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Pastors vs. poachers

As riots explode across the U.S., we can mourn and pray

''Cry, the beloved country, for the unborn child that is the inheritor of our fear. Let him not … stand too silent when the setting sun makes red the veld with fire.”

That’s a key passage from Alan Paton’s fine 1948 novel—Cry, the Beloved Country—about race relations in South Africa. In America, periodically, not the setting sun but deliberately set fires make the streets turn red. That’s what happened Saturday night in at least 75 cities. This is probably the most widespread urban protest and destructive opportunity since the 1968 riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

Then, as now, many pastors imitated Christ and urged their followers to put aside torches and weapons. Many poachers imitated the Joker in Batman comics and movies, using the opportunity to steal and burn. The resultant photos—exultant backlit destroyers standing on cars and waving their arms—went quickly onto websites and into newspapers, spreading more fear among those still far from the fires this time. 

To read about the victim of a visibly horrible police action that raised anger, please read our Minneapolis reporter’s article, “George Floyd’s Search for a New Start.” But as in 1968, one death is leading to others. WORLD usually doesn’t publish stories on Sunday, but today we are following the Westminster Statement of Faith policy of having the Sabbath be a time for “public and private exercises of God’s worship, except so much as is to be taken up in the works of necessity and mercy.” 

We at WORLD are reporters, so this afternoon (and throughout the week) our work of necessity is to report on the present crises and show what that may mean for the future. The 1968 riots devastated dozens of urban economies. At least 40 people died, more than 2,500 sustained injuries, and more than 15,000 went to jail. Crime and insurance rates in burned neighborhoods soared. Many who could escape to suburbs did so, depressing community hopes and property values. 

In 1968 thousands of jobs disappeared. This year any loss will be on top of unemployment rates not seen since the depressed 1930s. While we report, please mourn with the friends and family of George Floyd, please cry for our beloved country, and please pray for God’s mercy.