By David Hegg
Yes, I watched the video. Isn’t that the question everyone has been asking? Yes, I watched as more than a handful of uniformed law enforcement officers brutally assaulted Tyre Nichols. And yes, I’ve read many of the news reports and opinion columns that have rightly kept this tragic event in the face of our society.
I’ve also read, listened to, and even been involved in offering opinions on why it happened and what should have been done to prevent it and what must be done for justice to be achieved.
Most of those offering commentary on how to prevent this kind of brutality suggest better police training, stiffer hiring requirements, better pay, better this and better that. But it’s too late to shut the barn door. The horses have already escaped.
As I watched the video it wasn’t hard to figure out the real problem wasn’t a lack of training, money, or hiring requirements. While all those do factor in, the core problem was a devastating lack of personal, moral character evidenced by a singular disdain for human life. What I watched was the ongoing disastrous consequence of our culture’s dehumanizing of one another. Brotherly love is systematically being erased from our society, and approved hatred is taking its place.
Where tolerance used to mean a measure of civility toward those with whom you disagree, it now means “agree with my view, and applaud my approach or be outed as a hater!” And we’ve even gone further than name-calling. Our societal devolution now permits and approves blatant hatred of those branded as haters. And while the softest targets currently are religion and “whiteness,” what we saw in the Tyre Nichols beatdown was the fullest expression of where our current approval of hatred as a society has taken us.
When I watched the Nichols video, what stood out most was not that uniformed police officers were continuing to savage a handcuffed citizen, although that was horrible to watch. What pierced my heart was the way a group of men felt no shame in beating a fellow human being. There was not a scintilla of human compassion, no hint of sympathy toward a man, a son, a brother created in the image of God and worthy of a measure of honor as a fellow human being.
What I saw was a devastating example of what it looks like when human beings are no longer tethered by character and conviction to the foundational elements of what it means to be a good person, a soul equipped with integrity, self-control and love.
The Nichols video may well prove to be that tipping point when we, as a society of freedom-loving Americans, re-commit ourselves to the truth that character matters. Morality matters. Values matter. Laws matter. Justice matters. And self-control always matters. Raising children with a deep sense of right and wrong matters. Discipline matters. Hard work matters. Integrity matters.
But most of all, truth matters. And the truth that matters most in this situation is that somewhere along the line of human development, those law enforcement officers stopped seeing fellow human beings as worthy of honor. Somehow, hurting another human being became both acceptable and preferable, and the erosion of moral character that allowed such deplorable behavior is the real problem.
You don’t have to be the sharpest knife in the drawer to evaluate the deep decline in public and private character happening all around us. Gun violence occurs, not because guns exist, but because those with degenerative moral character see evil as an acceptable option. Crime is increasing for the same reason. Corporate fraud and political malfeasance are no longer surprising to us simply because we have become so used to the hypocrisy that has replaced integrity in our country.
And the result is devastating. As a nation, we’re watching the elites tell us everything is great, that pushing aside historical values, religion, parental oversight, true transparency, and any number of things Americans have taken for granted for centuries, is really making our lives better.
Well, how is that working out? How is the push to push equity, equality and diversity down our throats while decimating the importance of our history making our world better, more loving, compassionate and human? In a word, it’s not.
I have long argued, not for top-down change, but for change that begins in you and in me, in our families and our neighborhoods, and our city. Character matters, and it begins in the home. Let’s pray it’s not too late to be people of moral fortitude, compassionate courage, and good ol’ brotherly love.
After all, it’s easier to build a boy than fix a man.
Local resident David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church. “Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays.