“There is no good police versus bad police,” avers Brock University sociologist Tamari Kitossa. “In a social order that is based on social inequality, even the most benign and friendly cop is little more than an ideological prop to make us grateful that the state can be merciful and is your friend.” Indeed, Kitossa says, we’re living in a police state and we just don’t know it.
This is the kind of overheated overstatement we don’t need just now. Gas on the fire? Thanks a lot. Happily, the Bible offers some helpful perspective here.
Dr. Kitossa isn’t entirely wrong. He correctly suggests that police forces manifest the authority of the state, and the state always serves primarily the powerful people who run it.
To keep the rest of us compliant, we have been sold self-serving myths about power structures in our culture, including the police—namely, that they somehow differ essentially from every other power structure in human history: noble, kind, and at your service. You know: the Mounties.
Well, they don’t.
Our police forces, like our states in general, are morally better in some ways than those in other cultures. They’re worse in some ways, too. Essentially, though, they are what they are: power structures. And the Bible is pretty clear about what the people of God, and the people in general, can expect from such, whether ancient Israelite kingship in the Old Testament or the Roman Empire and its client kings in the New.
They will seek their own good and provide for the good of everybody else only as it suits their interests. But this isn’t news. It’s as old as King Saul’s monarchy.
And yet: God expects Israelites generally to work together for the common good, and that means cooperating under the rule of this or that disappointing king . . . and they’re all disappointing.
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