Black Lives Matter has garnered lots of attention across the nation from both Christians and non-Christians alike. And like any attention grabbing social phenomenon, responses to it are marked by lots of ideological fervor from all sides.
Here are a few reasons, among many, why I, a black Christian minister, neither support Black Lives Matter the organization, nor the movement that has grown up around it.
First, the problem with Black Lives Matter is the problem of the bad apple: it has a rotten core. Any organization or movement which aims to ‘disrupt’ the basic unit of civilization, the family, and work to normalize disordered sexuality through building a ‘queer-affirming network’, is one which no Christian should support, much less, a minister of the gospel. The Christian faith blesses, nurtures, and promotes the faithfulness and fruitfulness of husbands and wives. And while the family that God blesses is more than husband/wife/children units (i.e. singles, widows, etc. are fully included), the male/female prerequisite remains as the foundation of marriage and family. “[H]e who created them from the beginning made them male and female” and every implication from it is still the authoritative word on who may marry and have sex even in a world gone mad with sexual lunacy having lost its ability to discern biology from political ideology. At its core, BLM denies God’s good order for marriage, sex, and family. In these matters, it is the devil’s advocate in darkness.
The light that the Christian faith shines begets betrothing and begetting, not disordering and disrupting – consummate works of darkness. Scripture’s counsel to us is "have nothing to do with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them." That is, expose them for what they are. So, let’s do what Paul encourages then for to do less would be hateful and cruel to sheep for whom Christ died: the BLM Organization and Movement is an unfruitful work of darkness. What of the many Christians who support the sentiment, but not substance, of BLM? Of course, the sentiment ‘black lives matter’ is true and saying so feels like a banal truism. But if the mantra doesn’t require the movement (and it doesn’t), and the sentiment is separate from the substance of the decentralized organization, what exactly is being accomplished by baptizing the hashtag phrase with a Christian’s concern? At best, you foment confusion by a dubious association that nebulous appeals to common grace don’t do away with. At worse, you defame your faith by diluting its distinctive unique light-bearing witness. Sure, decisions about co-belligerence require wisdom, not formula but even cobelligerence has its limits. When a trumpeter is sounding an uncertain call, the solution entails stepping up the trumpet lessons, not adding a good trumpet player to the bad one playing. You’ll get double the cacophony. In any case, and to the onlooker, Christian participation in a part of the BLM message is wholly indistinguishable from participation in the whole message. We would be wary of the voluntary ISIS member who protests the virtue of his membership with ‘But I don’t behead or torture anyone’ and our wariness would be right. Any association is hopelessly irredeemable. And deep appreciation for all things light and angelic is no support for an alliance with Satan who masquerades as an ‘angel of light.’ Regardless of how open I may remain, any justification for the ‘sentiment, but not substance’ stance I possibly conceive dies the death of a 1000 qualifications. When the apple core is bad, it’s best to pick another one from the batch.
Second, BLM is a purveyor of lies and falsehood. This is to be expected by a movement/organization which fails on foundational issues like sex and marriage. If you lie about first order issues, you have no qualms of conscience lying about second order matters. Drug lords don’t sweat jaywalking. When the black Attorney General of the US concluded on the basis of the testimonies of black witnesses that a young black man was indeed running toward, not away from, a white cop and yet, BLM persistently pushes without retraction, the ‘Hands up, don’t shoot!’ mantra at rallies, it is clear that truth doesn’t matter to the movement. Rather, Black Lies Matter. And this is only one common falsehood at the formative root of the movement. The stats and data continually rolling in unequivocally confirms that blacks are not being indiscriminately gunned down on American streets. In the relatively few truly questionable nationally broadcasted white police (and its always white police)/black victim homicides, BLM demands that I join in the ritual sacrifice of the one cop on behalf of the many (approx. 800k). This counterfeit imputation betrays a motive at the root of the movement that is something other than addressing police misconduct. Any group interested in justice is necessarily concerned about the facts of injustice. It will get beyond sentimental hysteria to substantive engagement of hard reality. The Christian ought not be afraid of dealing in the truth. All truth is grounded in the One who delivers us from all deceit and has come to us as "the way, and the truth, and the life."
Third, the reason to address wrongs done to any particular race is grounded in the reality of the universal image-bearing of all the human race. In other words, black, white, brown, yellow, red, and blue lives matter because all lives matter. Both confessions go together no matter how much they’ve become weaponized against one another. ‘Black lives matter too’ doesn’t get one off the hook of divisive racial partisanship if you can’t also say without reserve ‘All lives matter.’ But let’s not play language games. Any group which chastises and excommunicates people for affirming what is supposedly implied in its rally cry, shows its true colors by its action regardless of its words. BLM is black radicalism in new postmodern garb. For the Christian, race has been relativized (not obliterated!) such that racial exclusivism of any sort contradicts the fundamental direction of the gospel which is making out of two, one new man. If I reject the lingering white ethno-nationalism and Kinism which affects pockets of my own denomination, by what theological gymnastics can I justify accepting the black radicalism and racial partisanship of BLM? I can’t.
Fourth, justice is of peace. It is a seamless, not patchwork, garment. When we pursue justice in one area, we must not commit or encourage injustice in another area. Keep your eye on the ball here. If your movement against police brutality produces in its wake brutality against police, then you know patchwork, not integrated justice is at work. More specifically, if a movement professes that ‘black lives matter’, and yet sets a course against unborn black lives, black family life, black sex life, and black lives killed disproportionately by other black lives matter, then you’re not dealing with a true justice movement. Justice that has righteous real world impact doesn’t work that way. It doesn’t give away $5 with one hand only to steal back $10 with the other. The incoherent, contradictory social justice of BLM is no justice at all.
Fifth, the theological and ethical standards of the church to which I’ve committed make the matter of police interactions fairly straightforward and simple. When a law enforcement officer, an agent of the state, issues a lawful order, I comply. I may grit my teeth, feel aggrieved, even believe myself the recipient of racial bias in that moment (as I have in past encounters). It doesn’t matter. I render "willing obedience to their lawful commands and counsels; due submission to their corrections" because that is the "honor inferiors owe to their superiors" (WLC Q&A 127). It’s comforting to have a surer word that speaks better things than my shaky heart says in any given moment. Is this respectability politics? No, it’s just sound Reformed theological ethics grounded in scriptural authority. Still less, is it blind obedience. Note that little phrase ‘lawful commands.’ I can’t be a faithful member of my church while aligning with a group that maligns basic civil authority with chants and placards like ‘Blu Klux Klan’, ‘Pigs in a blanket, fry ‘em like bacon!’ and all manner of obscene anarchist sentiments against the police. So, while we’re attending to the demands of the 6th commandment - ‘Thou shalt not murder’, we must not forget the prior 5th word about the life-giving nature of ordained authority - ‘Honor thy father and mother.’ We Christians have received life by the actions of a Savior who was silent and submissive unto death before accusing authorities.
#Christians are called and made for so much more than the denunciation and nihilistic rage of #BLM.—@Merobinaa
Sixth, it is unwise to join a movement like BLM because the primary means of engaging the world and its wrongs, of bringing it under productive control is by constructive use of our giftedness, not the condemning acts born of grievance. BLM breaks eggs without making omelettes and reveals a conspicuous disinterest in truly common good measures that build and unite, not divide. It is of its father, Saul Alinsky.
We’re called and made for so much more than denunciation and nihilistic rage. Unredemptive wrath can’t work the righteousness of God. Never has and never will. I’ve often wondered what would happen if all those collective gifts deployed in the use of organized disruption around the nation were suddenly turned toward producing more organizations which promote greater human flourishing at all levels, especially in communities of need. Big social ills are solved by zealous pursuits born of constructive hope, not cynical hopelessness. I speak to the well intentioned in the movement, not the maniacally possessed who just like to see things burn.
The longing for a just world is a deep aspiration of the human heart. I get it and feel it, often with an excruciating sense of deferred hope. But not all expressions of that longing are good ones.
BLM is parasitic on authentic human longing for racial justice and cosmic shalom. In aping the cry of the oppressed, it is a counterfeit movement which sufficiently resembles the real thing and so seduces uncritically sympathetic souls looking for an outlet for their now enlightened sensibilities. By trading on the misdirected empathy of the newly initiated, the movement accrues to itself an army of wellintentioned warriors, even Christians, who then give godlessness a veneer of social acceptability. However, veneers are thin. And underneath this one is a sentimental psychodrama offering lies in advertising while being played out on the national stage and causing chaos, not peace. Don’t be bullied into joining for fear of appearing racist. Not joining the BLM brigade doesn’t make me any more racist than not joining ISIS declares me anti-Arab.
Don’t hear opposition to protests in anything here. When righteous, they serve an important purpose as public truth-telling. Yet, any protest against state sanctioned violence worthy of Christian participation proceeds from a Christian’s participation in The Kingdom above all states. We have a Savior who suffered unjust state violence under Pontius Pilate, endured police brutality in the form of stripes, and was rejected, not just by the dominant Roman culture, but his own people, a minority group with a long legacy of persecution. He was the just one willingly suffering for the unjust (all of us – state, police, and racial minorities alike) and now calls all who follow him to the way of peace, not chaos. This narrative must shape my protests as a Christian. BLM contradicts this root and branch and is unworthy of my allegiance and participation.