With all the negative aspects to the Waco Biker Massacre story from yesterday’s news media coverage, I am concerned that some of the good and honorable ideas may have been glossed over — even by my blog post from yesterday. So I would like to address a few of those ideas.
Consider these core truths:
- As Augustine points out, all humans act with a view of good in mind. No human being is motivated by hatred or evil. All human beings are motivated by the good. Where some humans err is in the means employed in the attempt to achieve good. This is why Augustine defines sin as a perversion of the good.
- God did not intend humans to live in isolation. He created community as an antidote for isolation.
- All humans are hard wired by God with an intuition of something bigger than themselves. Accordingly, humans strive to be part of something bigger in this life, something that transcends their ordinary and their normal.
With these core truths in mind, think back to the events of Sunday afternoon. What eyewitnesses witnessed was a group of men who found community, who discovered how to live for a purpose bigger than themselves, and who passionately acted in a manner that defended the ideal of their community. Now, either the manner of their defense or the ideal for which they strived may have been erroneous in nature — that much is for certain. But, let’s not overlook the framework within which this Biker group, or any other biker group, or any other community operates. That framework is the good within the chaos from Sunday.
Some are wondering in amazement about the seeming archaic scene of biker gangs shooting it out in the parking lot of a bar. Questions arise at such a scene:
- Why do gangs still exist?
- Why do people join clubs and groups?
- Aren’t social groups obsolete?
- Why are people still riding bikes?
- Don’t they know about fossil fuel shortages?
- Don’t they know about polite society?
- Don’t they know that leather gets uncomfortably hot in the Texas sun?
- Are they not aware of gun safety?
- Isn’t there a tamer way to channel this need for fraternity?
While these questions may arise from a certain sophisticated perspective, let’s keep in mind that these same questions have been around for centuries. They are, in a sense, the timeless, existential, worldview shaping questions asked by poets, philosophers, civic leaders, and sociologists. And the answer to these questions has remained the same for centuries.
Because people need community. Because people need to live for something larger than themselves. Because people need to believe in the good.
That is why we still ask the questions, although not all of us may be able to articulate them in such a way. That is why biker groups still exist, especially the majority of biker groups committed to doing good in the world. That is why people still go to places of worship with some regularity. That is why, despite Pew research numbers, people still join together with the body of believers in Christ. That is why book clubs and political groups, and support groups, and artist collectives, and multiplayer video games, and chat rooms, and message boards, and Facebook, and twitter, and sim city all still exist.
We all need community. We all need to live for something larger than ourselves. We all need to believe in the good.
The pressing question for all of us in light of the Waco Biker situation is this: is there a space where all three ideals converge? Where a community gathers around the good to live for something larger than themselves? I believe there is such a space and it is the hope of the world.
This was not an episode of the highly entertaining television series Burn Notice or Sons of Anarchy. This was reality.
By now you are likely aware of the sequence of events. Two to three warring biker gangs were invited to interact in a Twin Peaks restaurant in Waco, TX. What supposedly began as a verbal fight in a bathroom begat a fisticuffs battle in the dining area, which begat a guns and knives showdown in the parking lot leaving 9 dead, several more wounded, and more than 100 arrested.
And as was the plot of a Burn Notice and Sons of Anarchy episode, once fighting began, more crews took to bikes and to I-35 in order to defend honor and brotherhood. We ride, we die.
As someone who spent the better part of 11 years calling Waco home, let me make a few observations about the social climate of such a scene.
1. Waco is a good town full of good people. By and large people love Jesus, want to be moral, and want to do good. Waco is a town with citizens that fit into a number of categories including entrepreneurs, church planters, Baylor bears, missionaries, the homeless, military veterans, and coaches. The Branch Davidians and this national embarrassment do not speak to the reality of the community. This situation, much like the Branch Davidian crisis, is an example of outsiders coming to bring a negative light on an otherwise great city.
2. We should not be surprised that Twin Peaks restaurant is an epicenter for nefarious activity. Emily Mills, the CEO and corporate soul of Jesus Said Love (a ministry to women trapped in the sex trade industry) has put it quite succinctly in this recent blog post:
If you know anything about Twin Peaks, you know it’s in the same vein as Hooters. Not officially part of the sex industry, right? And yet many of our [sex industry] women transition here to wait tables when they get tired of taking their clothes off. One girl even told us, “I have one old man who comes into Hooters just to touch my butt. I let him because it’s easier to deal with him than some of the jerks in the club.” And so, the cycle of objectifying women and even sexually assaulting them goes unchecked. Times like today, places like this become hotbeds for violence: because where you permit injustice to one, you run the risk of permitting injustice for many…even putting an entire city at risk.
I think it wise for any community to think twice about granting permits to places like Hooters, Twin Peaks, Tilted Kilt, etc… Maybe it is a bit of an overreaction to point to this isolated incident and cry injustice. Or, maybe it is this kind of isolated incident that requires thinking minds to consider the question, “Is this an isolated incident, or a glimpse into the kinds of small evils that occur at restaurants like these everyday of the week?” See here and here for a snippet of the kinds of things that occur here on a weekly basis.
3. Don’t mess with Texas. Seriously, do not mess with Texas. At one of my previous churches in Texas I discovered that all of the deacons went through CHL training. Which means that every week, our entire deacon body was packing in the worship service. When I asked the head of the deacons as to why his deacons were packing he said, quite simply, “Because we will not let something like Columbine happen here.”
Texans, by and large, don’t play around when it comes to the safety of their communities. As the biker gangs discovered, one does not simply bring guns to a gunfight in Texas. If the deacons are packing, you can bet the swat teams have substantially more force available. One sergeant basically said that he would not recommend that any other bikers make their way to Waco after news of the situation got out. Um, yeah. They would have to fight through Baptist deacons just to get to the police just to get arrested.
In this sermon I was trying to address the question that I hear asked by our church family friends: “Is it wrong for me to force Jesus on my kids?”
Many of our friends grew up in homes where they had a drug problem: Their parents drug them to church on Sunday, drug them to Wednesday night prayer meetings, drug them to VBS, etc…The result was that many of our friends spent their 20s resenting the local church instead of living among believers in Biblical community.
So the question becomes clarified for believing Parents: Is there a way to force Jesus on your kids that is actually beneficial?
I think so. And I think Deuteronomy 6:4-9, otherwise known in Jewish circles as “The Shema,” can inform our parenting in a way that helps us force our kids to consider what it looks like to treasure Jesus most in this world.