Two and a half years ago our nation was hit with several storms, one being a pandemic, but during the pandemic there was political polarization and civil unrest. Both the political polarization and the civil unrest, I believe, acted as rocks, grinding against one another creating sparks of flames that would literally set our country on fire. The pandemic would serve as the gas that would ignite the blaze into flash fire.
All this pain, all this unrest along with a political divide that was palpably felt in every inch of the social spectrum created a level of anxiety among Christ followers and non-believers alike. Heck, we all had that unsettling reality in common. In this article, I want to draw attention to a group of individuals that live under a similar sense of pressure every day, and this pressure is the very thing that bonds them together. It’s the community that lives within the boundaries of their safe place. Those safe boundaries are etched out by what we call the thin blue line.
A long line of sheriff’s officers
I’m very familiar with this community because I spent 10 years serving as a Broward Sheriff’s Office deputy sheriff. I have a brother who spent 12 years serving as a deputy sheriff with the Broward Sheriff’s Office before he passed away to Covid19. I also have a brother who served 25 years with the LA County Sheriff’s Office before he retired. I know this community. I love this community. I now pastor this community.
I started out as a volunteer chaplain for the North Miami Beach Police Department in 2019. I was invited to rejoin the Broward Sheriff’s Office as a full-time associate chaplain in January 2022. Most people ask me how it is, spending so much time with police officers. My answer to that question is: I love it because I love them. They are human beings. They are a bit more sacrificial than the average human being, considering they’re willing to put their life on the line daily for people that they don’t know.
A cultural conundrum
While this pandemic, as well as political and civil unrest, weigh heavily on society, it has placed an even heavier burden on those who wear the badge. Many of you may remember the scrutiny police officers were under during this period of civil unrest because of some nefarious acts from horrible human beings, wearing the same honorable badge, yet dishonoring that badge and the thin blue line community with their actions.
These egregious actions created an aroma that resulted in an allergic reaction. The aroma was the pain of racism that was felt in the past and still rears its ugly head in the present against black and brown human beings. From this reaction came a movement that demanded justice for the lives that were taken, but this movement also became enemy of an entire community of innocent police officers. I’ve made this statement publicly before, and I will make it again here. We cannot throw the baby out with the bathwater or pigeonhole an entire community, based on the actions of a few individuals that misrepresent that community. Sadly, that is exactly what happened. The Black Lives Matter movement became the solution to the cultural conundrum, when finding our true identity in Christ should always be the only answer.
Many churches unwittingly got behind this movement, not knowing what it actually stood for, and what they were actually demanding. Other churches knew full well what this movement stood for and unapologetically flew the Black Lives Matter flag from their public platforms and pulpits. Some churches eventually disassociated themselves with BLM after deeper investigation of the movement while other churches doubled down. Unfortunately, in choosing sides and seeking to appease others we all lost. The Church took a loss.
Questions for the Church
So where are we two and a half years later? Here’s what I can tell you as I’ve pastored police through this most difficult season. Many of them have fled from the very churches where they used to feel safe. Many of them are hurt because their church leaders never did check to see how they were feeling amidst this very difficult season, but the church had no problem posting a BLM hashtag to assure a marginalized people group felt heard. The problem is while we the Church and society were fighting for the marginalized, we in turn created another community of marginalized individuals, the police. It has since been discovered that BLM was draining funds from the communities they claimed to care about for their own selfish personal gain, while crying to defund a thin blue line community that truly does care for people.
The question I think we all should ponder is, do we the Church owe a public apology to the new marginalized thin blue line community? Should we make public declarations of allegiance to this new marginalized thin blue line community the same way we fought for our Black and Brown brothers and sisters and the pain they have felt and still feel. Does a Black or Brown police officer feel a double portion of marginalization? I’m just asking questions.
Some solutions to this new problem would be to extend the olive branch of fellowship to police officers. Perhaps a Law Enforcement Appreciation service on a Sunday morning? We can also facilitate outreach to different police districts, feeding the officers during the holidays when they’re out serving and everyone is home enjoying their families. Perhaps greater emphasis on the National Faith and Blue initiative in October? Is there a new marginalized group of individuals that feel dejected and rejected by society and the church that we the Church have an opportunity to reach? What about allowing the Gospel to remove the barriers we’ve put up and erase the margins?
Darren Bennett is Pastor of Calvary Chapel North Miami and Chaplain at Broward Sheriff’s Office.
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