Former Georgia state Rep. Vernon Jones — who became a national figure after defecting to the Republican Party and supporting the re-election of former President Donald Trump — had a message about Jesus Christ and George Floyd on Twitter this past week.
It wasn’t what some people wanted to hear. Others wanted to hear it, if just to mock it. Most who saw it didn’t particularly understand what he was saying.
All of them needed to hear it.
On Tuesday, the anniversary of George Floyd’s death, Jones had a simple message for his 321,000 followers: “I wish people recognized the death of Jesus Christ as much as they do George Floyd. That’s all I have to say.”
I wish people recognized the death of Jesus Christ as much as they do George Floyd.
That’s all I have to say.
— Vernon Jones (@RepVernonJones) May 25, 2021
The sample headline that best exemplified the coverage the tweet received, at least to this writer, was from HipHopWired: “Vernon Jones ‘Wished People Recognized Death of Jesus As Much As George Floyd,’ Twitter Clowns Him.”
“Vernon Jones fixed his lips to say something absolutely ridiculous on the anniversary of George Floyd’s tragic death that earned him a well-deserved dragging,” Bernard Beanz Smalls wrote.
“It would be a Black Republican to get on Twitter to compare the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the police to Jesus Christ being nailed on the cross.”
In those sentences, you may begin to notice the problem with how Jones’ tweet was perceived. Leaving the content of Jones’ tweet aside, that’s quite a comparison. To the Christian, Jesus was crucified on Calvary for the sins of mankind; his blood was the sacrifice that washed away the iniquities and transgressions of the flesh.
Again, leaving aside the content — which was deliberately provocative — Mr. Smalls is angry about this comparison and assumedly not because it belittles Jesus.
We’ll get to Twitter’s supposed beclowning of Vernon Jones in a moment, but let’s first consider what Jones said and what people heard.
Again: “I wish people recognized the death of Jesus Christ as much as they do George Floyd.”
There’s a Rorschach test element to those words, one I’m guessing was deliberate on the part of Mr. Jones. If not, it was still revealing. Twitter isn’t a place for nuance — but Jones’ words were, for those who “clowned” him, nothing but a call to disregard the death of George Floyd as it took our eyes away from where they should be fixed, on Jesus’ crucifixion, at all times.
There were those who accused Jones, who is black, of being a race-traitor.
What the natural hell is this?
He is the Democrat who bucked his own party to endorse Donald Trump and yes he’s a black man…unbelievable! ? pic.twitter.com/b6RxZ52kEQ
— SuzeQKnits ??♀️????❤???? (@SuzeQKnits) May 25, 2021
Jan the Man, meanwhile, said it was up for debate whether Jesus ever lived.
George Floyd really died due to an officer kneeling on his neck.
It’s still debated whether Jesus really lived.
Hope that clears things up.
— Jan the Man ????? (@janthesequel) May 25, 2021
Jan is apparently not familiar with the works of Josephus or Tacitus, non-Christian historians of the period whose writings seem to independently confirm his existence as an earthly figure. I don’t think that would have changed much, however.
Much of the outrage was from people who saw the statement as outrageous on its face.
I really had to come over here to see if you actually said this. So extremely sad. Not unexpected. It was never about GF being a martyr or a saint it was only about him being a human being who didn’t deserve his life snuffed out. How tragic you are. But it’s owning libs so…??♀️
— Holly Robinson Peete?? (@hollyrpeete) May 25, 2021
Christian minister here. What is wrong with you?
— Rev. Dr. Chuck Currie (@RevChuckCurrie) May 25, 2021
And I wish you’d delete your account and stop spewing nonsense, but here we are
— Jeanna Kelley (@jeannathomas) May 25, 2021
Again, what’s interesting here is that Jones said not a word about what he thought about the death of George Floyd. For the record, here he is four days after Floyd died, calling it a “clear cut example of injustice” while condemning rioters as “a threat to the legacy and memory of George Floyd.”
What happened to #GeorgeFloyd was absolutely unconsiouabke and clear cut example of injustice.
But what is now happening on the streets of Minneapolis is not only unproductive, but a threat to the legacy and memory of George Floyd. pic.twitter.com/vGNTJ3vVLj
— Vernon Jones (@RepVernonJones) May 29, 2020
I don’t particularly know how Vernon Jones feels about George Floyd now, although I’m assuming he doesn’t think his death is meaningless. In fact, as a Christian, it would definitionally have to weigh on him in some way. What’s undeniable, however, is that we think less and less about the death of Jesus Christ in America than we ever did before — and that’s the other interpretation of the Rorschach test pretty much everyone missed.
Gallup found that, in 2020, participation in a house of worship dropped below 50 percent for Americans for the first time since they started following the trend eight decades ago. Only 47 percent belonged to a church, mosque or synagogue, compared with 50 percent in 2018 and 70 percent in 1999.
In 2019, the Pew Research Center found even nominal Christians — those who professed to believe the faith, no matter how involved they were — were declining at a “rapid pace,” down from 77 percent in 2009 to 65 percent in 2019.
Numbers and attendance are a symptom, but the cultural rot has been ongoing. We’re entombed in a culture of death, one where states are enshrining abortion until the moment of birth as a right. Murder skyrocketed during the tumultuous year of 2020, and many defended mass violence and looting in the wake of George Floyd’s death as an appropriate response, or at least one we should expect.
So, if you’re a Christian, yes, you probably wish people thought as much about the most consequential death in the history of world as they did about the death of George Floyd. That’s not just because you want the Savior to be recognized. It’s that you realize there are a whole lot of people who need to recognize Him.
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” Jesus said in John 14:6. In 1 John 2:2, he’s described as “the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”
Yes, Vernon Jones was confrontational. I’m assuming he knew that. I’m assuming he knew he’d be “clowned.” I’m guessing, however, he surmised that after the outrage died down, at least a few people would give the issue some thought — and realized that while both deaths deserved due attention, how much attention we’ve been giving them has been backward.
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