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The tragedy of George Floyd

We’ll never know what George Floyd would have done with his second chance

I try to reply cordially to every letter WORLD members send me. During June I briefly apologized 20 times to reprimands for a mistake I made, but with letter 21 something broke, and I responded at greater length.

Thanks for your note. I was inaccurate to say George Floyd “by all accounts was a gentle giant.” Relatives, friends, and ABC, CBS, NBC, NPR, USA Today, etc., characterized him that way, but I should have said “by almost all accounts.” Some conservatives emphasized his repeated arrests in Houston—most involving less than an ounce of drugs—and a severe instance of armed robbery for which he rightly went to prison for four years. But I’d challenge your characterization of him as a “thug”: Floyd came out of prison in 2013 and by some accounts was a changed man over the next seven years.

Does it matter that Floyd grew up in Houston’s Third Ward in the Cuney Homes housing project, where kids sang their version of a familiar jingle: “I don’t want to grow up, I’m a Cuney Homes kid. They got so many rats and roaches I can play with”? Maybe not. Does it matter that he was more than 6 feet tall in middle school and didn’t get much of an education except in football and basketball, so when he wasn’t good enough to go pro he wasn’t trained in anything? Maybe not. I don’t know much about Third Ward life, but an old-timer did show me around there a few years back: A tough environment does not justify criminal activity, but maybe a person who grew up in one and messed up badly should get a second chance. 

Floyd after prison volunteered with Resurrection Houston church, which held many services on the Cuney Homes basketball court. Does it matter that he apparently set up chairs and a bathtub on the court for baptisms, and went door to door with Pastor Patrick Ngwolo, letting residents know about Bible studies and grocery deliveries? Maybe not. I don’t know much about the Christian program that brought him to Minnesota, and he did have drugs in his system when arrested. Would he have done well? We don’t know: Floyd died at age 46 when a police officer put his knee on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes as other police officers watched.

Walk counts more than Talk. Peña explained from his own experience that only Christ works.

I have read about the century of racism that contributed to the Third Ward and many other wards becoming tough places. I oppose the politics and philosophy of the Black Lives Matter organization, but books I’ve reviewed in WORLD show that for a long time black lives didn’t matter, much, in the eyes of many whites. You might read Douglas Blackmon’s Slavery by Another Name, which shows the virtual post-Reconstruction re-enslavement of sharecroppers and others, and David Oshinsky’s Worse Than Slavery, which describes Jim Crow justice. Concerning recent years, Jason Riley’s Please Stop Helping Us shows How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed.

We could discuss what’s gone wrong in some black communities, but here’s what I want to get to: The story of David Peña, a 64-year-old who as a young man did drugs, committed crimes, and gained a three-year prison sentence. Peña got out, founded Texas Reach Out Ministries, and as CEO of this organization for 30 years was God’s servant to alcoholics, drug addicts, and former inmates. Texas Reach Out provides eight homes for men and three for women, along with employment assistance and spiritual guidance. 

I went to one of Peña’s Bible studies in South Austin last year. A dozen men who had made recent professions of faith in Christ sat on couches and folding chairs. Some were only a few weeks out of prison. An ex-con with head knowledge tried to impress Peña, who gently explained that abstract concepts were insufficient: Walk counts more than talk. Peña explained from his own experience that only Christ works. He was terrific.

David Peña died early in July from COVID-19. That’s sad. What’s tragic is that George Floyd might have become a David Peña. Now we’ll never know.            


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  • SamIamHis
    Posted: Sun, 07/19/2020 01:46 pm

    I had heard the recounting of George Floyd's Christian character from Janet Parshall's radio program, shortly after his death.  It was the first thing I heard and, though less flattering descriptions came to light later, it was the initial intoduction into this gentle giants life that has stayed with me. Yet, I think it was the combination of all of it that made George Floyd who he was.  He had struggled greatly in life, but he had met the Master and was transformed.  Was he perfect?  Hardly, but who among us is?  I do know that his character was more than just the gentle giant first revealed, but he was first a man who was created in the image of God, a man who had found redemption and who was striving to share that with others.

    I too wonder what he may have accomplished had his life not been cut short, but I also know that his days were numbered before he was formed in his mothers womb.  He lived the fullness of the days the Lord set for him.  His death was horrific but my hope is that it might bring changes that will be a memorial to his life and his death. Sadly, the raucus protests and riots instigated by Antifa and BLM have little to do with the needed reformation.  This can only be brought about by a heart transplant performed by the Great Physician.

  •  West Coast Gramma's picture
    West Coast Gramma
    Posted: Mon, 07/20/2020 03:30 pm

    Awesome, Marvin, thank you.

    Clearly, George Floyd lived a many-faceted life. The sad part is that the officers who killed him, either directly or by watching and doing nothing, knew none of what you mentioned--neither the "good" nor the "bad". They received a call about a $20 crime. Innocent in America until proven guilty. Was it because of the color of his skin that George Floyd is now dead? It would be beyond belief to entertain a notion that his skin color had nothing to do with it. No one in America should be treated as he was. The whole scenario strongly speaks of hatred run amuck.

    Posted: Mon, 07/20/2020 03:45 pm

    This is an excellent piece and I am very pleased to see WORLD keep racism in view at the highest editorial level.  I share Marvin Olaskey's concern about many positions held by Black Lives Matter, but regrettably also have concerns about positions held by the Republican Party, Liberty University, Airbnb, and members of my own family.  In a perfect world I would remain detached from all that I find distasteful or wrong, but in this world I cannot.  The leaders of my local BLM are professing Christians laboring to lead and organize peaceful, meaningful change.  When WORLD identifies organizations they do support, I will glady shift my affiliation.  May the church seek justice and may God raise up His children to lead.

  • Cyborg3's picture
    Posted: Thu, 07/23/2020 12:14 am

    Is this really about racism? It is about remaking America by destroying America by defunding the police, ripping down our heritage, remaking our founding fathers as villains, and using violence to push a radical hyper PC agenda. This a work of Satan who seeks to destroy that what is good. 

  • IH
    Posted: Mon, 07/20/2020 10:23 pm

    I have read much about Floyd's death. The amount of lies to sift through to gain a speck of truth, is astounding. I admire WORLD's pursuit of objective journalism, but I feel this is one of the points where they have failed. I was sorely disappointed when in Marvin Olasky's "Both sides, now" he said "Derek Chauvin... should never have had the opportunity... to kill George Floyd." Chauvin has not yet been tried, and as such is the man accused of killing Floyd, not his murderer. Innocent until proven guilty. Who knows what may come to light in the meantime? Objective journalism is important, and should be preserved especially in this era of falsehood.

  •  West Coast Gramma's picture
    West Coast Gramma
    Posted: Tue, 07/21/2020 07:33 pm

    IH: How can you make the case that Derek Chauvin is innocent until tried and convicted and yet overlook the same fact for George Floyd? According to American law, he was murdered as an innocent man--you just said so yourself.

  • Cyborg3's picture
    Posted: Tue, 07/21/2020 08:48 pm

    He never said Floyd was guilty. 


  • IH
    Posted: Wed, 07/29/2020 06:14 pm

    Correct. Geogre Floyd would also be considered innocent until proven guilty. I am only speaking of the poor journalism in calling Chauvin a killer when he has not been tried.

  •  Uff Da's picture
    Uff Da
    Posted: Tue, 07/21/2020 10:43 am

    I agree that it is a tragedy that we will never know what might have become of George Floyd if he lived a full life.  With God, all things are possible.

    At the same time, we cannot ignore the fact that he was on illegal drugs and was stealing from a convenience store by using a counterfeit bill.  Three crimes.  Some may argue these were three small crimes.

    He was given a merciful second chance in that moment by the store clerk and our omnipotent return the stolen merchandise...and he refused.  He was intent on taking what wasn't his.

    He claimed he was claustrophobic and could not get into a police car, though he was apprehended inside a car by the police.  He resisted arrest.  A fourth crime.

    None of these crimes are a justification for his death.  He did not deserve to die.

    But George Floyd was given multiple opportunities to do the right and lawful thing and he did not. 

    May it be a reminder for us all that when we choose to sin, we choose to suffer.

  • Cyborg3's picture
    Posted: Sat, 07/25/2020 01:22 am

    I keep coming back to this article because it is so unsettling and I now understand what bothers me about it. World claims to report the news from a Christian perspective with honesty and integrity - or this is what we are led to believe. The original article about George Floyd was a whitewashed version painting a very inaccurate picture of the man, where enough evidence was out there that any competent journalist should very easily be able to report this. George, before his conversion, led a violent home invasion dressing up as a city water official and forced his way into the apartment. They pistol whipped the young woman when she screamed for help and George put a gun to her belly trying to get her to reveal the drug money they thought they had.

    At the time of George's arrest he was behaving erratically where he was under the influence of fentanyl and had methamphetamine in his system. He also was passing counterfeit money leading to his arrest. Here is part of the 911 call:

    "From the 911 call: 'Someone [Floyd] comes our store and give us fake bills and we realize it before he left the store, and we ran back outside, they was sitting on their car. We tell them to give us their phone, put their (inaudible) thing back and everything and he was also drunk and everything and return to give us our cigarettes back and so he can, so he can go home but he doesn't want to do that, and he's sitting on his car cause he is awfully drunk and he's not in control of himself.'"

    The problem with World's reporting is that if we cannot trust them to give us an honest article about a man involved in this police incident, then what can we trust them in their reporting. 

    After World is called out on it, Marvin doesn't profusely apologize, but gives us this tripe about if George Floyd had a second chance. This scuttles the real issue if World is a reliable source for news and information. Are they so caught up in not being identified as "racist" that they will slant the news making a black man appear to be this Christian martyr to go along with the leftist MSM narrative that is most agreeable to the masses. But again, we are left to wonder about the integrity and honesty in World's reporting. 

  • CR
    Posted: Fri, 07/24/2020 11:54 pm

    No doubt. See my take below.

  • CR
    Posted: Fri, 07/24/2020 11:37 pm

    This essay is naive at times. I'm glad to learn new complexities about George Floyd. If Mr. Floyd learned to know Christ in his later years, I am happy for that. However the lauding of Floyd's "new beginnings" is too much for me. Floyd moved six states away from his daughter in Houston in order to get a fresh start for himself.
    I personally am acquainted with divorced dads who have done the exact opposite. They have found new work in order to relocate to a different part of the country, for no other reason than to be near children relocated by a former spouse. Now that's "a fresh start" in an impressive sense.
    Mr. Olasky should probably run a balancing column where he advocates for Minneapolis residents left freshly vulnerable by the ongoing campaign to dismantle our police force. Sometimes I feel just as personally abandoned by Christians as I do by my city and state forms of government.
    - From Minneapolis. 

  • GC
    Posted: Mon, 07/27/2020 12:43 pm

    After reading and rereading this excellent article and the various comments that follow, I can't help but be struck by the hypocrisy of those who defend President Trump, knowing that he has never repudiated his past behavior, never asked for forgiveness or even recognized his need for forgiveness, And yet they insist on holding George Floyd to a much stricter standard: don't forget his past transgressions, don't overlook his subsequent slips! They are eager to try to portray Trump as a Christian while essentially denying that possibility to Mr. Floyd.

  • Cyborg3's picture
    Posted: Tue, 07/28/2020 04:11 am

    This has nothing to do with Trump but it has everything to do about honest reporting.  If they cannot get the story right about George Floyd then what exactly can we trust World Magazine to report? I never did say that George Floyd was not a Christian but he was definitely having some issues going on in his life at the time of his death. 

    We voted for Trump because he was the best viable candidate and he was far better than Hillary. What past behavior of Trump do you want him to repudiate? 

  • GK
    Posted: Mon, 07/27/2020 02:49 pm

    I just want to say WOW, what a great column!  Clarity and compassion we could all learn from.  May God grant us all wisdom to exercise both Love and Justice and discernment to know which (or both) is needed most in any given circumstance.  Keep up the excellent reporting and commentary.

  • Lizzy's picture
    Posted: Fri, 08/28/2020 07:44 pm

    This column suffers from the same rush to judgement of so much current reporting.  George Floyd, according to the recently released autopsies, died because he had ingested a lethal overdose of fentanyl that combined with his existing medical conditions killed him.  He may have been a Christian but that doesn't mean he should be given a pass for his behavior.  Nor does whether or not he was redeemed justify propping up a false narrative of an innocent harmless man being wrongly murdered by the police.  That narrative is being used to destroy and terrorize communities and individuals who in many cases are the very people that movement claims to be about helping, perhaps that might be a better place to extend concern.