On March 12th, Franklin Graham wrote the following on Facebook:
Listen up--Blacks, Whites, Latinos, and everybody else. Most police shootings can be avoided. It comes down to respect for authority and obedience. If a police officer tells you to stop, you stop. If a police officer tells you to put your hands in the air, you put your hands in the air. If a police officer tells you to lay down face first with your hands behind your back, you lay down face first with your hands behind your back. It’s as simple as that. Even if you think the police officer is wrong—YOU OBEY. Parents, teach your children to respect and obey those in authority. Mr. President, this is a message our nation needs to hear, and they need to hear it from you. Some of the unnecessary shootings we have seen recently might have been avoided. The Bible says to submit to your leaders and those in authority “because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account.”
If you just obey.
So why does this not apply to prominent white Christians?
Why did, for example, the Duggars not take their son to the police the moment they found that theirs son was molesting children? Why are they not expected to teach their children to respect and obey those in authority in the same way as people of color are?
Why does white make wrong things right?
A great indicator of how we view ourselves in relation to others is how and when we feel we are being wrongfully treated. The Duggars felt persecuted because their private lives became the subject of much discussion on both regular media and social media after the discovery of wrongdoings, although they had placed themselves before the public eye quite willingly. Yet people in McKinney shouldn't be outraged when a black teen in a swimsuit is slammed to the ground by a police officer, because if you just obey those in authority, all will be well. Obviously the teen didn't obey well enough.
If you just obey.
Most of us are taught to obey authorities, at least as long as the authorities do not commit crimes, but why do we not expect the same kind of obedience from prominent white Christians? Is it not because those who make the rules expect also to be allowed to bend them and get away with it? We used to call them the "Right People"; an elusive group that made the rules for everyone. The name is gone, but we still have a group of people who believe they have a sacred duty to tell others how to live. The Duggars are/were part of the rule-making white Christian group. Hence the claims of persecution when suddenly the automatic approval was changed into frowns of disapproval and public shaming. Loss of power and influence is never quite as painful as when it's lost in the sight of the public.
On the other hand, those who are expected to obey are also expected to accept mistreatment with a smile, for if those who make the rules expect to get away with their own misdeeds it makes sense that those they hurt are not allowed to voice their opinions on the matter. The sisters of Josh Duggar say they have forgiven their brother. But did they really have a choice? In the patriarchal world where men are worshiped and women are considered seductive, how could they possibly have said anything different? If the black teen in a swimsuit didn't obey well enough, neither did the Duggar sisters, for in the twisted world of patriarchy, those in power become the victims when their abuse is discovered, for weren't they "tempted" to act contrary to their otherwise noble character? Had they not been "tempted," they would never have acted in such heinous ways, hence they can't be blamed.
The powerless have always been portrayed as cunning and conniving, some times evil, other times childlike. The powerful never seem to understand that it is the imbalance of power that causes this perception, as the powerless have less ways to redress injustice, seek restitution, or simply find a way to avoid abuse. The powerful are equally oblivious of the fact that their character isn't more noble simply because they have more options; it's easy to avoid stealing food when one isn't starving. An imbalance of power leaves people with less options, especially when those in authority purposefully use their power to abuse those with less power.
In the end we find that it's not about obedience; it's about power. Who has it and who doesn't. That's why Josh Duggar almost got away with abusing young girls because the patriarchal world he lives in gives men all the power. But that's also why the police officer who assaulted a young black girl didn't get away with it, because through modern technology we are taking back our power to hold those in authority accountable for their actions. Words can lie, but images rarely do.
And so we find that the scales of power are tilting, and the powerful are fretting. But what purpose does power serve if not to uphold justice?