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I was in a meeting with some people I very much respect when they began to criticize the police and the justice system because of the deaths of Michael Brown and Freddie Gray. I was shocked at their complete condemnation of the police and the courts and even the American people in general. They ignored eye witness testimony and the facts. They were disdainful of any opinion or media outlet that did not support what they wanted to believe. They believed that racism controlled the police reaction and in no way held the men who died accountable for their behavior.

Where was their outrage at the mobs who looted and burned stores and businesses? Why didn’t their compassion extend to the business owners who lost everything they had? Where was their outrage at the injuries and deaths of the police who were just doing their job? How does rioting advance their cause? How can it possibly change the minds of those who oppose or respect them? When is it ever justified to pick and choose a social cause here or a political agenda there and exclusively pursue it at the cost of the rights and freedoms of those who disagree with you?

The deaths of those young, black men are tragic. I stand with those who believe that black lives matter. So do the lives of Asians and Latinos and Caucasians. I’m impressed by those who go into the streets of Baltimore or Ferguson or New York and clean up the mess left behind by those who use unrest as an excuse to steal and destroy or increase their power base. I’m inspired by those who seek justice, even when their personal agenda is threatened. When we pick and choose which lives matter more, we are racists, no matter the color of the skin of those we support. I might be more inclined to respect the opinion of those who fight for equal rights for all if they actually meant it; they seem to only mean equal rights for their chosen group.

Arguing with people seldom changes their mind. But if we choose to live in a way that proves to them they are wrong about us, there is hope. How many understand the danger the police see every day and treat them respectfully? How many police have suffered from the abuse of those they deal with, and choose to treat them fairly anyway? If we believe that life matters, they we need to protect all those who are threatened in every way we can. If we believe that people should be held accountable for their behavior, then we need to enforce our laws to protect the innocent and punish the guilty, irrespective of race or class or gender.

Selective outrage has nothing to do with moral superiority; it isn’t about our deep belief in what we believe is right. I wish the civil rights leaders were as troubled about the murder rate among young black men in the black community as they are in villainizing the police. Where is their outrage over the gang murders in Chicago? Where is their outrage over the drug abuse that robs so many of potential and freedom?

Too many of us are defined by what we oppose, rather than what we believe in. Choosing one portion of the big picture and pretending that it is the only part that matters is only about proving ourselves right and destroying those who disagree with us…that is hypocrisy. Jesus said Christians should be defined by their love…even for people we disagree with.

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