Kyle Rittenhouse, who was charged with first-degree intentional murder, first-degree reckless murder and attempted murder, was acquitted this month of all charges. Rittenhouse was 17 at the time he shot and killed two men and injured a third, and he faced a misdemeanor charge for the illegal possession of a firearm by a minor.
However, testimony from Rittenhouse and Gaige Grosskreutz (the surviving witness) along with video evidence from the night of the shooting all presented extremely strong support for Rittenhouse’s claim of self-defense. Moreover, shortly before the trial concluded, Judge Bruce Schroeder dismissed the weapons charge, as it was not applicable to Rittenhouse under Wisconsin law.
Thanks to the merits of the evidence presented, and some good old fashioned grace and mercy from the Lord, justice prevailed. Rittenhouse is a free young man, and I couldn’t be happier for him!
Yet, even as I celebrate and wholeheartedly agree with the jury’s verdict, I do take particular issue with Rittenhouse for being in his predicament in the first place.
Did his presence in Kenosha automatically imply he was guilty of a crime or that he “deserved” to be attacked? Indeed not! However, I do believe his case leads to a larger conversation about what constitutes godly wisdom and whom the Lord might count as “bold” or a “fool”.
POLITICS, PUBLIC OPINION & CHAOS IN KENOSHA
To explore this topic, let’s first zoom out to review the larger context underscoring the controversy surrounding Rittenhouse and his case.
In the summer of 2020, cities across the country experienced riots, looting and massive destruction of property in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a Black man whose death came at the hands (knee) of police. Much was revealed about Floyd’s criminal history and many speculations and allegations were made concerning his actions leading up to his ultimate demise. Nonetheless, video evidence allowed the world to witness the final eight minutes and 46 seconds of his life, and there wasn’t much anyone could do or say to defend Officer Derek Chauvin’s negligence and excessive use of force while detaining Floyd, who claimed he couldn’t breathe and died minutes later with Chauvin’s knee on his neck.
By the time Jacob Blake, another Black man, was shot by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, facts didn’t matter. The fierce, emotionally-charged Black Lives Matter movement (including its allies of all races) immediately took to the streets, and, as expected, “mostly peaceful” protests transitioned into riots and sheer chaos by nightfall.
Justified or not, media-manipulated or not, racial tensions in America were at a fever pitch last summer. Lawlessness was abounding, and our political leaders justified it all in the name of their politics, which entailed an overt disdain for then-President Donald Trump and presumptions that he, his supporters, white men and the police were inherently racist. Progressives even began to call for defunding and even dismantling entire police forces so, after George Floyd’s case, those who would riot in Kenosha in the wake of Blake’s shooting surely felt all the more emboldened.
Of course, they shouldn’t have been out there! Yet, this is all the more reason Rittenhouse shouldn’t have been there, either.
“THE SIMPLE PASS ON…” PROVERBS 22:3; 27:12
Legend has it, however, that after two days of riots and looting in Kenosha and a lackluster response by authorities, Rittenhouse felt it his duty to go do what “cowardly” men would not. If you let conservative media and social media pundits tell it, Rittenhouse had to go in and protect “his city”.
This all sounds noble and makes for a great Call of Duty plot, but did he, really?
According to Rittenhouse’s own testimony, Kenosha was not “his city”. He resided 20 miles away in another state. Even as Rittenhouse testified that he worked in Kenosha as a lifeguard, he’d only begun the job on August 14th, less than two weeks before the evening of the shooting. He had also previously stated, and his former employer confirmed, that he’d been furloughed from his lifeguard position in Lyndhurst, Illinois since March 2020 due to the pandemic.
Rittenhouse also never claimed to be going to the Kenosha unrest to take part in any purpose that directly concerned him. Beside his AR-15, he did not own property in Kenosha, and while he had family there, he wasn’t in Kenosha to protect his family or his family’s property or to get his family out of harm’s way. He wasn’t even there to protect his employer’s property or its pools! Armed with his rifle, which he picked up from a friend’s house in Kenosha, the record says Rittenhouse went there primarily to “protect local businesses”.
Legend goes on to say he did so at the request of said local businesses. However, the owners of the one business he did go there to “protect” testified that they never asked him to do so. Certainly, they could have said this to avoid civil or criminal liability, as their car lot was the scene of at least one of the shootings, but their testimony is the evidence on record. The evidence also shows that 1) Rittenhouse reached out to the car lot offering his services but 2) the car lot was already damaged and the owners said they decided to deal with the matter once the riots ended.
Scripture grants us the right to protect ourselves and our property from immediate threat (Exodus 22:2-3; Luke 22:36), and we are to defend the defenseless (Psalm 82:3-4). Outside of these things, we are to mind our own business (1 Thessalonians 4:11), avoid trouble (Proverbs 22:3; 27:12) and flee even the appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22). Rittenhouse may have wanted “to help” but being a White kid armed with a rifle in the midst of racially-charged chaos where, again, facts did not matter, was surely going to invite trouble his way. This does not mean those who brutally attacked or defamed him were right or justified in doing so, but to note that because wicked men will do wicked things, it was unwise of Kyle to insert himself in the midst of their wickedness and not see that unfortunate reality coming.
“A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, But the simple pass on and are punished.” – Proverbs 22:3; 27:12
“HASTY FEET MISS THE WAY…” PROVERBS 19:2
There is no doubt that Rittenhouse needed and was right to defend himself, even after he was in the midst of chaos he chose to enter. Nevertheless, his actions point to an important lesson in the perils of foolish zeal.
Before the shootings, reporter Richie McGinnis from the Daily Caller interviewed Rittenhouse, asking him why he was armed with a rifle in front of a charred business. Rittenhouse, responding with speech that implied he had some form of authority and legitimate duty, stated it was his “job” to be there to “help people” and protect local property. He said he had his gun with him to protect himself and, armed also with his med kit, that he was prepared to run “into harm’s way” to help those who were hurt. During this interview, Rittenhouse would identify himself as an EMT, though he would later testify that this detail was a lie. He’d also told military veteran Ryan Balch, who testified that he patrolled with Rittenhouse that night because he looked young and inexperienced, that he was an EMT and 19 years old.
Despite his obvious fibs to necessitate his presence that night, Rittenhouse’s background is pretty impressive. Based on his participation in the Grayslake Police Department’s explorer program, the Antioch Fire Department’s cadet program, and being a trained lifeguard certified in CPR, he certainly comes across as one bent on serving his community and being an aid to others. Legend even has it that Rittenhouse saved countless lives by putting out a dumpster fire set to blow up a local gas station owned by his grandparents. While testimony confirms that Rittenhouse, and others, extinguished a dumpster fire that evening, there is no evidence to suggest this action actually “saved” any lives at all as the area was abandoned (save Rittenhouse, the other volunteers and the idiots who set the dumpster ablaze), and there was never any testimony from Rittenhouse that the gas station in question was owned by anyone in his family.
Nevertheless, legend, and testimony from the boy Rittenhouse himself, suggests he meant well and did not want to cause anyone harm. Yet in his zeal, he found himself being the only person to take human lives in the three nights the city burned. And while he might have gone to protect others, the only person he actually protected that night was himself, which, of course, could have been a non-issue were he not present.
The wicked who were out that night knew they were there to do evil and, Biblically-speaking, they were due whatever consequences coming to them. Only God truly knows why Rittenhouse thought it his duty, morally or professionally, to insert himself in the midst of that. Yet, His word gives us a glimpse into what was likely at work in Rittenhouse, as the Word of God is a discerner of and reveals the intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).
According to King Solomon, the wisest mortal man to have ever lived, “it is not good for a soul to be without knowledge, And he sins who hastens with his feet” (Proverbs 19:2 NKJV). Put another way, the English Standard Version shares Solomon’s knowledge as thus, “Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.”
Indeed, one could mean well and desire to do good, but if his desires are not guided by the knowledge and wisdom of God, his well-meaning or “good” is worthless. In fact, it actually causes more harm than good – he not only misses what he intended to do, he sins against God! This is true of female “pastors” who think it their duty to hop into pulpits because “there are no qualified men” present. This is true of those who believe their countless “good deeds” apart from faith in Christ earn them a place in heaven. And it is true of Rittenhouse, who, believing it his obligation to rush to insert himself into “harm’s way” to help others, only stood to help himself and ended up taking a couple of lives in the process.
While some might support Rittenhouse’s decision to be there and count him a hero because he ultimately took out a couple of “bad guys”, one must remember that the Lord takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11). Instead, it is the Lord’s desire that the wicked turn from evil (I will expound upon this point more later). Moreover, Rittenhouse testified that he had no plans of harming anyone that night, and one isn’t “bold” for ultimately practicing self-defense – that’s what we’d all do! God is providential and He can and will use even our follies for his own purposes and glory, all while our follies maintain their inherent consequences. Anything “good” that came out of Rittenhouse’s presence was the Lord’s doing. As vainglorious as the legends of Rittenhouse are in conservative media, it would not be wise of anyone, especially a Christian, to think it their blessed calling to follow in Rittenhouse’s footsteps.
KYLE. IS. NOT. DAVID!
Yet, some professing Christians have found a way to espouse that Rittenhouse was “doing the Lord’s work” in Kenosha that night. Taking issue with any assessment that did not make Rittenhouse a hero, some noted that we couldn’t know what the Lord told him to do that night. But here’s what we can know: Based on the word of God, and the nature of God revealed therein, it is EXTREMELY safe to say that Rittenhouse did not go there that night on a mission from the Lord. And while some would compare him to a young David, who took up the challenge to slay the giant Philistine Goliath, Rittenhouse. is. NOT. David!
First, when young David went to slay Goliath, he did so armed with a single stone and a slingshot (not a rifle in a sling) in the name of the Lord God. He went out to fight for Israel, the people of God from whom Christ would come, that they would not become slaves to the Philistines, a pagan nation. Second, unlike Rittenhouse and his roundabout relationship to the city of Kenosha, Israel was David’s nation – he was an Israelite, and he’d later become King of Israel.
Of course, those who make the comparison between Rittenhouse and David do so to point to the heart they presume the former must have had in order to face such great, potential harm to help protect Kenosha. Nevertheless, Kenosha is not Israel, and we know that David was a man after the Lord’s own heart. Rittenhouse, on the other hand, isn’t even known to be a Christian and has made no efforts to overtly and consistently present himself as a follower of Christ. We also know that the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). If his heart was not guided by the Word of God, who can know what manner of delusion he was subjected to in deciding to “go help” in Kenosha?
At best, Rittenhouse had zeal, but that zeal was not according to godly knowledge. Whether he is a Christian was never claimed nor confirmed during the case, though there were legends of this being one spread among many conservative Christians. Now that Christ has come, His commandment of us is to take the Gospel to all people. Thus, I perceive that if Rittenhouse was a Believer sent by God, his national case would have been a great opportunity for him to share the Good News! Perhaps the chaos in Kenosha would have been a great opportunity for him to proclaim the truth as well, if it were indeed Rittenhouse’s goal to do “the Lord’s work” there that evening. If Jesus’ kingdom were of this world, His people would indeed fight earthly battles (John 18:36). Yet, our battle is spiritual. It is not against flesh and blood and the weapons of our warfare are NOT carnal (Ephesians 6:12; 2 Corinthians 10:4). Therefore, it is not “brave” of us nor “the Lord’s work” to insert ourselves into carnal affairs. “No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier” (2 Timothy 2:4).
If we endeavor to please the Lord and do “his work”, we fare best by simply doing what He’s asked of us. Instead of going there to “protect businesses”, earthly things that will perish, perhaps Rittenhouse might have gone to Kenosha to preach of Him who saves souls?
But alas, Christ’s name was not exalted a single time by Rittenhouse or his defense, so it is reasonable to conclude that his work in Kenosha that night wasn’t about Christ, but Kyle. This doesn’t mean he meant to do evil, it simply means his human heart was not bent on going there to do the good that ultimately counts. Indeed, he was not there doing the Lord’s work and, because the Lord’s work through Israel has already been accomplished with Christ’s coming, Rittenhouse is most certainly NOT David.
I SAID ALL OF THIS TO SAY…
In examining the facts of the Rittenhouse case, it is easy to see that some on both sides of the political spectrum rushed to judge that kid from either extreme. Generally speaking, the left defamed and unfairly demonized Rittenhouse while the right rushed to romanticize him and ascribe to him a righteousness that no man can possess. Only one is “wrong” according to the laws of men as it can lead to defamation lawsuits, but both are wrong in the eyes of God, for we are to judge nothing by outward appearance, but with righteous judgment (John 7:24). Righteous judgement includes knowing the facts, but it most certainly entails judging all things according to the truth, which is the word of God (2 Corinthians 2:15-16).
Understanding this, it was my goal with this piece to examine this highly controversial case from the facts on the record, filtered through God’s word. From this, I hoped to offer my sisters and brothers in Christ a word of caution against being conformed to the patterns and thinking of this world (Romans 12:2-3).
The world is moving at warp speed to call good evil and evil good, and these things will ultimately close in on Christians that we are wholly demonized. But that does not mean we speak or do that which ruins our witness for Christ. If we are His, we mustn’t allow our love to wax cold, even as lawlessness abounds (Matthew 24:12-13). We must discern when it is wise or foolish to “enter the chat”, lest our road to hell be paved with our definition of “good intentions”. Peter sliced off an ear to “protect” Jesus. John and James wanted to call down fire on the Samaritans for not showing Jesus hospitality. In our carnal thinking, these acts and desires seem “good” because, in their zeal, their goal was to honor Christ. Yet, Christ rebuked them all, for the spirit from which they worked was not according to the will of God.
Christ came to save the lost. Christ came that men in darkness may be exposed to the light and know Him. Yet, our politics have placed many of us Christians in a mindset that justifies clear acts of a fool and foolishness that does all to undermine, if not ignore, His very purpose for us. I’ve certainly been guilty of this, so I’m checking myself as well!
But we must know this: Even as many deem Rittenhouse “good”, no good came of his actions that night. Again, he didn’t save a single soul, spiritually or physically, and the Lord took no pleasure in the death of even the wicked men who perished that night (Ezekiel 18:23; 33:11). By God’s grace, Rittenhouse made it out of Kenosha alive, but he also could have been killed that night, without any further opportunities for salvation. By God’s grace, Rittenhouse might have a case to sue the pants and shirts off those who unfairly defamed him before the justice system ran its course – he stands to be a rich young man. But those riches will perish, and might even be dried up in this life after he deals with countless civil and wrongful death suits that are threatening to come his way.
We may celebrate the Rittenhouse verdict, as all of the evidence does indeed point to self-defense. Yet, given that he was the only person known to be attacked that night and the only person who took any lives in the midst of all of that chaos, it is reasonable to conclude that he was indeed in the wrong place at the wrong time. Any good to come from his experience is sheerly by the grace of God, and prayerfully that grace would entail his coming to the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. For those of us looking on, however, Rittenhouse is not an example of “a good man” we must celebrate or emulate. If we must imitate anyone, it must be one who is imitating Christ. Only God alone is good, and Christ is the only way to eternal life with Him. May we be more zealous to champion our mission to share this truth we’ve been called to champion than whatever earthly agendas that might underscore our politics.