‘Jesus is my savior, but I’m a killer!’

There are plenty of mentally unstable people with bizarre opinions afoot in the land, and they seem to be attracted to authoritarian institutions such as law enforcement and the military.

By Alan Bean

Dan Page, the St. Louis police officer who famously pushed CNN anchor Don Lemon, has been relieved of duty. Pushing Lemon in front of a national television audience had nothing to do with it.

It was Page’s bizarre speech, delivered in April of 2012 to the “Oath Keepers” of St. Louis and Lake Charles, a group that describes itself as “a non-partisan association of current and formerly serving military, police, and first responders who pledge to fulfill the oath all military and police take to ‘defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

Here are a few highlights from Page’s screed:

“Policemen are very cynical. I know I am. I hate everybody. I’m into diversity. I kill everybody.”

“We have no business passing hate crime laws. None. Because we’re setting aside a group of people special. We got a Supreme Court out of control with laws on sodomy.” (Page then refers to the “four sodomites” sitting on the Supreme Court.)

Page says he left the army because he refused to serve under “that illegal alien who claims to be our president.”

John Belmar, the St. Louis County police chief, has suspended Mr. Page pending an internal investigation and psychiatric evaluation. “(I) apologize to the community and anybody who is offended by these remarks,” Belmar said, “and understand from me that he … does not represent the rank-and-file of the St. Louis County Police Department.”

I doubt Dan Page reflects mainstream opinion within the police department or the military. But until the video was released, he was an officer in good standing after serving, he claims, nine tours of duty in the U.S. military.

The social upheaval in Ferguson, Mo., over the past two weeks raised serious questions about the culture of law enforcement. Evidence suggests that there is a strain of intolerance, authoritarianism and racial hostility within law enforcement and military culture that is tolerated and, in some quarters, tacitly encouraged. These attitudes may not be characteristic of these entities, but they are clearly part of the mix.

If Dan Page had nuanced his remarks a bit when he spoke in 2012, he would still be on the force. To what extent is Page an egregious example of normal?

And I wonder who invited Dan Page to address the Oath keepers group in 2012, and why. You don’t invite complete unknowns to address your organization; you invite people with a reputation for being informative, entertaining or amusing.

Apparently, somebody thought Page fit that bill.

How did they feel when he concluded his remarks? Page ends his rambling remarks by asking for questions and the audience appears to accept him as an authority on the coming One World Government takeover.

A man asks if it is true that “Tea Party members and Christians” in the military are being court-martialed. Page says they are.

A woman asks: “So what happens because good men like you are all retiring from the military. So what kind of military will we have left then?”

“Sodomites and females,” Page answers without hesitation.

Did anyone associated with the organization complain about the content of Page’s remarks? Did anyone send of copy of Page’s speech to his superiors and ask if they knew what their officer was saying in public?

Not at all. The Oath Keepers gave their guest speaker a warm round of applause and presented him with an Oath Keepers pin.

The most disturbing excerpt from Dan Page’s rant didn’t get quoted in most of the news stories I have seen.

“I personally believe in Jesus Christ as my lord and savior, but I’m also a killer. I’ve killed a lot, and if I need to, I’ll kill a whole bunch more. If you don’t want to get killed, don’t show up in front of me. It’s that simple.”

Throughout his speech, officer Page brandished a big black Bible — a sign, one assumes, that he believes the Good Book provides a warrant for his personal brand of hate.

If I thought Dan Page was the only person in America who associates Jesus Christ with violence and hate I might let this pass. But this equation is frightfully common.

Anyone with a passing familiarity with the gospels will realize that “Jesus Christ is my savior but I’m a killer” is the theological equivalent of 2+2=22: a complete non sequitur.

Jesus taught a radical form of non-violence. (Gandhi didn’t make this stuff up.) He lived non-violently in a violent world, and it cost him his life.

Jesus’ resurrection is, among other things, God’s final way of saying, “This is my beloved Son, listen to him” (Luke 9:35). By raising Jesus from the dead, God was signing off on his message, including the bits that debunk the myth of redemptive violence.

Am I suggesting that the non-violent message of Jesus could be worked into a viable philosophy of law enforcement? That’s precisely what I’m saying.

On those rare occasions when police officers approached the protesters in Ferguson with respect and restraint, the tension in the air subsided considerably and the hot-heads in the crowd were deprived of an opportunity to strut their stuff. When officers treated protesters like lawless troublemakers things went south very quickly.

The words of Jesus bear the seal of approval of God almighty. If you trust in violence and still want to claim Jesus as your savior, you don’t know Jesus and you don’t understand salvation. We are saved as we allow the non-violent kingdom of Jesus Christ to break our hearts and refashion our minds.

May Dan Page be blessed with this knowledge before he shuffles off this mortal coil.

— This commentary is adapted from an ABPnews/Herald blog.

OPINION: Views expressed in Baptist News Global columns and commentaries are solely those of the authors.