Once-segregated Christian university targets racism with launch of new research center
ABILENE, Texas — In 1960, a professor named Carl Spain delivered…
As former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted on all counts in George Floyd’s killing, millions of Americans watched on live television.
Jerry Taylor, founding director of the Carl Spain Center on Race Studies and Spiritual Action at Abilene Christian University in Texas, was not one of them.
“I felt like the best way that I could protect the health of my own sanity and the well-being of my own soul was just to use that time to ask God to address our hunger and our thirst for righteousness,” Taylor told The Christian Chronicle.
“And I prayed that God’s justice, his righteousness, would prevail in this case,” the veteran minister and Bible professor added. “Because we needed to have some indication that the country still had the capability, or at least was striving to have the capacity, to appropriate justice in a fair and balanced way.”
Jurors found Chauvin guilty April 20 of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for pressing his knee to Floyd’s neck — for 9½ minutes — and ignoring the Black man’s complaints that he couldn’t breathe.
Taylor welcomed the verdict and called it a positive step toward justice.
But he said he’ll reserve final judgment until Chauvin’s sentencing, scheduled for June 25.
The former officer could face up to 40 years in prison. However, the judge has discretion on the exact punishment.
“Finding him guilty but not giving him the amount of time that kind of crime would deserve would be a great injustice,” said Taylor, whose center organized the Minneapolis Racial Unity Leadership Virtual Summit this past October.
Ahead of the May 25 anniversary of Floyd’s death, Taylor discussed a variety of topics — including police reform, Christian activism and peacemaking — with the Chronicle.
“We must examine and investigate the culture that exists inside of the law enforcement communities — a culture that could produce a person who wears a badge and carries a gun who could take another human life like that, seeming as if he had no empathy or compassion.
“We must examine and investigate the culture that … could produce a person who wears a badge and carries a gun who could take another human life like that, seeming as if he had no empathy or compassion.”
“That he could put his knee on his neck and press the life, press the breath out of him — what kind of system is that? What kind of culture exists within the law enforcement community? What kind of culture would give the person the impression that they could do something like that in broad daylight with people watching and filming it?
“We can’t applaud ourselves too quickly (despite the guilty verdict). We can’t celebrate as if we have made a touchdown. We’ve only gained five to 10 yards on the field. The end zone is still out there ahead of us, and we’ve got a lot more running to do.”
“I think the activism that we see, if it is only activism and is not connected to a deeper spiritual activism, then that activism will be short-lived.
“I think spiritual activism must be the root that gives birth to ‘social activism.’ Therefore, I think social activism becomes authentic when it is rooted and founded and grounded in spiritual activism.
“That is, the lives of the people that are being active and trying to bring people together must grow out of a relationship with God, with the Creator. He is the No. 1 peacemaker and is seeking to use us to make peacemakers in this process.”
“I just hope and pray that everybody — at least all the Christians and those who claim to be Christians — really seek to be peacemakers and will follow the Prince of Peace in every opportunity that we get.
“Let us defuse this fuse that has been lit among us by people who have been engaging in extreme rhetoric. People have lit the fuse who want to see this country blow up. They want some type of racial chaos or race war or what they want to call it.
“I just hope and pray that everybody — at least all the Christians and those who claim to be Christians — really seek to be peacemakers and will follow the Prince of Peace in every opportunity that we get.”
“But those who know Christ and believe that he is the Lord of this world and the Lord of our lives, we have to do some serious wrestling and struggling to ask what we are contributing to. Are we contributing to peace? Or are we continuing the ongoing Civil War that never ended in 1865?
“Despite (President Abraham) Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation, the Civil War is still continuing. We’re not shooting bullets at each other, but the animosity that gave birth to it is still there.
“What role do we have as Christians to help defuse that fuse which is leading to the confusion that exists among us in this country? I think Christians have the greatest tool chest in our possession to contribute to being peacemakers. And that’s not a cheap peace. That’s a peace that is based on truth-telling and forgiveness but also on truth-telling and repentance.
“And I want to make sure that we make that statement as we talk about peace because sometimes we conclude that when we talk about peace that means to overlook, ignore. That’s not what we’re saying.
“We’re saying that we’ve got to deal with the problems together because the common salvation of the country depends on a common effort by a commonwealth of people gathered here on the North American continent.
“The question is: Can we work out our salvation together in fear and trembling? I believe Christians are in a position to lead the way in doing that.”
BOBBY ROSS JR. is Editor-in-Chief of The Christian Chronicle. Reach him at [email protected].
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