I recently had the opportunity to give a presentation called “Understanding the Heart Cry of #BlackLivesMatter.” The lecture came as part of the “Race and the Church” series put on by a group of churches in the Richmond, Virginia area. I commend the entire series. You can view previous presentations here.
My goal in presenting on black lives matter wasn’t to get people to unhesitatingly support it or to radically repudiate it. Rather, my agenda was empathy. No matter what we think about the organization, as Christians can we understand the outrage and grief behind the movement? Can we lovingly affirm the instances when unbelievers have, because of God’s common grace, identified a biblical truth (i.e. the image of God in black people)? Can we recognize the virtue while at the same time refusing to compromise on biblical sexuality and traditional marriage?
To understand the heart cry of black lives matter we must distinguish between the principle and the organization. As a principle, #blacklivesmatter should be unequivocally affirmed by Christians. First, it is an assertion of the image of God. It is the heart cry of all human beings because of the unique fingerprint of God on his special creation. The #blacklivesmatter principle should also be understood as a sort of lament–a spontaneous shout of grief in the midst of tragedy. It is a protest against the unjust taking of life and a cry for God to act (even if unbelievers don’t recognize it as such).
Black Lives Matter as an organization must be critically engaged by Christians. The website lists thirteen platforms, some of which resonate with biblical norms and others that contradict them. Christians can affirm the BLM organization’s focus on diversity, restorative justice, and its desire for intergenerational participation. But as BLM the organization is transgender-affirming, queer-affirming, and committed to “disrupting the Western prescribed nuclear family structure” Christians must disagree.
Even though there are aspects of the organization that Christians can’t agree with, the wrong response is complete disengagement or blanket statements. Black Lives Matter defies simplistic judgment. Christians must strive for informed, critical engagement with black lives matter both as a principle and an organization.
But participation with the Black Lives Matter organization may not be possible for many Christians now and for even fewer Christians as the movement progresses. So I also provided information about some other organizations that don’t have the same baggage as BLM. Those resources, as well as a list of works-cited, are included in this post. Listen to the full presentation by clicking on the video below.
- Between the World and Me by Ta-nehisi Coates
- The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African. Written by Himself.
- “One Continuous Graveyard”: Emancipation And The Birth Of The Professional Police Force by Keri Leigh Merritt
- Worse Than Slavery: Parchman Farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow Justice by David M. Oshinsky
- The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander