The late journalist Andrew Breitbart coined the phrase “politics is downstream from culture.” The “Breitbart Doctrine” reminds conservatives that changes to our political system must be preceded by changes in our culture. My personal and professional experience has shaped the “Squires Doctrine,” which holds that “policy is downstream from worldview.”
The recent tragic deaths of Pava LaPere, a 26-year-old tech CEO in Baltimore, and Ryan Carson, a 32-year-old activist in New York City, sparked a debate online about how conservatives should talk about leftists who reap the consequences of their radical policy choices. Both victims were allegedly killed by black suspects. LaPere said her company was pro-Black Lives Matter and that it stood against a “police state that criminalizes black bodies.” Carson’s girlfriend expressed anti-police sentiments online.
The victims of these violent crimes share the same political perspective as many of the lawmakers in their respective cities. This is where the Squires Doctrine comes into play.
Morally neutral public policy does not exist. All laws reflect someone’s beliefs, principles, morals, and values. A 2016 Pew study on religious views and political affiliation found that 69% of atheists were Democrats. A separate study found that 47% rely on “common sense” as a source of moral guidance. People who don’t believe in God will always seek out an alternative source of authority. Some trust science. Others rely on their own reasoning. And many are easily swayed by popular opinion.
Progressives love to talk about justice, but their definition is completely inverted. True justice is rooted in God’s holy and righteous character. It is impartial, consistent, timely, proportional, and corrective. One purpose of justice is to punish the guilty for the protection of the innocent.
Unfortunately, one of the defining features of modern progressive thought is to sympathize more with criminals than the victims of crime. As is often the case, race plays a large part.
I saw this firsthand while working in Washington, D.C.’s gun violence prevention office. More than 90% of homicide victims andperpetrators in D.C. are black. But the city’s decision to label potential shooters “people of promise” would never fly if most of the people killing black people in the nation’s capital looked like January 6 defendants.
Race complicates the politics of law and order, but radical ideologues don’t exclusively focus on ethnic minorities. One self-professed Christian activist named Shane Claiborne recently shared a letter from a death row inmate shortly before he was executed in Florida. The post on Twitter started this way:
Tonight the state of Florida executed Michael Zack. He is the 6 [sic] person to be executed in Florida and the 19th to be executed in the US this year. Please take a minute to read his final words. No one is defending what he did, not even Michael. But we are all more than the worst thing we’ve ever done. The death penalty does not heal the wounds of violence. It just creates new wounds. It is time to stop killing to try to show that killing is wrong.
Claiborne is the co-founder of Red Letter Christians, an LGBT-affirming organization that seems to disregard every part of the Bible but the Gospels. Claiborne failed to mention why Zack, who is white, was executed. Zack brutally murdered two women he met at beach bars in June 1996.
Zack’s defenders claimed he suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome. A New York legislator who knew Ryan Carson said he would have seen his killer as a victim of “structural wrongs” in the city who suffered from a lack of resources.
Progressives are uncomfortable with the idea of punishing people they see as victims. But the truth is, retribution in its proper measure serves a vital social function. People who have been wronged often feel a burning desire for revenge, and the natural inclination is to go one step farther than the person who harmed you. Violence tends to escalate if left unchecked.
The old saying goes “an eye for an eye leaves everyone blind.” But few people stop to consider how much worse the alternative would be, given that a head for an eye would leave everyone dead.
When criminal behavior is not addressed swiftly and consistently, chaos and disorder spread. And when that happens, people are going to die. Eventually it spreads far enough and citizens get the idea that their government has no interest in protecting their personhood or property.
That is how societies devolve into vigilantism and mob violence. The terror that lynch mobs unleashed on black communities from the late 1800s through the 1960s should be a reminder of why the rule of law is so important. Mob justice cares nothing about due process. It is vulnerable to personal prejudices and peer pressure. It is easy to inflame but very hard to tamp down.
I don’t believe anyone should gloat or make light of someone’s death because of their political positions. But it’s important for people to understand that policies have consequences. And no group is in a better position to understand this than Christians who believe that God created the world and that it operates according to his design.
Put another way, “the designer is the definer.” We also believe the biblical truth that humanity’s greatest problem is sin, not a lack of resources or material wealth. Anyone who believes the Bible should also know that no group has a monopoly on vice, violence, or virtue.
But when you’re the type of person who sees yourself as privileged and other people as marginalized based on skin color, then you are guaranteed to make bad decisions when it comes to public policy.
People who think police and prisons should be abolished based on racial disparities in the criminal justice system are uninformed, both about the realities of crime and the basics of human nature.
The sad irony is that the journalists and commentators who typically ignore street crime when the victims are young, poor, and black are likely to be focused on these types of incidents where the victims are middle-class and white. To the Sunday brunch set, black people are only victims of racism, specifically at the hands of police, vigilantes, and “Karens.”
Our hyperfocus on race is deadly because it makes us prioritize color over conduct. Murder is wrong because intentionally taking the life of an innocent person is wrong. It’s a sin. That is true whether the victim is black and the perpetrator is white or the perpetrator is black and the victim is white. It is also true if the perpetrator and victim share the same skin color or we have no clue about the ethnic background of anyone involved.
I don’t care what a criminal looks like. If someone is stabbing, shooting, or assaulting people, I feel no obligation to defend him or his behavior. I’m not interested in hearing people make excuses for people who show no regard for the lives of their fellow citizens. I hope the progressives who think they can usher in utopia through social policy finally see how their ideas make our streets more dangerous. People die when evil is allowed to spread because of misplaced ideas about “social justice.”
Leftists need to realize that their god complex doesn’t come with resurrection power.