31 December 2013

Truth without winsomeness

I came across this video yesterday, which has apparently gone viral.  Someone had posted it on their Facebook page and so I watched it. Something about it didn't sit quite right with me. Briefly, this boy was stopped at a traffic checkpoint screening for drunk drivers. He filmed the interaction, without the consent or knowledge of the police.  If you haven't seen the video, watch it and then consider my comments below.

First, to my knowledge, this young man was defending his constitutional rights. I do not know for sure, but it appears that he went into this situation with the explicit intent to have a conversation, or altercation, with these police officers about his constitutional rights and to film it. Further, I have no reason to suspect that he is wrong, though I did not look up the specific laws.

What didn't sit right with me was how this young man approached the situation. Although he was apparently speaking and defending truth, he approached the officers in a confrontational manner. I grant that he did not raise his voice, but it was clear that his intent was to be right, which clearly agitated the police officers. His failure to comply with them, while perhaps legal by the letter of the law, was not winsome. Had he complied, he would have been gone in two minutes.

There is an important lesson here for Christians. Like the young man in the car, we stand on the side of truth and we have a responsibility to defend and proclaim that truth. However, we must do so with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). As evangelists, if we get angry, we lose. If the person we are talking to gets angry, we lose.

If you need to grow in this area, I would strongly encourage you to read Greg Koukl's Tactics.

Also, review, and practice, the Ambassador's Creed on a regular basis. According to Koukl, a Christian ambassador is: ready, tactical, honest, dependent, reasonable, clear, humble, patient, fair, and attractive and presents truth with knowledge, wisdom, and character.


Rachel Cleveland said...

I processed the video differently than you did. I heard a young man use words like 'yes, sir" and a direct question asked calmly that was returned with a yelled order instead of a direct answer. The driver, in my opinion, was respectful while trying to exercise his rights. His rights. Protected, supposedly, by these law enforcement officers. You can hear the officer yelling once the young man leaves his vehicle. You see the officer direct the dog to the window. You hear and see the other officers say that the young man knows his rights and is innocent. They don't even ask him if he's drinking and its a DUI stop. When the officers illegally checking his car see the phone recording, they manipulate it so it no longer can record a visual. Why would a police officer operating appropriately do such a thing?

By the way, you do not need permission to video someone in public. He is in a public place and legally has relinquished his right to privacy. (I've had a friend who wanted to press charges because an employer sent someone to video tape her in her back yard behind her privacy fence when she wasn't at work. The "privacy fence" on her property did not constitute a right to privacy legally.)

Have you ever been stopped at a DUI check point? I have. The officer asks you if you've been drinking. You answer. If they have obvious reason to believe you in fact have been drinking, then they can ask you to step out of the car. When I was at the check point, the officer asked me where I was going and if I had been drinking. I answered and he let me go saying, "have a nice evening".

In this instance, If the driver had not used "sir" or had raised his voice, or had a smart-alec tone to his voice I could understand why the police officer might be ticked. But the officer ALWAYS has the responsibility to keep his cool. Always.

As it just so happens, I was cleaning a sheriff's teeth this week and we talked about just such things. I told him how I felt like there are so many videos out there of cops losing their cool, it's almost like a push for civilians to have an us vs. them mentality when really, most cops are just trying to serve the public and not get killed in the process.

Here's a link of an officer who did his job while remaining respectful of a civilian's Constitutional rights. The similarities here are both parties being questioned wanted to give limited information. One was yelled at and bullied. The other was met with understanding and respect.

I agree whole-heartedly: we loose when we get angry. But I can tell you from personal experience with the pubic for over 20 years. Some people are just going to get angry because they want what they want and it has yielded them their desired results in the past and they'll continue it until something changes.

Young men like this I respect. He could have made his life easier and just gotten along to get along. But if we comply in the face of even the slightest violation of our rights, the violations will come more frequently and with more furor.

History has taught us this all too well.

here's the video of a cop and a civilian doing it the right way:

Thanks for the dialogue :o)n

J Kanz said...

Rachel, that was what I was struggling with. However, he clearly had the camera set up for a sort of "sting", to catch the cops infringing on his rights. Perhaps they had a reputation. Perhaps he was just setting out to make a point. He was not constitutionally required to roll down his window further but why didn't he? My belief was that it was because he could have posted a video on youtube showing how awesome he was. I agree that the cop overreacted, but as believers, we need to be winsome, not just seek to "win some" battles.

Regardless, I think there is a good lesson for us as a believers. While standing for truth, we must do so respectfully. You may believe he did so; I personally don't, but in any case we must present truth respectfully and attractively (when we can). I think Ravi Zacharias is a good example of this.