A United Evangelical Response: The System Failed Eric Garner
Image: Thabiti Anyabwile / Twitter

On Wednesday, a Staten Island grand jury announced its decision not to indict police officer Daniel Pantaleo, who put an unarmed black man in a chokehold that resulting in the man's death. Law enforcement attempted to arrest Eric Garner, a husband and father of six, for allegedly illegally selling cigarettes in July. His death made national news after a video was captured of the altercation, where Garner, who suffered from asthma, said repeatedly, “I can’t breathe,” as law enforcement brought him to the ground.

Not all evangelicals believed that Darren Wilson, a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer who killed unarmed teenager Michael Brown in August, should have been indicted in a recent grand jury hearing. Others were silent on the issue. But Wednesday’s events brought a more forceful, and more united response that justice had not been served. Christianity Today presents a selection of these responses below. (See also our editorial, :"What One Racially Divided Family Can Do," by Mark Galli.)

Hip-hop artist
“Okay now do you believe us?! People swear we make this stuff up. That the ‘media’ is spurring on the civil disharmony. … No charges. None. Let that sink in. My own daughter said, ‘Daddy I’m scared for you because when police kill black men [they] don’t get in trouble!’ What do I tell her?!!” (Source: Twitter)

Christena Cleveland
Associate professor of reconciliation studies, Bethel University, St. Paul, Minnesota
“The church needs less Niebuhrs (privileged folks who talk about justice) and more Bonhoeffers (privileged folks who live & die for justice).” (Source: Twitter)

Thabiti Anyabwile
Assistant pastor for church planting, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington, D.C.
“My 8 year old’s question: ‘Who stops the police when they do something bad?’ Afraid I’d have to say, ‘Not the grand juries.’ #ICantBreathe.” (Source: Twitter)

Austin Channing
Resident director and multicultural liaison at Calvin College
“You can be tired after you have cried and marched, written and preached, shouted in town halls and voted, taught and cried some more. But your words are not enough. I need you to do. I need you to do justice. I need you love mercy. This is what God requires of you. Will you humble yourself? Will you practice justice in the world for your brothers and sisters? Will you love mercy? I mean love it. Will you love having mercy- resisting oppression, resisting punishment, resisting judgment. … What use have I for a Church that doesn’t believe I am worthy of justice, love and humility?” (Source: Twitter)

Bradford William Davis
Staff writer at Christ and Pop Culture
“If you got mad about Hobby Lobby or that Rachel Held Evans book, but you’re chill tonight … well.” (Source: Twitter)

Trillia Newbell
Consultant for women’s initiatives, Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission
“The hard truth is that racism and the way it strips man of his dignity will be with us until the consummation of Christ’s kingdom. This is why the Church must be a safe place for difficult discussions about race. We must not only be unafraid to discuss it, but acknowledging that it still exists in many places in our country and can often be hidden away in our own hearts. We cannot be passive. Just like all temptations, pride and arrogance toward others must be confronted and fought with the truth of God’s Word. Don’t make the assumption that it is something you or your friends or your congregations can ignore.” (Source: ERLC).

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A United Evangelical Response: The System Failed Eric Garner