is it?

  • Troy Day
    Reply June 9, 2020

    Troy Day

    Philip Williams not sure what you advised Bill I think everything was WELL SAID in this text FIY on the racial mix of the MN arresting policemen as seen on the picture NEW INFO the protests have been planned by a green peace group for the past 2 yrs some say Others covered by CNN blame it on Russian hackers based in AFRICA #hello

    https://upnupnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/4-Minneapolis-Cops.jpg

  • Olivaire Watler
    Reply June 9, 2020

    Olivaire Watler

    Amen.🙏🏽

  • Reply June 9, 2020

    Charles Page

    The Biblical solution is to allow the rioters to stone the alleged murderers and then the Biblical judicial process is to try the accusers for their truthful testimonies. If they lie under oath then the accusers are stoned.
    The rage of the crowd is part of the judicial process.

  • […] “A Charismatic Historian’s Response to the George Floyd Demonstrations” Link to the blog: http://www.pentecostaltheology.com/a-charismatic-historians-response-to-the-george-floyd-demonstrati… […]

  • Troy Day
    Reply June 10, 2020

    Troy Day

    He pointed a gun at her abdomen and forced her into the living room. Too bad the pregnant woman didn’t have a gun,” the post concluded, …https://classichiphopmagazine.com/editor/2020/6/8/george-floyd-posed-as-a-water-company-man-to-rob-a-pregnant-woman

  • Nikki Sheppick
    Reply June 10, 2020

    Nikki Sheppick

    Here is some investigative reporting that was done a few years back, worth reading and considering …. https://www.aim.org/special-report/reds-exploiting-blacks-the-roots-of-black-lives-matter/?fbclid=IwAR14vTJVlTqRolbtLM9bHVn9LuqEoYyL0zJVgkKGcBfChchZKokoDrsdVsY

    • Troy Day
      Reply June 10, 2020

      Troy Day

      latest statement about Martin Gugino should sober all of us no matter our political persuasion. Not only because it is slander. Not only because it so shamelessly attempts to justify an act of obvious brutality. Not only because it is designed to convince us that facts are not facts, as all totalitarian speech does. But also because it seeks to make us distrust our own compassion for those who are harmed. This is deeply, deeply, deeply wicked. And it’s the kind of wickedness that is infectious. We have to denounce it as such.

  • Troy Day
    Reply June 10, 2020

    Troy Day

    I have no dog in this fight Nikki Sheppick Just stating the facts Also their was a lengthier explanation that the actual protests was being planned for over 2yrs now by green peace activists

  • Troy Day
    Reply June 10, 2020

    Troy Day

    NOW Something demonic is happening in Seattle. Not incidentally it is one of the places in the US were church attendance is lowest. Protesters have taken over City Hall and declared the area “police free.” This radical position is of curse anarchy which would lead to gross violence and injustice (after perhaps a brief period before the criminal elements figure there are plums for the picking). As I wrote in my earlier blog, we need to pry that the George Floyd demonstrations not be taken over by radicals. Hopefully, Seattle will be a warning to other, and a prayer alert to Christians about our perilous times.

  • Troy Day
    Reply June 18, 2020

    Troy Day

  • Timothy Staggs
    Reply June 18, 2020

    Timothy Staggs

    This is a good article

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