Thursday, June 4, 2020

Protest and Anarchy in Black and Blue

Everyone knows that food left out in the right conditions will draw roaches — pests that carry disease, destruction and death.  In the last weeks, we’ve watched once-peaceful, constitutionally protected marches draw parasitical ideologies that commandeered the demonstrations for their warped intentions and destructive aims. 

Moving beyond whether we agree with the reasons for a person’s peaceful protest, the destructive elements who’ve attached themselves to these current demonstrations should cause all living in a democracy to ask: in what other ways can we express our convictions when the infestation begins?  In what ways can one safeguard against an infestation altogether?

If you’ve ever dealt with a parasite in your home, you know they have numerous ways of infiltrating, and then adapting to just about everything you throw at them.  Homeowners and apartment dwellers alike know this to be true...parasites have to be admired for their smarts and constant adaptability, if for nothing else.  They adapt to all your tactics in order to gain or maintain their advantage.

Protest is one of the oldest and favored tools of social change.  However, in this pause in the protest we must reconsider the cost and effectiveness of the protest.  Some will now hail protest as a continued success — or at least as making progress — considering the charges filed for all four police involved in the George Floyd incident.  However, it would be extremely unwise and dangerous to move on to the next cultural moment without first assessing the high cost of the infiltration of destructive forces who care nothing for the cause, or for its outcome.

If organizers of every stripe don’t stop to count this cost and consider how to mitigate the abuse of innocents caught up in unintended destruction, they will yet again leave opportunistic ‘food’ lying around for another ideological infestation.  And indeed, the people under the influence of this parasitic anarchist ideology seem to have altogether disappeared, their exploitative destruction done, our institutions devastated, and their point made.  They have left the rest of us to pick up shards of broken glass, trust, bodies, and lives by morning light.

The time for analysis is overdue — anarchists have appeared at peaceful protests over the last few years, but we underestimated the scope of destruction they wished to inflict. This time, dark forces rode in unawares, mingling with each peaceful tribe that assembled on the streets.  Some nefarious insurgents tactically organized and prepared in tribes of their own, yet no one saw these anarchists coming. 

Now that we know we have a deeply destructive and (it seems) tactically organized ideology of chaos unleashed in our midst, what can we do on the ground about this “roach?”

The Larger Problem

In the last few years we have had a laser-like focus on racism, and rightfully so, since it is a cancer in our society.  It’s a manifestation of human depravity, which is in itself the fatal disease of all mankind.  We have even begun to finally ask hard questions about classism, a more modern and more inclusive manifestation of the same fatal disease. 

Now, we have seen a devastating evil appear that makes racism, as evil as it is, look harmless by comparison.  That evil is anarchy.  Don’t misunderstand: I reject the evils of racism, classism, and any form of dehumanization in all its iterations — they are all antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ in which I believe, and are taught as an offense to God throughout the Scripture I hold dear.  But after seeing the surprisingly powerful and manipulative destruction that anarchy has left behind, I believe that before anybody executes another massive march for social change — whether it’s the March for Life or a demonstration for religious freedom or liberty, or what have you, choose your cause — we must examine how anarchy is lying in wait to feed on our constitutional rights, and on our naiveté about our own vulnerability.

Anarchy is the “absence or denial of any authority or established order.”  More formally, according to Merriam Webster, it is “a state of lawlessness or political disorder due to the absence of governmental authority.”

I’m sure some anarchists have a utopian dream of a society of individuals who enjoy complete freedom without government.  But they, along with many others who care about justice and equality, are being used as cannon fodder by those who are bent on the destruction of all social order — a nihilistic situation where brute force wielded by flawed humanity rules, unrestrained and unchecked.  The most brutal social situation is one where “might makes right.” That’s the inevitable outcome of anarchy.  On the contrary, we should always strive toward a society where “right makes might.” We may disagree on what that “right” is. We may debate or even fight about it.  Even if we do agree about rightness and wrongness, we will probably fall short of its full implementation.  Even so, this flawed social order would be far more tolerable than the anarchist alternative.

Muddy Waters

In an earlier blog I emphasized the importance of moral clarity for an effective protest.  The case of George Floyd dripped with moral clarity — so much so that 78% of the country agreed that Derek Chauvin, who kneeled of Mr. Floyd’s neck till he died, should have been arrested immediately.  However, such a national consensus and borderline unity was intolerable for the anarchists.  It was necessary for them to muddy the moral waters to accomplish their objectives.  And so they began to divide us.

Appealing to “the cause,” in this case the memory of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, had no effect on the anarchists because they don’t give a damn.  They don’t give a damn about justice or equality either.  They just want to destroy governmental authority and the existing social order, and they don’t care who gets hurt in the process. 

There is no love for humanity in the anarchist ideology; it is a nihilist’s dream, manipulating the inclinations of non-anarchic nihilists like looters, and exploiting the rest of humanity merely as objects to be used, tossed aside, or crushed if they stand in the way.

The anarchists understand flawed human nature well enough to know that all they have to do is break a few storefront windows and toss a few incendiary devices while passions about “the cause” are running high.  They know that things will snowball from that point as criminals, who similarly don’t care about “the cause,” will take it from there — looting and burning — followed by the opportunists (Black, White and other) for whom access to instant merchandise will override “the cause.”  From there they hope things will go viral.

Anarchists understand human depravity, even as they practice it.

The anarchists know they can get away ‘scott-free’ because the news media and others will lump all this under the heading of “the demonstrators.”  Isn’t it incredible how many under the influence of the anarchist ideology were seen doing their destructive work, yet how few were actually caught?  They also count on well-meaning but naive protest leaders and sympathizers who will attribute all this merely to the “anger and pent up frustration of the community.”  Yes, there is anger and frustration, but who initiated the destruction?

The anarchists, who exist on both the far-left and far-right, have absolutely no vested interest in the affected community.  It doesn’t matter to them that the destruction they cause wipes out decades of economic progress.  They don’t care if the targeted communities may take a generation to recover or may never recover at all. 

Missing Data

It is time to rethink what is the greatest threat. According to the Washington Post, police shootings killed twice as many Whites than African Americans.  On the other hand, when we see this in terms of police shooting deaths per million, African Americans are three times more likely to be shot to death by police.  And of course, the missing data in this last statistic is the race of the cop doing the shooting.

I would agree that without the racism factor, the number of police shootings of African Americans would be fewer, but this does not mean that racism is the only factor, or even the major factor.  For example, in 2015 many attributed the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, MD to racism.  However, three of the six police involved in his death were African American.  I suppose that one could argue that an African American can be racist toward African Americans. On the face of it, this is absurd at best. Even if this was true for one Black cop, it is ludicrous to think it could have been true for all three.  While I do not deny racism as a factor in this incident, I have difficulty seeing racism as the only factor. An unhealthy culture of police silence matters as well, and that often overrides race. Seeing the hostility between Freddie Gray and the police officers involved through the lens of a clash of cultures better explains this incident.

To be sure, racism is alive and well in our society and it must be addressed.  But something else has gone wrong — something more complex than mere racism, more complex than problematic police cultures.  A major contributing factor to the current urban conflagrations has been a clash of cultures — a clash between what I call “achievers,” “non-achievers” and “anti-achievers.”  What marks the difference between these is the value system they live by, not necessarily their characters.  We must remember that we all have serious character flaws.

“Achievers” live by values that generally lead to success in this social/cultural system — not always economic success by American standards, but a sense of flourishing and stability, at least.  “Non-achievers” live by values that generally do not lead to success in this social/cultural system.  And “anti-achievers” live by nihilistic values, which in many cases end in desperation and criminal behavior.  Of course, very few if any of us fit these profiles perfectly, and it is not a matter of income — we have seen in the last decade well-heeled Hollywood and Wall Street nihilists!  Because we are flawed, everyone has all three of these characteristics in some form.  What marks the difference between us is the preponderance of these tendencies, and that these divisions run through all people groups in the so-called ‘developed world’ — White, Black, Latino, Asian, etc.

Capacious and Toxic

For the last 50 years, there has been a civil cold war simmering between these groups within the African American community.  Many “achievers,” across socio-economic lines, have seen dramatic improvements in quality of life because of the gains in civil rights.  They tend to have a stronger sense of responsibility for their actions and for their communities.  However, many non- and anti- achievers have not.  This has led to disdain, resentment and alienation between these groups.  The achievers tend to retain a sense of “the cause of Black advancement.”  After all they have been the main beneficiaries.  Not so with the non- and anti- achievers.

At times this cold war flares up into open conflict.  Such was the case between looters of all stripes and business owners — Black, White and Asian — in the evenings following the recent peaceful protests.  Once the anarchists set the bait for destruction, from an anti-achiever perspective it made no difference if the business being looted and destroyed was Black owned or not.  So it was also with other opportunists who followed suit.  Like the anarchists, they carried out this destruction under the cover of hijacked protest marches.

“The cause?....”  “What cause?”

Nightfall saw countless buildings tagged with “F-” this and “F-” that.  The malevolent actions of the anarchists screamed:

            “F- Black lives!”

            “F- Blue lives!”

Their overall message was crystal clear … “F- everybody!!! 

This puts all of us in the same boat: African Americans (including achievers, non-achievers, anti-achievers) and honest police.  Together, we share space on the bull’s eye of the destructive aims of the anarchists.  Yes, we have serious issues between us that must be addressed, but now we face a capacious and toxic common enemy.  From an African American perspective, among other things, anarchy is backhanded racism disguised as anti-racism — the most virulent expression of racism today.  

In other words, we’ve all been played.

The anarchists mounted an all-out tactical assault from within the ranks of peaceful protestors; activists must wake up to this infiltration, and be aware of inadvertently embracing, or completely ignoring this anarchistic infestation.

White Hot

I am not naive about the serious issue of rogue cops.  I have personally experienced police brutality, from White cops.  Yet I affirm that the vast majority of police are dedicated to “protect and serve.”  I have also seen police brutality against young African American men perpetrated by White and Black Cops alike.  But that does not necessarily mean that there is a general police conspiracy to kill African American men merely because they are African American men.  All groups of professionals have rogue elements.  While this is no excuse for bad behavior, it points out the reality of our shared flawed human nature.  I share these experiences and make these observations to bring us to a larger point: This same flaw in human nature will burn white hot for everyone under the chaos ushered in by anarchism.

The police force is the face of law enforcement and the law is what orders the society.  Therefore, the first target on the anarchist hit list is the police.  Certainly, there is much room for reform in the way policing is done.  “De-funding the police” to fund community programs may sound appealing in the heat of the present conflict.  However, I’m concerned that criminals will quickly fill the resulting power vacuum and overpower the good intentions of these “community programs.” Criminals, by the way, who are responsible for about twice the shooting deaths of African Americans than the police.

The anarchists are surreptitiously exploiting the civil cold war among African Americans to their advantage.  Once the police force is eliminated from our communities, the next target will be stabilizing institutions and the government structure itself.  Then after that, the Constitution — without which there will be no legal basis for restraint.  Nihilism will be the order of the day where racism, sexism, age-ism, and other forms of dehumanization, etc. will be unconstrained — all will be brutalized by an unstable system of ever-shifting codes rather than laws, and there will be no remedy.

Protest and the Long Game

We can — and should — critically analyze our leaders’ responses to the anarchists at the highest levels of government.  But regardless of whose administration is in office, I doubt that anarchists among us will disappear anytime soon.  So then, it’s imperative that we analyze our responses to this ideology on the ground, in light of our responsibilities to our own communities.  How can we inoculate ourselves against being so painfully manipulated on the ground again?

New legislation, criminal justice and police culture reform, reviews of judicial misconduct, and judicial review of the "qualified immunity doctrine”* will be key elements for better policing and national healing.  Meanwhile, the civil cold war between achievers, non-achievers and anti-achievers can be quelled as achievers take the initiative to mentor young men and young women away from non- and anti-achieverism.

Most importantly, those of us who follow Christ must assure that “long-game discipleship” — beyond temporary protest strategies — is our prime directive.  Not a discipleship into institutional, rote, shallow Christianity, but a discipleship into deep and practical biblical wisdom that affects every area of life — personal, cultural and social.

Today’s growing Black hostility toward the police is partly inflamed by the narrative of a coordinated conspiracy against Black men, which is playing into the hands of the anarchist agenda.  Maybe we need to call a temporary truce at the community level — to suspend hostilities for now, magnify the glimpses of peace-making seen in the protest streets, resist writing such efforts off as mere propaganda or failed efforts, fan those efforts into more flames of good-will, and recognize the greater threat that anarchism poses to us all. 

I’m not a professional sociologist; I’m just a theological anthropologist.  I’m grateful for those who’ve waded into the conversations regarding reforms in education, economic development, policing, criminal justice, et. al.  And I pray that balanced, thoughtful, humanizing and wise ideas will prevail.
These are some of my thoughts, some of which the reader will agree with and some of which the reader will not.  

But in light of this most recent explosion of conflict on the ground that caused so much unjust and unnecessary devastation to innocents ‘caught in the middle,’ I do believe that as we build goodwill on the community level, we lay a foundation to defeat the looming threat of anarchism and its destructive effects on our communities and their life-blood.  I am not ready to give up on this possibility and am hoping to unite others who are still so inclined.

We have an ideological roach in the kitchen.  It has scurried under the cold stove, only to reappear when the stove gets hot again. 

And when it does, may the poor souls who are caught under its anarchic spell meet a unified effort against it.



  1. Amidst all the blabber of the past ten days, this essay sings with clarity I've not yet seen. With data, social insight, and awareness of warfare tactics, Dr. Ellis leads this moment forward from the simplistic, naive, willfully ignorant posturing that I've seen on an hourly basis since this tragedy broke after Memorial Day.

  2. One of the best articles I have read in these current times of trouble . may the Lord bless you and may we as his people learn to love one another and seek justice for all of our fellow brothers and sisters!

    1. Wow! Dr. Ellis, Thank you so much! Your wisdom, insight, and answers are GOD given indeed! This article is so good and scriptually sound! Thank you for speaking life into death, peace into chaos, and love into hate. If our churches, communities, and political leaders would see what you see, understand what you understand, and act accordingly, we could certainly have change in our society for the Glory of GOD. Thank you teacher for being willing to share your wisdom and experience. Grace and Peace.

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  4. Wow! Dr. Ellis, Thank you so much! Your wisdom, insight, and answers are GOD given indeed! I am so grateful to GOD for you man! If only others in our churches, communities, political leaders, could see what you see, understand what you understand, and act accordingly, change could certainly come. Thanks again teacher. Appreciate you so much. Grace and Peace.

  5. Thank you for this wise article Dr Carl F. Ellis. Your writings on justice and social-economic issues have helped me alot. A Christian from Zambia in Africa

  6. as an elder at FPC-Augusta, GA our church has many outreach programs, but still struggle with interracial relationships on a personal level. I applaud the PCA for tackling this thorny issue and especially Dr. Ellis' contributions with his writing skills. Thankyou, Dr. "Chip" Story

  7. Thankyou Dr. Ellis for your insight and leadership on this seemingly unsolvable problem...Our session at FPC-Augusta,GA started tackling this problem 10 years ago or so, and you have helped us have clarity on opening our minds and hearts to racial injustice and the work of Satan disguised behind it all.

  8. Thank you Dr. Ellis! So insightful as always, and MUCH needed during this time. Can't even begin to say how much I appreciate this piece and your ministry.

  9. You've voice is very essential in these trying times. I pray as things move forward God elevates your influence to higher and a broader reach, as voices of reason and macro-understanding become more imperative. Be blessed and protected in Jesus name! 💜

  10. I had not even considered the idea of anarchists being involved in the various protests over the past few years. But calling them out by name makes a number of things surrounding public protest, including some narratives of destruction and hopelessness, stand out and become clear. Thank you for this perspective; I have not heard it in public or Christian news analysis.

  11. I had never considered that anarchists were involved in this and many other previous protests. But your calling them out by name has made them stand out in relief. The discourses of anarchy have been added to the voices of legitimate protesters, and some of us did not know enough not to be taken in. Thank you for turning on the kitchen light,

  12. Thank you, Dr. Ellis, this post. Its analysis of the current national situation and focus for the future is the best I have read anywhere. And its tone breathes the Spirit. I hope you are heard yet more, far more, for the good of many, for the reformation of the Church at least and the preservation of the nation, as God wills that.