Black Lives Matter.
There I’ve said it. As a white evangelical, I think it is time that more of us begin to say it. It shouldn’t be seen as anything heroic, but it will cause some to push back.
I want to say, like Lecrae said in this recent article,
Understand there is a DISTINCT difference between the organization “BLM” and the sentiment “BLM.” My agreement with the sentiment is not my endorsement of the organization.
I agree with the sentiment, not the movement.
I want to tell you about my journey. I want to tell you how I got here. I want to share my thinking, my processing, and how this all came about.
It comes down to this, I have 3 black sons and I began to realize that I had huge blind spots when it came to raising them and understanding the world they would live in.
But my question for you is, will you listen? Will you listen without building your arguments before I even begin? Have you already begun to dismiss what I am about to say? Let me ask you this question, fellow white evangelicals, what does it cost us to listen? What does it cost us to listen to the experiences of our black brothers and sisters, made in the image of God? Two things maybe: pride and the acceptance that we do have a certain privilege as white Americans. Can we humble ourself enough to take a moment to read a few articles? Can we accept that our perceptions of reality are not shared with our black brothers and sisters? We, who see every foul committed by the opposing team on college football Saturdays, but see none by our own, can we admit that our perceptions of reality are sometimes unconsciously skewed? If it can happen in something as benign an college football, can it happen other places?
Before you read my post maybe start out with this one. Seriously, read that article. It educated me a great deal. It’s not easy to read. It will make you feel uncomfortable.
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus Christ repeatedly says “Whoever has ears, let them hear.” Are we willing to listen for the sake of the Gospel? Yes, it is true that in Christ Jesus the dividing wall of hostility has been demolished (Eph 2:14). The dividing wall of hostility has been broken down by the blood of Christ, but there is a minefield in the terrain between the two sides. We are going to step on some of those mines as we try to move closer together. Let’s not stay on our own side celebrating the fact that the wall is down, but never stepping towards each other. This is my attempt to take some steps forward. Minefield or not.
I am by no means an expert on this issue. I will make mistakes. I will say the wrong things or my blind spots will lead me to offend. But how do we begin to walk towards each other if we don’t try? I will offend you. You will offend me. But let’s stay at the table. The Gospel compels us to do so.
Have you already begun to quiet me down in your head? Have you already begun to say things like, “All Lives Matter, What about abortion?, What about rap culture?, What about the inner-city crime?” I would submit those are the knee-jerk arguments we make in order to insulate ourselves from having to listen, to having our reality changed. If we can dismiss the argument before it begins then we don’t have to deal with it. Let me try to address those arguments before moving on to my own journey.
All Lives Matter, we say, but that is dismissive. When we say this, we are not espousing our deep theological understanding of the Image of God, we are being dismissive. This point has been made countless time in articles; for example here and here. I don’t know what else there is to say on this point. But I think the Gospel compels us to at least, at the very least, listen without casting judgement. It asks that we try to understand what the other side is saying. We don’t use this same thinking in any other issue and that should be telling to us. Can you imagine Jesus being dismissive in the same way?
“Jesus, I am sick.”
“Everyone is sick.”
“Jesus, I am a sinner and need you.”
“Everyone is a sinner and needs me.”
Or how about in a conversation with a close friend:
“My marriage is really hard right now.”
“All marriages are hard.”
“I am so sad, my grandfather passed away.”
“Well all die sometime.”
What do we lose if someone says, “Black Lives Matter” and we say nothing in retort. Or if we actually agree. What do we gain by saying, “All lives matter.”? Nothing is gained, but the conversation is over. We have dismissed our brothers and sisters made in the image of God.
What what about abortion? Don’t the black lives in the womb count? Yes! But again, this is might be another part of the systemic problem. This too can be just another dismissive phrase. What we white evangelicals are really saying is, “Before we will listen to you about racism, fix your abortion problem.”And honestly, how can I say this gently, if all we do as white evangelicals is vote for pro-life candidates every 4 years that consistently over promise and under deliver on virtually every issue, especially abortion, we aren’t being that effective. That alone is not working. Maybe let’s go volunteer at our local Christian Pregnancy Resource Center. Get our heart entangled in the lives of women and men wrestling through these choices and maybe we will have more credibility to talk about abortion. But until then, let’s not use that phrase to dismiss someone’s experience of racism.
What about rap culture? How can we say black lives matter when all we see is the sinfulness of rap culture on our TVs and in entertainment? Again this too is dismissive. I would say this, when we white, southern, Evangelicals can fix or rid country music of its false gospel of cultural Christianity with its drinking, partying, divorce, and a little God on Sunday message, then we might have credibility on this one. How often have you ever spoken out about that type of music with its more subtle, but equally damming message?
What about black on black crime in the inner cities? Again dismissive. It is a problem for sure. But maybe it’s part of the bigger systemic problem that is trying to be addressed. Also, and this analogy is going to be lacking somewhat, but there is a difference between two neighborhood boys fighting and a child being abused by his teacher at school. There is a greater concern given to the teacher abusing his student because of the power systems that are in play. Both are negative situations we should look to alleviate, but a teacher (the one with the power) abusing a student (the one with less power) is different than two equals fighting. For the same reason, inner city crime is different then the systemic injustice of racism in this country. Do we use this same argument for people in Appalachia? White Evangelicals seem to inherently understand, or it has been my experience, that we can understand that people in Appalachia are victims of systemic poverty and hardships and also make negative personal choices too. We tend to be able to hold both of those things in our minds when we talk about Appalachia, but when it comes to inner city people of color, we don’t see any systemic powers at play, we only see bad personal choices. How can we see it for one group of people and not the other?
“Blue lives matter.” Of course cops’ lives matter. Black lives matter. Cops lives matter. Black cops lives matter. Let’s not give into the false dichotomy that it is either/or.
So I’d like to tell you about my journey in the next part. That’s the point really of this whole post, but saying “Black Lives Matter” inevitably brings up these dismissive statements. So do you still care to listen. Tune in tomorrow.