“The devising of foolishness is sin, and the scoffer is an abomination to humanity. If you show yourself lacking courage on the day of distress, your strength is meager. Rescue those who are being taken away to death, and those who are staggering to the slaughter, oh hold them back!” (Prov 24.9-11; NASB).1
“Vindicate the weak and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and destitute. Rescue the weak and needy; save them from the hand of the wicked” (Psa 82.3-4).
“Because I saved the poor who cried for help, and the orphan who had no helper…I broke the jaws of the wicked and rescued the prey from his teeth” (Job 29.12, 17).
Last Friday (11/19/2021) a verdict was reached in the Kyle Rittenhouse case. The eighteen year old had five felony charges2 against him for his deadly use of force during one of last years spree of Black Lives Matter—Antifa riots in Kenosha, WI. On the night of August 25, 2020 Rittenhouse fatally shot two men (Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber), and seriously injured another man (Gaige Grosskreutz), in what he claimed was self-defense. The jury found the defendant Rittenhouse “Not-Guilty” on all five charges. He was acquitted of all wrong doing.
It didn’t take long for the narratives to start flying in two distinct directions:
- Progressives argue that “self-defense” was not the issue, rather it was a hateful, mean-spirited young man who got away with murder. Racial injustice won again. Whiteness was triumphant.
- Conservatives on the other hand have claimed that this case is an exemplary model of the 2nd Amendment. They tout Rittenhouse as a hero. A “poster-boy” for self-defense.3
Originally, I had written an entirely different piece that I had wanted to post last Saturday morning (11/20/2020). Like many intentions, however, that one fell through. And so, I have sought to narrow down my original thoughts to get at some of the underlying assumptions surrounding this case.
Contextual considerations first…
If we are going to analyze a situation, along with the questions that arise from it, the first thing that we ought to do is consider the background material that surrounds it. That’s the responsible thing to do. Brashness may make headlines. It may bring you notoriety. But, rushing in to assess a situation before all the information is carefully weighed…in the end just highlights foolishness.
“The first to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him” (Prov 18.17).
Much better is the individual who seeks knowledge through discernment (Prov 18.15) than the person who is quick to state their own opinion, turning a deaf ear and a blind eye to all others (Prov 18.2).
What was happening during the summer of 2020? Besides all the COVID hoopla. Race riots. Or, so-called race riots. What various progressive news organizations called “mostly peaceful protests.” As this picture from CNN illustrates:4
The protests that were occurring in Kenosha, WI before the Rittenhouse incident were in reaction to the shooting of Jacob Blake, a young black man on August 23, 2020. Blake was shot by police officer Rusten Sheskey in the back four times leaving him paralyzed. This was in response to a call about an individual attempting to steal a car. Blake, who is seen moments earlier resisting arrest, hurriedly walks around the vehicle armed with a knife, which he claims he was attempting to put in the car.5
Everything over the past year and a half has said to be in relation to racism. After the death of George Floyd many cities witnessed violent rioting, theft, malicious attacks on citizens and officers alike, with the burning of personal property. This is the contextual background for that fatal night of August 25, 2020 when Rittenhouse, along with others of the same mindset, sought to protect their community from the criminal activities raining down on Kenosha.
I’ve heard the arguments offered. I’ve listened to the voices of those that say, “He shouldn’t have been there;” “He shouldn’t have had a gun;” “He should have let the authorities handle it.” On the surface such claims sound intelligent. Why carry a gun in public? Why head to an area where you know trouble is likely to happen; likely to suck you in? Why do something that will, by all intents and purposes, make you seem like a vigilante?
Herein lies the problem with the current narrative surrounding the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict. Both groups are arguing against a behavior that has been put on display in the civil sphere. The progressives are arguing for justice, for fairness, for the propagation of what is right over and against what is wrong. They see little problem with the demonstrations that we have on record in various cities and towns where truly peaceful protests have been forgotten. The right of the 1st Amendment of the Constitution of the United States affords all parties infringed upon to assemble and to address their grievances to the powers that be. Those elected officials have been granted ruling authority, by the people, to do what is right, what is honorable, what is good, while at the same time bearing the sword of vengeance against those who refuse to abide by those things.
In a similar vein, the same argument could be laid at the feet of those whose profession is conservatism. Armed vigilante justice is not justice, but a taking of the law into one’s own hands. A pretense being perpetrated that individual perception, individual authority, individual might and power rule the day. This too is wrong on its face.
The problem with the riots is that politicians do little but talk to their base about the rightness or wrongness of them. They do not actually involve themselves in the “thick and thin” of the matter, so to speak. They give talking points when it benefits their bottom line, but offer little substantive aid to those being wronged.
This was also the problem facing Kenosha, WI on the night that Kyle Rittenhouse was present, the night when his life was threatened and two men’s lives were taken in the wake, with a third being severely injured. Rittenhouse and others acted as militia in order to protect the lives/property of those in Kenosha that they knew. This wouldn’t have been necessary if the police had been willing to do their job, if the local officials would have had their backs, and if state and federal officials had been more than mere parrots repeating platitudes to their constituents.
But, they failed. They allowed one group to exercise a form of vigilante justice (as they perceived it) against what those they assumed were guilty—I’m speaking of the Black Lives Matter/Antifa movement. Feeling slighted. Convinced that they are defending those who have been treated unfairly, they demonstrated on the streets. What started out as “mostly peaceful” during the day, had by night time, become anything but.
Comparing to educate…
Why did it get this way? There were (are) several factors, but one glaring reason was due to cowardice.6 The cowardice on the part of those who were in positions of leadership, those who are called to serve their communities, led to Rittenhouse and his group trying to fill in the gap against the one’s attacking the quote-on-quote “system.”
Passages like Ecclesiastes 8:11 warns of the outcome. At least in terms of criminal activity. (Now if I have to convince you that robbery, arson, and assault are in fact crimes, then I am afraid that there is little we shall agree upon).
“Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of mankind among them are fully given to do evil.”
Some may want to disagree, but I find it interesting that when we take a compare and contrast approach there is a markedly different atmosphere, discernibly so, between what took place last year during the summer of BLM and the winter of January 6 in Washington, D.C.
Two representative perspectives…
The progressives represented by BLM and a contingent of people who felt disturbed with what they had been witnessing (Jacob Blake in Kenosha, but George Floyd as the catalyst) sought to demonstrate their position, to make their grievances known, in the community in which they lived. Even if it may be established that initially these assemblies were peaceful, things radically changed by nights end. A pattern which continued for days.
The conservatives7 represented by Rittenhouse and his band of merry individuals also felt disturbed with what they had been witnessing in Kenosha (after Blake) and no doubt in other parts of the country (after Floyd). And so, they sought to demonstrate their position, to make their grievances known, in the community in which they lived.
Like minded individuals like Rittenhouse did not attack individuals of another color, they did not attack police officers, and they showed respect for their neighbors property/livelihood by standing as a bastion of protection. There is a marked difference in approaches between the two groups, if you are willing to see it. One movement was characterized by aggression, the other took a more defensive posture. Like it or not one group was a provocateur the other was not.
Like it or not, this was what the jury in the Rittenhouse case discerned as well. The evidence in the case, when interpreted correctly, showed that the young man carried himself commendably when the situation called for it. He did not go to Kenosha on the night of August 25, 2020 to incite violence, but to offer protection to those in need if violence came knocking.
As a father with sons about Kyle Rittenhouse’s age this case hit too close to home. In a perfect world fathers would not send their sons out to such battles. I cannot say that if my son were in that same situation I would not have tried to temper him from going where harm was present. It is a sad state of affairs when children are braver than the men who are called to lead. Had the cops and those over them been more concerned about loving their neighbors, by protecting them from harm, instead of being perceived as racists that night in Kenosha, young men like Kyle would not have felt the need to stand in the gap.
That night was NOT about race. I know that’s not what politicians want you to think. I know that’s not what the media wants you to think. And, I know that it’s not what groups like BLM/Antifa want you to think. But the facts are the facts. Kyle did not go to Kenosha armed with a gun and a medic pack to harm blacks. He went there to protect people and businesses (that have nothing to do with injustices committed in our legal system) from harm. He acted the part of the defender when others would not. Period.
There are many layers to this onion that need unraveling, but this should suffice for now.
**Image provided by MSNBC with the caption “If Kyle Rittenhouse was Muslim.” https://media-cldnry.s-nbcnews.com/image/upload/t_fit-760w,f_auto,q_auto:best/newscms/2020_48/3430453/201123-ms-kyle-rittenhouse-main-2×1-an.jpg.
1All Scripture unless otherwise noted shall be of the New American Standard Bible, 2020 update (NASB).
2CNN, “These are the 5 charges the jury in Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial considered,” November 19, 2021, 7 Boston News, https://whdh.com/news/these-are-the-5-charges-the-jury-in-kyle-rittenhouses-trial-considered/.
3Charles Creitz, “Trump praises Rittenhouse acquittal, calls the case ‘Prosecutorial Misconduct,’” The Ingraham Angle—Fox News, November 20, 2021, accessed 11/20/2021, https://www.foxnews.com/media/trump-rittenhouse-acquittal-prosecutorial-misconduct.
4Paul Joseph Watson, “CNN Describes ‘Mostly Peaceful’ Riots as Kenosha Burns,” InfoWars, August 27, 2020, Published by Auto on 28 August 2020, https://unshackledminds.com/cnn-describes-mostly-peaceful-riots-as-kenosha-burns/.
5Brittany De Lea, “Jacob Blake admits he had a knife when he was shot by police,” Fox News, January 14, 2021, https://www.foxnews.com/us/jacob-blake-knife-shot-police.
6There are other reasons driving the current “chaos” in our society. Civil unrest benefits those who want to tear our society apart, to rip it from the last remnants of its former foundation (the Christian faith) and rebuild from the ashes and dust that remain into a perceived utopia that is Marxism of which a large number of secular humanists enjoy.
7I use the term “conservative” rather loosely here. To be honest I do not know what Rittenhouse’s political affiliations are, if any. Before this year (2021) he wasn’t even old enough to vote. The picture of him carrying a gun squashes the notion that he isn’t a representative of the conservative position for others. Personally, I prefer to use a different designation for the “conservative movement” does not accurately represent my Christian values on all points. Though in normal conversation I would admit to being conservative in light of the Christian character of our original institutions in this nation.