Protests against gunmen on the city payroll have prompted eight demands for reform in Chattanooga, some of which heed demands of the Word of God to improve human society.
For eight days protesters have marched without violence in sympathy for African-Americans, the poor, immigrants and others who bear most harshly the operation of police, with a cop-caused asphyxiation death in Minneapolis sparking global indignation.
The protesters have turned against an essential power of their idol, that being the total welfare-warfare-surveillance-messianic state with its many benefits. Police are the visible control of executive government, arbitrary and summary, serving the state in which the protesters generally hope and trust, and to which submit their well-being, and that of their estates and children. Even laying aside their profanity, we might fairly say they in large part don’t claim to be practicing Christians.
For all their atheism, however, they voice demands that parallel the demands of God in the scripture.
The eight demands are:
➤ Defund, disestablish and abolish police
➤ Abolish cash bail
➤ Free people convicted of victimless crimes
➤ Reform probation / parole
➤ De-privatize prisons
➤ Decriminalize agricultural products such as weed, end drug war
➤ Delete the police license to kill
➤ “Divest police, invest in community”
Cash bail is already buckling as a legal custom, having been largely abolished for minor offenses in Philadelphia in 2018 by district attorney Larry Krasner and sharply restrained by new law in California. Studies indicate cash bail has little connection to whether people show up for their hearings and trial dates.
The evils of cash bail
Cash bail is an oppression of the poor. Two-thirds of the people in Hamilton County jail are not convicted, in the cage because they are too poor to make bail. A bail bond sets at liberty “a person arrested or imprisoned, on security being taken for his appearance on a day and a place certain, which security is called ‘bail,’ because the party arrested or imprisoned is delivered into the hands of those who bind themselves for his forthcoming, (that is, become bail for his due appearance when required,) in order that he may be safely protected from prison,” Blacks’s Law Dictionary, 4th ed., says.
Details how bail bond amounts are determined are at Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-11-150. Determination of risk to victim prior to release — Conditional release — Discharge of conditions — Notification to law enforcement.
The scriptures repeatedly insist that the poor not be robbed or oppressed.
‘You shall not cheat your neighbor, nor rob him. The wages of him who is hired shall not remain with you all night until morning.
You shall not curse the deaf, nor put a stumbling block before the blind, but shall fear your God: I am the Lord. Lev. 19:13, 14 [Emphasis added]
A poor person is one who gets his cloak back overnight for comfort, having let it go as collateral for a poor loan.
The lender shall not keep his pledge as temperatures drop and the sun vanishes from the sky.
You shall in any case return the pledge to him again when the sun goes down, that he may sleep in his own garment and bless you; and it shall be righteousness to you before the Lord your God.
“You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether one of your brethren or one of the aliens who is in your land within your gates.
Each day you shall give him his wages, and not let the sun go down on it, for he is poor and has set his heart on it; lest he cry out against you to the Lord, and it be sin to you. (Deut 24:12-15) [Emphasis added]
The warnings against mighty and rich ones are clear from the prophet Jeremiah, chapter 22, who condemns those who build great houses (painted with vermilion) but who take innocent blood and “[practice] violence.”
“Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness And his chambers by injustice, Who uses his neighbor’s service without wages And gives him nothing for his work,
Who says, ‘I will build myself a wide house with spacious chambers, And cut out windows for it, Paneling it with cedar And painting it with vermilion.’
‘Shall you reign because you enclose yourself in cedar? Did not your father eat and drink, And do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him.
He judged the cause of the poor and needy; Then it was well. Was not this knowing Me?” says the Lord.
“Yet your eyes and your heart are for nothing but your covetousness, For shedding innocent blood, And practicing oppression and violence.” Jer. 22:13-17 [Emphasis added]
Warning to Roman soldiers
John warns the Roman soldiers not to oppress the people during the occupation.
Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, And what shall we do?” So he said to them, “Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages.” Luke 3:14 [Emphasis added]
In Chattanooga and across the U.S., police violate this command. They commit perjury, plant false evidence, withhold and lose evidence, falsely arrest people, arrest people in violation of TCA 40-7-103, grounds for arrest by officer without warrant. These offenses are a pandemic (see the evils done by officer David Campbell against Hanson Melvin as an example). Policing is full of intimidation, and wreaks evil upon the poor, who have no reserves of time or money and are weak in means and knowledge, and are dragged into the courts.
Defrauding the poor is in a list of evils that includes adultery and sorcery.
And I will come near you for judgment; I will be a swift witness Against sorcerers, Against adulterers, Against perjurers, Against those who exploit wage earners and widows and orphans, And against those who turn away an alien — Because they do not fear Me,” Says the Lord of hosts. Malachai 3:5 [Emphasis added]
The evil of locking poor people in the Hamilton County jail is implied in the prohibition of a lesser sin — that of holding back payment due the working poor at the end of the day. James in chapter 5 sketches out how the rich prosper wickedly in maintaining their stations.
Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you!
Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten.
Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days.
Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.
You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter.
You have condemned, you have murdered the just; he does not resist you. James 5;1-6 [Emphasis added]
God forbids extortion, whether by private individuals or magistrates. God’s law prohibits oppression flat out. The cash bail bond system isn’t spared God’s condemnation just because it is impersonal, occurs at the jailhouse and is imposed with guidance of statute.
It’s legal, but is it right?
The bail bond racket turns might into right. Its conduct gives no moral affright to its partisans because of its technical legitimacy in a statutory system. In the Hebrew republic of the Old Testatment, no separate code existed because everyone knew the law of God and the lowest person in society knew his duties and his rights under it.
Coming here into view is the difference between biblical law and statutory and administrative systems devised by the brightest humanists and statists. When justice is codified into detailed volumes, claims of being wronged have to fit into the code, and one loses sight of equity and justice. Wrongs not codified escape prosecution, and claims of known duties codified in print can be avoided by skilled use of text and verbal constructs, with aid of attorney and court.
In God’s word, not paying a poor worker at the end of the day is an offense and a crime. The provisions of the Word of God do not allow denying his pay. They don’t allow the worse wrong of putting a working man in a cage until he buys his way out by paying the magistrate his bail or the bondsman his fee.
Why is church silent?
American Christianity has largely declined to bring up the arguments of God’s claims upon larger society. And here are the protesters, pagan and lost — and proud of it — nonchurched people making arguments that Christians might have made in express love of God to glorify and elevate Him before the world.
Where particular grace of God has been ignored by His chosen people, and they have remained silent, these souls outside the church are speaking on the front steps of the courthouse and at city hall, demanding an end to oppression that it is an especial duty for Christians to condemn.
For even from stones God can bring glory to His name.