It was the summer of 1965. I had just graduated from high school. I was almost 18 years old wondering if the world was ready for me.
The evening of August 11th, some friends and I were playing tennis at Brookside Park in Pasadena. We played way past sundown. When we got home, our parents were not pleased with us. They said that they were worried about our safety. We asked why they were so upset (we didn’t have cell phones or the internet back then so news traveled slowly). They said there were riots in the streets of Los Angeles and they heard that it was spreading to places like the serene City of Roses.
The Watts Summer Riots had begun.
I wondered, “Am I ready for the world?”.
There was widespread rioting, looting, assaults, murders, arson, protests, firefights and millions of dollars in property damage. There were 34 deaths, 1,032 recorded injuries and 3,438 arrests.
How did it begin? There was an altercation between a black motorist and Los Angeles’ finest called “to protect and serve” (the Los Angeles Police Department’s motto). Sound familiar?
It was the first and the worst riot experienced by the City of Angels in my lifetime until 1992, when a black man named Rodney King was mercilessly beaten by those called to protect and serve. What happened thereafter? Déjà vu happened.
Allow me to editorialize for a moment. I believe that the vast majority of police officers in our nation are fine upstanding men and women who sincerely desire to protect and serve. I have known numerous law enforcement officers, some of whom are dear friends and church members, and I would trust all of them with my life and safety.
But, as in every profession and walk in life, there are those who misrepresent the values and virtues of their profession. It even happens in ministry.
Due to the events of the past few months (or is it several?), there is once again, civil unrest. It may not be to the same degree as 1965 or 1992 in Los Angeles, but the same general feeling and attitudes pervade the atmosphere.
Considering all the rhetoric spewing from the mouths of hurt and confused citizens, the need for equality, fairness and reconciliation seems clear, but the method of getting there is unclear. After all, we have over five decades to rise out of the ashes of the summer of ’65.
As for me, the answer is as crystal clear as that summer, smog-free night when I was playing tennis. Our nation needs to turn to the Lord and repent.
God spoke to the people of Israel and said just that to them. He said, “…if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14
What causes riots and civil unrest? What causes some law enforcement officers to abuse their authority and power? What causes politicians to clamp down on the righteous and champion the unrighteous?
It is wickedness. We are all sinners in need of a savior to deliver us from our sinful desires and ways.
We need the gospel. We need to embrace God’s only begotten Son who went to the cross of Calvary to die for our sins. We need to confess Him as Lord and Savior and call upon Him to deal with wickedness and heal our land.
There are many who have lived a long time who may be feeling that not much has really changed over the years. They may be right, but not in the way they may be thinking.
Nothing has changed. People have not repented. Sin still abounds. Our political leadership is leading us away from the Lord, not to Him. And so, life may be destined to repeat itself and so we experience the summer of ’65 once again.
One final thought… our nation has been lacking the leadership (starting with the top) to return our nation to the very things that has made it great. We need to return to our Christian heritage instead of trying to deconstruct it. Please think about this when you vote for all political offices and ballot measures in November.
And may God have mercy on our nation.
Something to think and pray about…