Is it true that black lives matter? Of course, it is. Is it true that all black lives matter? Yes. Is it also true that the lives of anyone experiencing oppression and injustice matter – that we need to take their stories and lives seriously? It is. Does this mean I should support the organization, Black Lives Matter?
The killing of George Floyd sparked a national and international series of protests, conversations, and riots. There is so much going on right now, it is often difficult to sift through the claims, facts, experiences, reasonable voices, and the violence. But into a time like this it is critical that people of good will, and Christians especially, learn to listen well, reason well, and especially, learn how to apply the powerful and eternal truths of the kingdom of God well.
Exactly because this is a powerfully emotional time and topic, well-meaning people are ready to hop on any social band wagon to show that they care and that they are not “one of the bad ones.” And with the ubiquity of social media, that care and concern is often shown through hashtags, likes, shares, and the right kinds of posts. But social media mixed with high emotions also leads to cancel culture and virtue signaling, neither of which are helpful. In fact, the more restrictive and totalitarian social media culture gets, the more tribal we all become. It has the effect of entrenching people in their current position instead of creating dialogue or changing minds. In a twist of irony, riots and looting have a similar effect as the “non-violent” thought policing of the internet.
As a Christian I am committed to careful reflection and critical thinking. That does not mean I always succeed, but it does mean that after decades of living my faith I react to heavy-handed cultural moments with a high degree of credulity. I belong to the tradition that started the university system and produced some of the world’s leading scientists, philosophers, and artists. I need to be able to be dedicated to truth and reason, believing that it will eventually lead me to God’s design and will.
So, I find myself asking a question: Do I need the political organization, Black Lives Matter, to be able express what I think is wrong about oppression and racism?
I believe it is not only possible, but right, to reject the basic philosophy of BLM and many of their initiatives while at the same time giving all due respect to the stories of injustice recounted by ethnic minorities, believing that racism is a moral evil and that injustice should be named and dealt with.
Let me give a few specific examples of why I make this decision.
The Unborn Lives Matter
In a written response to the 2018 State of the Union address, the BLM website says,
We deserve and thus we demand reproductive justice that gives us autonomy over our bodies and our identities while ensuring that our children and families are supported, safe, and able to thrive.
It is well documented that Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry in our nation kills more black babies than any other ethnicity, with black girls being especially susceptible. More black babies are aborted in Manhattan than are born alive. These lives never really mattered to pro-choice advocates, making it impossible for me to take the slogan that they do, seriously.
Unborn lives never really mattered to pro-choice advocates, making it impossible for me to take the slogan that they do, seriously.Tweet
The Sexual Revolution
When you read the “What We Believe” page for BLM, as much of their language is devoted to supporting every form of sexual expression as is devoted to racial justice. An ideology this openly committed to destructive forms of sexual expression, especially when it comes to the family, cannot be supported by someone convinced of the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Gospel calls Christians to love their neighbors no matter their sexual expression and learn to treat them as individuals made in the image of God who will flourish as they get to know their Savior. There is no place for hate in the Christian heart for our LGBTQ+ neighbors, but there needs to be room for thoughtful and courageous disagreement.
We make space for transgender brothers and sisters to participate and lead.
We are self-reflexive and do the work required to dismantle cisgender privilege and uplift Black trans folk, especially Black trans women who continue to be disproportionately impacted by trans-antagonistic violence.
We foster a queer‐affirming network. When we gather, we do so with the intention of freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking, or rather, the belief that all in the world are heterosexual (unless s/he or they disclose otherwise).
BLM has also become a bucket carrying every form of activism for the frontiers of the sexual revolution. If you are a Christian who believes that marriage as created by God is good for men, women, children and society, you will not be able to lend your unqualified support to the movement.
Black Families Matter
If you track down members of the African American community who openly disagree with BLM, they will almost universally talk about the breakdown of the black family. In their view, the decay of the family, the loss of fatherhood, and the resulting reliance on government support is a recipe for struggle.
BLM’s solution is common to secular progressivism – redefine the family.
We make our spaces family-friendly and enable parents to fully participate with their children. We dismantle the patriarchal practice that requires mothers to work “double shifts” so that they can mother in private even as they participate in public justice work.
We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable.
At first glance, the call to help working mothers is exactly right. But in a context where there is no specific expectation for fathers to be involved in the raising and supporting of children, we are left with the ever vague “village”. That almost always means “the government”.
Recognizing that there is a problem is exactly right. Solving that problem by freeing moms up for community organizing and government assistance isn’t much of a solution.
Mindlessly posting hashtags does not help much, and it may reveal that an individual has not thought through what they are supporting. The much better way for the follower of Jesus is to pay much more careful attention to the Gospel and the kingdom of God. I hear it said often that pastors who say they “just preach the Gospel” are skirting the issue. I respond that people who say that may not know the Gospel.
The primary point of influence given to a pastor is the pulpit, and if a pastor is committed to preaching Scripture, come what may, they will tackle racism and oppression when it does not score them social media points. In fact, they will proclaim a lot of truths when people least expect it. It may even result, over time, in a congregation of people who see the value and power in the good news of Jesus Christ.
It should frustrate Christians and others genuinely concerned with racial injustice and racial reconciliation that BLM has co-opted the public conversation.Tweet
Scripture is full of God’s desire for his people to welcome people of every nation and tongue into the family of God and into their lives. If racism or any form of race superiority exists in churches or the hearts of Christians, it is in direct disobedience to their God.
Moses married a Kushite (an African). His sister, Miriam, complained about her and God struck her with leprosy until Moses interceded for her. God sent a reluctant prophet to evangelize the nation of the Ninevites. God loved them and wanted Jonah to carry his message of repentance and reconciliation to them. One of the most noble women in Scripture, Ruth, is a Moabitess. She is part of the lineage of Jesus. Acts 6 tells a story of racial and gender discrimination in the early church. The Greek widows were not being taken care of, so the Apostles picked seven of their best to make sure the problem was solved, and the widows were cared for. Paul told the Ephesians that Jesus “kills the hostility” that is created outside the church between the genders and ethnicities. In God’s eternal kingdom every nation and every tribe are represented around his throne. And on the story goes.
The official BLM movement relies on a philosophy called Critical Theory, or Critical Race Theory. It bases its evaluation of human interaction on who has power, how it is wielded, and who is oppressed. The theory, however, not only does not solve divisions between people, it creates new ones and deepens the old ones. CT tries to solve hostility with new and unfixable hostilities.
It should frustrate Christians and others genuinely concerned with racial injustice and racial reconciliation that BLM has co-opted the public conversation. It is like taking a good seed that could bear real fruit and planting it in a pot of poison.
Our neighbors do not need more empty and destructive anger or social media campaigns. They need a clear and viable alternative to the ways of the world: they need the kingdom of God.Tweet
Martin Luther King, Jr. famously argued that hostility needs to be answered with peace instead of more hostility. If peace answers hostility, then onlookers have a clear moral choice. They can side with anger or with love. He knew the Gospel. He knew the plight of his people, and he knew the power of the way of Jesus over the way of the world.
It will take some critical thinking, a lot of Christian love, and a lot of courage for the Christian to proclaim a similar message, but our neighbors need it. Our neighbor who struggles to feel validated as a human being needs it. Our neighbors do not need more empty and destructive anger or social media campaigns. They need a clear and viable alternative to the ways of the world: they need the kingdom of God. We as Christians need to know what that means and how to live so that, “they will see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).