I write in response to Clint Decker’s ironic “Hope For Today” sermon in the Clay Center Dispatch, June 19, 2020. I agree with him on several things: riots are bad, and there is a battle between good and evil going on in this country. What’s good and what’s evil is where we differ.

After quoting a Bible verse about “deception,” he writes, “This makes me think about the deception that is going on in our country over racial tensions, causing entire cities, businesses, and even churches to fall on their knees in surrender. For this is not a political, racial or justice issue; this is a battle between good and evil, and we must look to the Lord God to be our help and save our nation.”

Reading his sermon, it’s clear his main theme is that there is widespread deception going on and here is how he begins his case, “As I followed the news and watched the George Floyd protest turn to riots in city after city, I was seeing the same story lines, the same narrative across media outlets, including Christian ones. I thought to myself, ‘Do all African Americans agree with what they are saying?’” Clint answers that he did find some “articulate African American public figures that stated their case with indisputable facts and great persuasion.

They build cases around the story lines that America has a racism problem, that white police officers killing an unarmed black man is the greatest threat to their community, that white privilege is real, and that institutional and systemic racism exist.”

He found other African Americans of all ages who denounced the destruction of the riots and said, “’You did this! Not the police, but you!’ and they were looking through their tears at fellow African Americans.” He continues, “After I had listened enough, I shouted aloud to myself, ‘Where are their voices?’ I was absolutely incensed that only one side of the black community seems to be heard in national conversations on race.”

He finished up with a statement, in effect, minimizing the messages expressed by Black Lives Matter activists Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and “leading professional black athletes, musicians, actors, and politicians.” They do “... not speak, nor stand for the values of the entire black community.”  

I want to address several points about Clint’s message. The first concerns his first comment, “As I followed the news ...” Clint’s description went from George Floyd to protests to riots. When I think about what I saw in the news, I first think of the video of a white policemen; Derek Chauvin, with his knee on an unarmed black man George Floyd’s neck, pressing it into the pavement, with other policemen holding him down. I could hear him cry, “I can’t breathe” and cry out to his mother when he died, 8 minutes and 46 seconds later. I felt disgusted that police had once again grossly abused the power of their badges against an unarmed black man.

But I felt some shred of hope when I heard this tragedy described as what it was, murder. I personally admire good and even decent police for their work. The widespread protests were and are a call for justice; naming the crime for what it was is a hopeful beginning. Innocently or intentionally, Clint’s omission of any of that story seemed important to me. We wouldn’t be having this conversation if not for the blatant and glaring corruption of this act, and how it epitomized what so many have been trying to express about racism in our society for generations.

My second point concerns Clint’s reaction after watching the news coverage of the “protests turned to riots in city after city.” I think it’s pretty obvious that what Clint was watching “across most media outlets” were pictures, stories and narratives that he did not agree with.

So Clint’s reaction is twofold: First he seeks and finds some African Americans who do not agree with the widespread and popular narrative, and second, to renew his central theme that most of us are being deceived by the aforementioned groups and individuals, about just how serious are America’s problems with racism, violent, racist police, white privilege, etc. So why is this widespread deception being perpetrated? I’ve read his sermon many times, I would guess that this is “a battle between good and evil” as he referred to earlier.

Unfortunately, it follows that Clint sees evil in those entities and individuals who believe racism is a serious, systemic American problem, as the ones who are deceived; and good in himself and his unnamed and unnumbered group who disagree.

My closing thoughts are that the George Floyd murder by four police officers captured on video has triggered an avalanche of disgust about the entrenched racism in America. This must become a time to try to come together as a country to address racism in all the ways it exists.

When Clint preaches that the outrage, the protests and the demand that we confront racism is a deception, he simply provides justification for leaving things the way the are: racism preserved and white privilege protected.

-- Dave Verschleden, Clay Center