Can We Actually Learn Anything From McKinney

My youngest son wants to grow up and become a police officer. In fact, the local police chief was willing to sit down with him one day recently and have a conversation about his career goal.

I attend church with and enjoy spending time with several officers on the police force. I have even had email conversations about topics on which we disagree with a couple of them. I look forward to having even more.

I truly feel for the officers who were terrified by the events that occurred in Dallas last night.

But I still think we have a lot to talk about concerning the state of policing in America.

Calling for police reform does not make one an enemy of police.

Saying that police violence is a problem does not mean one hates the police.

Seeking a better system does not mean one does not care when a police officer is hurt, or killed, in the line of duty.

We still need to have some difficult, uncomfortable conversations.


What we saw on the video from McKinney, TX, this week was awful. There is no way around it: the situation devolved into a mess and one person in particular was caught on tape treating children in a way no child should be treated.

After the video of Officer Casebolt went viral, he was called out by his own chief.

“Conley emphasized that 11 out of 12 officers on scene ‘performed according to their training.’ He decried those who violated community rules and disrespected authorities during the incident, but also made clear that Casebolt, as a police officer, is held to a higher standard.” Conley also used the terms “indefensible” and “out of control” to describe Casebolt’s actions.

This statement from a highly ranked police officer highlights both positives and negatives.

First, the negative.

Twelve officers responding to teenagers at a pool party? Specifically, black teenagers at a pool party in a mostly white neighborhood?

There is a suspicion of black bodies in our country; especially when they are somewhere “they don’t belong.” This is a difficult concept for many white people to grasp. This is also a difficult concept for white people to hear. But when teenagers in swim suits necessitate 12 police officers, it is legitimate to question the response.

When the child in the video is referred to as “the black girl” or “the girl with the braids” instead of by her name, DaJerria Becton, it is legitimate to think that black bodies are dehumanized.

Have you ever seriously considered why minorities feel targeted by the police? Or have you essentially dismissed their argument with phrases like “Most police officers are good,” or “It’s not the 50s anymore.”? Have you ever delved into the dark history of the treatment of minorities in our country?

Have you ever sat and listened to a POC talk about their experience?

This altercation began when an adult slapped a teenager and then told the group to go back to their Section 8 housing. Our words reveal a lot about what we believe. They also reveal why minority groups feel threatened, excluded, and unwelcome.

When the voices of white, teenaged witnesses are silenced and the voices of white adults who were not present are given airtime, it is another indication that some people are trying to propagate a story they know isn’t true.

This is also revealed when people continue to rush to the defense of a police officer whose actions were deemed indefensible by his own chief. The person in charge said his officer was out of control. Yet still people are standing up justifying his behavior.

Because too many of us don’t want to believe that people we look up to can and do make mistakes. And some professionals must be held to a much higher standard. Body slamming unarmed teenagers in swimsuits is not acceptable.

But there is also a positive.

A police chief called out one of the bad apples. We hear often that those who do bad things are few and far between, and maybe that is true, but when police departments, FOPs, and city officials refuse to call out the bad ones, it appears they are condoning or covering up bad behavior.

The more people in authority stand up and say, “This is unacceptable behavior,” the more trust will grow.

Likewise, we should want to see more videos of other police officers standing in to try and calm down an out of control colleague. If the “bad apples” truly are few and far between, then let us work together to remove them.

Another positive is the fact that the young people present were willing to speak out and tell the truth about what they saw. When teenagers are willing to stand up for truth and justice, we can begin to feel better about the direction our country is headed.


These are the beginnings of the conversations we need to have. I live in a community that does not have many of the issues between police and community that are present in so many towns and cities across the country. But that does not mean everything is perfect. There are still conversations to be had. Thankfully, our police chief is (usually) willing to have those conversations.

If we want to see relationships improve, we need to actually build relationships. Talk to each other, not past each other. Community forums, cups of coffee, times for people to admit mistakes made. Transparency from civic officials. Work on the local level.

What many people in the dominant culture (yes, meaning white people) fail to understand is that most protestors are not against the police. They are against the overuse of violence by police in disproportionate numbers towards minorities. If we want to being building and improving relationships in our communities, let’s start by acknowledging that. Let’s listen to the experience of those who feel targeted without telling them they are wrong. From those conversations, growth can begin.

Also, we need to dig deeper than community-police relationships. While those are important to build and nurture, there are systemic issues that create much of the tension. There are many unjust laws and systems that create and maintain poverty and discrimination. We must fight to eradicate these. Do you know how difficult it is to find a job or rent an apartment or get an ID or set up a doctor’s appointment when you are poor? Especially when that poverty has been generational and no one has been present to teach you how to navigate the system?

Learn what it is like for people in lower socio-economic classes to do the things you take for granted.

We must ask why so many churches are silent on issues of social justice. Church, we need to stop being afraid to say things that are deemed political; many issues are not truly political, although they have been politicized. We must still speak truth and justice into those issues. We must not only be preaching and calling for justice from the pulpit, we must be in our neighborhoods-daily-seeking ways to help heal the hurt that exists.

One way to do this? Walk the streets of your neighborhood. Pray for each house and each person living in that house. Knock on the door and ask two simple questions: “Can we pray for you?” “Can we do anything around your house to help you?” Don’t evangelize. Just serve. Build relationships.

We need to have many difficult conversations.

Let’s start talking.

When Jesus Meets…A Poor Person

Picture this:

Jesus is nearing the city of Jericho. A blind man is sitting there, begging by the roadside. He can hear the sounds of the crowd accompanying Jesus, and he asks what’s going on.

Crowd: Jesus of Nazareth is passing this way.

Then the man starts shouting. Blind Man: Jesus, Son of King David, show mercy to me!

The people in the front of the crowd reprimand him and tell him to be quiet, but he just shouts louder.

Blind Man: Son of King David, show mercy to me!

Jesus stops and tells the people to bring the man over to Him. The man stands in front of Jesus.

Jesus: What do you want Me to do for you?

Blind Man: Lord, let me receive my sight.

Jesus: Receive your sight; your faith has made you well.

At that very instant, the man is able to see. He begins following Jesus, shouting praises to God; and everyone in the crowd, when they see what has happened, starts praising God too.


Generally speaking, as a country we don’t like poor people. That’s why we talk about “the bad parts of town” or “the other side of the tracks.” That’s why we support unchecked capitalism–we are okay with rich corporations increasing profits while the minimum wage is worth about 2/3 of what it was 30 years ago. When we say things like “better schools” and “better neighborhoods” we are talking in code so that we don’t have to say out loud, “We don’t want to be around poor people.”

And I know that is harsh. It is a broad over-generalization. But I think anyone would be hard-pressed to show that it is not true. Much of our lives is spent insulating ourselves from people who are in a lower socio-economic class than we are.

That is a problem than needs to be addressed. Especially for people who claim to be Jesus followers.

When Jesus meets a poor person, pay attention to what He does (The story above is found in Luke 18:35-43).

First, He notices them.

We spend a lot of our time trying to NOT notice poor people. We pass laws that make it illegal for homeless people to ask for money or sit on a park bench or walk into a library. We participate in a phenomenon called “White Flight” where middle class people, especially middle class white people, flee urban areas and live in the suburbs. Some cities put people on buses and send them to the other end of their state during fair season so that they won’t bother the good people coming to the state fair. In many urban areas, before renewal hits, developers spend a lot of money buying up property and running people out so that the “right kind” of tenant can move in without being bothered by urban plight.

(Do you realize that what a lot of us call “plight” is what a large number of people call “home”?)

The crowd in this story tried to shush the poor beggar. They told him to be quiet and not bother Jesus.

But Jesus heard. Jesus noticed. Jesus paid attention. And He stopped walking. When Jesus notices someone, He stops to talk with them. He doesn’t walk away and pretend like He can’t hear or see.

Second, Jesus overrides the will of the crowd who is telling the person to be quiet by telling them to bring the poor person to Him.

Jesus just doesn’t walk up to the blind beggar. Instead, Jesus tells the people who have been trying to shut the beggar up to go get him and bring him to Jesus. Jesus is in effect saying, “Go to the person that you are disregarding, go to that person that you are dehumanizing, and bring him to me.”

Jesus makes the shushers become ushers. (That is quite possibly the cheesiest sentence I have ever written.)

The crowd did not want Jesus to be bothered. The crowd thought they knew who Jesus should talk to. The crowd wanted to be in control. And Jesus tells them to go to the people they ignore. Not only does Jesus notice poor people, He forces us to notice them, as well.

Third, He asks what He can do.

In their book, When Helping Hurts, Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert talk about the difference in relief, rehabilitation, and development. While the most effective aid to those in poverty comes in the form of development, the overwhelming majority of aid currently is in the form of relief.

I do not want to discourage anyone from participating in relief efforts. But I do want to suggest two things: first, look for ways to be involved with development (and reading Corbett and Fikkert’s book is a good place to start to find out how).

Second, realize that too often, relief takes the form of the person with resources stepping in and telling the poor person, “Here is what you need to do; here is how I am going to help you.” The problem with that sentiment is that we never know if what we are doing is actually needed or not.

Jesus asks the blind beggar, “What do you want me to do for you?” He doesn’t assume the person wants sight. He doesn’t provide food or money. He asks what the person needs.

When Jesus meets a poor person, He treats the poor person with same dignity, respect, and humanity He would offer anyone else.

Fourth, He does what He can without qualification.

Many states are trying to add (or have added) drug testing as a requirement to receive government aid. Although multiple studies have shown this type of drug testing to be a waste of money because such a small number of people fail the drug tests, people insist on continuing to use them.

Why? Because we want to put requirements on people getting help. We want to tell people how they should live and act if they should find themselves in a situation where they need assistance.

We want people to earn our charity.

But Jesus doesn’t. Jesus says, “I will help and I won’t ask you to jump through any hoops to get it.”

What will it take for us to notice the poor people around us in the way that Jesus notices them?

When Jesus Meets…The Poor

People on food stamps should be drug tested.

If people worked harder we wouldn’t need welfare.

If people really needed IDs they could get them easily.

I work hard for my own stuff, why can’t they work hard for theirs?

If people didn’t make bad decisions, they wouldn’t be poor.


I wish these were statements I was making up. Unfortunately, I have heard all of them. And I don’t just mean I have seen them posted by often unnamed social media users. I have heard people say these things out loud.

Now, there are going to be times when good people, well-intentioned people, disagree on issues. But I am not addressing that disagreement with this post. I want to address our attitudes towards poor people.

Jesus said, “You will always have the poor with you,” and we have taken that and run with it. Since the poor will always be here, why should we worry about them? Since we will always have the poor, why should we think we could actually do something to stop it?

One thing has troubled me for years:

Jesus did not say that in the context of a capitalist economy. Jesus was not saying, “It is inefficient to work on the poor so find other areas to spend your money that provide a better return on investment.” Jesus was not saying, “It is hopeless.”

Jesus was saying at a specific event at a specific time that having His body prepared for burial was a precious gift that should not be mocked.

In John 12:1-8, Jesus is anointed with some expensive oil. Judas asks why the money was not spent on the poor.

But John is quick to point out that Judas was not asking because of his concern for the poor; Judas was asking because he wanted to keep the money for himself.

And Jesus did not say, “The poor will always be with you,” and leave it at that. He also added, “But I am about to leave.”  Jesus knew His death was imminent and the anointing that He received prepared Him for His death, burial and resurrection.

Unfortunately, too many of us have taken the first part of Jesus’ statement (The poor will always be with you) to excuse some pretty bad attitudes and behaviors towards poor people. If we can view the poor as “other,” as “them,” as moral failures, then we can justify in our own minds not doing more to help. We can rail against higher taxes and more government offices. We can call for stricter rules and regulations without considering the impact on those below middle class. We can scoff at increased minimum wages and protect the executives’ bottom line thinking they will share their wealth.

But I have to ask: how should we be treating the poor? Not from a political policy perspective, but from the viewpoint of people who claim the name of Jesus as our identity, how should we treat the poor?


She was poor.

She was an outcast.

Her medical condition caused her to lose her livelihood and her well-being, but all people noticed was that she was not clean.

Since she was not clean it was okay that they disregarded her.

Since she was not clean it was okay if no one helped her.

Since she was not clean it was okay if she was not included in the crowd.

Since she was not clean it was okay if no one noticed her.

Since so many other people treated her as if she was garbage it made sense that she would think He would do so, as well.

Since religious leaders and social elites would not welcome her it made sense she did not feel welcome when approaching Him.

Since she was not clean it made sense that she tried to touch His cloak without Him noticing. After all, everyone else despised her. Why should she think He would be any different?

But He was different. She grabbed the corner of His cloak believing that would be sufficient. She wanted to stay hidden.

But He noticed. And He called out to find out who touched His cloak. Even when His followers scoffed at the idea He could notice one person’s touch among the multitudes He continued asking who touched His cloak.

So she came forward. Afraid. Nervous. Scared about what might happen now.

And Jesus called her “daughter.”

He did not see the unclean. He did not regard her as an outcast. He did not look past her because she did not have what the other person He was helping had. He saw her. And He called her daughter.

Because when Jesus meets the poor, He sees daughters and sons of God.

May we all.