Justice & Mercy: What Americans can Learn from the Response of Christian Cooper

A sampling from Jesus' famous "Blessed are..." statements and the response of a man rightly deserving justice.

"Justice & Mercy Walk Together" with white background and angular building.

Today’s edition of Scripture Sauce is a feast of Biblical and cultural flavor. Some days I can’t fit the day’s dab of Bible in a neat 400-word box. Oh well…enjoy!

In case you’ve been hiding under a digital and societal rock…

…Christian Cooper, a Black man and bird enthusiast, encountered the racist ire of a woman who—under no actual threat—leveraged a phone call to the police to assert power (you can find more here).

Her scared plea on the phone call (standing twenty feet from Mr. Cooper) is chilling. She repeats how a “scary African American man” is threatening her while Christian Cooper calmly films her racist tantrum.

Now, Christian Cooper ain’t no scary man...

And he definitely did not threaten or accost her. He could not have been more calm, firm, and professional in the situation.

Amy Cooper, has since apologized for her actions. She does not see herself as “racist,” and she is deeply sorry for what she did.

Lesson #1: Truth & Justice Matters

The reality is, what she did was very dangerous. In a recent interview with CNN’s Don Lemon, Christian Cooper admitted Amy’s actions were racist and dangerous.

Amy Cooper is not the first to leverage the police against a Black person. The truth is, this is a longstanding tradition in our country.

During the interview with CNN, Christian Cooper calmly and firmly responded to her apology:

I think her apology is sincere…I'm not sure that in that apology she recognizes that while she may not be or consider herself a racist, that particular act was definitely racist.

Well said, sir.

Here’s something we can learn from Mr. Cooper: It is necessary to see injustice for what it is and to call it out.

If we witness evil, racism, or injustice, our response reveals where our heart is. To remain silent, to gloss over it, or to deflect from it robs justice from the people who need it the most.

To call Amy Cooper’s act racist does not mean all white people are thus. But the silence — or worse, denial — of the injustice against Christian Cooper (and George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery) shouts to the Black community, “Hey, your pain is not my pain! I’m moving on to more comfortable things.”

Let us learn from Christian Cooper to stand for truth, firmly and lovingly. He never glossed over how horrible her actions and words were.

The Bible agrees we should call bad things bad, and good things good…

Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter!
Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,
and shrewd in their own sight!
Woe to those…who acquit the guilty for a bribe,
and deprive the innocent of his right!

Isaiah 5:20-23

Lesson #2: Mercy Moves Forward

Later in the interview, Christian shared this when Don Lemon pressed on Amy’s actions:

Is she a racist? I can't answer that…Only she can answer that. And I would submit probably the only way she's going to answer that is going forward. How she conducts herself and, you know, how she chooses to reflect on this situation and examine it.

Wow. This man had every right to call her out more fully here. He could have slammed her on live television.

Instead, he extended the dignity and mercy she should have offered him in the first place.

Note Mr. Cooper’s merciful moves here…

  1. He doesn’t define Amy Cooper’s life for her.
  2. He offers her the dignity to choose for herself who she will be as a person.
  3. He leaves the responsibility on her to weigh her actions and to learn from them.
  4. He seeks justice in its true form — not as a punitive measure, but as a balm for healing which will promote justice down the road.

To my fellow white folk, we need to learn from Mr. Cooper. Let us not define a Black person’s life for them or, worse, stereotype a whole people.

"A defensive posture is never a listening posture."

Let us offer dignity to each person we encounter and not assume the worst. If we make a mistake, let us own up to it, repair it, and never do it again.

Let us be quick to speak up and defend the Black community and slow to defend ourselves.

A defensive posture is never a listening posture.

Blessed Are…

Do you remember those “woes” from Isaiah? They described people who upend justice and call evil a good thing.

Mr. Cooper, though, embodies a different section of Scripture. Later in the New Testament, Jesus offers some famous blessings…

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:3-10 (NIV)

Please know that Jesus called out injustice and evil as well. This section of Scripture, however, was pronounced over His followers.

Follow Justice & Mercy

The Bible shows truth, justice, and mercy are the harmonious traits of a person who delights in God and His character.

Sadly, we separate and parse them out as if they could negate each other.

But Christian Cooper and the Scriptures show us a better way:

Justice and mercy walk together

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