Despite the contradiction between its activist agenda and what the name of the organization (and hashtag) superficially implies, the social current of #BlackLivesMatter has successfully swallowed many churches and Christian organizations in its supposed quest for racial and social “justice.” InterVarsity Christian Fellowship is the latest victim to be seduced by the cultural fad of “justice” — always compartmentalized — at the expense of biblical justice, which is supposed to permeate the totality of the Christian’s life.
During InterVarsity’s Urbana missions conference, Michelle Higgins, director of Faith for Justice, a Christian advocacy group — and herself a member of #BlackLivesMatter — lectured listening Christians about the need to be involved in the fight against racial injustice. Fighting against racial and all forms of injustice is a Christian obligation firmly rooted in the church’s mission. The body of Christ is — and should be — the vessel of racial reconciliation, predicated on Christ having overcome all superficial forms of division and separation, including those based on racial and ethnic considerations.
Christian leaders have a tremendous responsibility to be voices and examples of reason. But for Higgins or any Christian, to conflate the fight against racial injustice with supporting the plan, intent, and behavior of #BlackLivesMatter is “chasing after the wind” — a fool’s errand that leads many sincere Christians astray. Christian credibility is at stake. So, it’s a cause for concern when Christians engage in negligent and questionable behavior. Here it involves using racial guilt to manipulate Christians into supporting a movement that perpetuates a secular social and political narrative that consists of lies and racial paranoia under the guise of fighting racial inequality.
During her speech, Higgins sought to religiously justify support of #BlackLivesMatter, like the Christians and theologians that used Christianity to justify the black power movement of the past. Higgins said, “Black Lives Matter is not a mission of hate. It is not a mission to bring incredible anti-Christian values and reforms to the world. Black Lives Matter is a movement on a mission in the truth of God.”
The claim that #BlackLivesMatter is on ‘mission in the truth of God’ is about as accurate as the claim made at Michael Brown’s funeral — that he was “out spreading the word of Jesus Christ” before officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Brown in self-defense. That a Christian felt comfortable enough to say this with a straight face is disturbing. The audience embraced her message, in light of the rhetoric and strategies used by #BlackLivesMatter activists is even more disturbing, reflecting poorly on Christians.
Brown was stealing a box of cigarillos from a liquor store shortly before he died.
Higgins continued, noting the presence of racism in various areas where she claimed the church is silent, including the racial disparities in education and the criminal justice system — obligatorily mentioning the cases of Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, and Michael Brown. She then clarified what she wants people to think #BlackLivesMatter means, saying,
“Now, I don’t want all people of color to go scot-free for wrongdoing – I don’t want to see people of color never arrested for anything. Black Lives Matter doesn’t mean all black folk can kill people and steal stuff…. that’s not what we want, that’s not what I want. What do we want? Justice. And what is justice? Justice means my baby boy, my baby girl, will not be tried, condemned… executed on the street. That’s justice. Justice means the burden of supremacy…is not up on you because God is pleased with you. Therefore, you can be pleased with everyone he has made.”
“BlackLivesMatter demands that we face facts and tell the truth…it demands that I know myself and that I see you, it demands that [we see] those that have been in prison… and executed… because of their skin color, and that we free them. It demands that white and black and brown and Asian and Hispanic brothers and sisters be treated as one. Redefine justice the way that God defines justice; your God is not white, he’s not Japanese or Congolese — your God is God.”
Ok, let’s face facts and tell the truth.
Here’s a fact. There are racial disparities in education and the criminal justice system. And there is a case to be made, at least in education, that the systemic academic differences are partially the result of substandard education intentionally delivered to poor black and Hispanic children. Deliberately giving poor children less access to quality education is a partial predictor of future dependency, contributing to a growing underclass. Chicago, Detroit, and New York are perfect examples. Christians should take up this cause, but #BlackLivesMatter has nothing to do with it.
Further, suppose the goal is to reduce racial disparities in education. In that case, people should not only advocate that poor children receive a better-quality education, but they should also encourage the redemption and reconciliation of the black family. Not only would that contribute to mitigating academic disparities suffered by blacks, but it would also increase the number of intact black families and mitigate the racial disparities in the criminal justice system. Blacks aren’t locked up disproportionately simply and only because they’re black. Blacks are imprisoned disproportionately because of the disintegration of the family and the collapse of the Christian moral value system.
Speaking of criminals, here’s another fact: #BlackLivesMatter valorizes black criminality and sanctifies black criminals. The lives of everyday blacks don’t matter to this movement, including the lives of blacks tormented by black criminals. The only black lives that matter to these social agitators are those killed by (white) cops, mainly because of the criminals’ actions. Defending and honoring the lives of black criminals over law-abiding blacks in need of our attention is despicable and unworthy of being called or legitimized by Christianity. This narrow vision is why #BlackLivesMatter is a misnomer.
Except for Tamir Rice — who was shot and killed because he was playing with a toy gun that police officers mistook for real — Michael Brown and Eric Garner died because they attacked police officers or resisted arrest when confronted. (Sandra Bland also refused to listen to an officer’s command, which resulted in a physical confrontation.) Honestly, admitting what happened isn’t to say that they deserved to die, but they also weren’t “innocent,” nor were they merely “victims” because of their race. There are consequences when one confronts police officers, is insubordinate to police officers, or resists arrest. Higgins conflated their deaths with the possibility of her “baby boy” and her “baby girl” being “tried, condemned… and executed on the street” — presumably because they’re black and nothing else — trivializes any fundamental understanding of what justice entails.
Where has anyone explicitly, in modern America, been “executed” in prison only because of their skin color? That’s a serious charge that deserves to be supported by very firm evidence, particularly when said by someone who self-identifies with the name of Christ. Without supporting evidence, it’s a lie. Additionally, why should we “free” anyone in prison, as a rule, merely because of their skin color?
Christianity’s influence was responsible for ending slavery and was the moral motivator and sustainer of the civil rights movement — the last great moral movement in our nation’s history. Now the compulsory disclaimer: fighting against racial injustice and inequality is what Christians should do; there aren’t many Christians that would argue against this. Supporting #BlackLivesMatter isn’t the proper or most effective and practical way for Christians to meet the challenge of fighting the vestiges of racial injustice. In many ways, supporting #BlackLivesMatter contributes to racial discord and perpetuates racial acrimony.
Additionally, part of fighting racial injustice is to resist the reflexive urge to label every socio-economic disparity a result of racial injustice — a characteristic of #BlackLivesMatter. Purposefully mislabeling every racial difference between blacks and their racial counterparts, the product of “racism,” trivializes actual occurrences of racism, preventing these occurrences from being appropriately addressed. It also stifles constructive strategies (which have nothing to do with race) that can diminish socio-economic gaps that continue to exist.
Trying to address racial discrimination is one thing. Trying to do so facilitated by the dishonest rhetoric and antagonistic behavior of the #BlackLivesMatter organization should be of no interest to Christians. Christians should reject the overt deception that #BlackLivesMatter espouses and shouldn’t legitimize the tactics and secular agenda of such a duplicitous organization.
Sadly, InterVarsity undermined its religious credibility by granting unearned moral authority to #BlackLivesMatter. Shame on Michelle Higgins for conflating the fight against racial injustice — a worthy cause — with the questionable and unworthy cause of #BlackLivesMatter. And shame on InterVarsity for legitimizing this error by giving Higgins such a big platform to mislead so many Christians