Explaining 'Black Lives Matter'

Protests on Dec. 27 in New York City. a katz / Shutterstock.com
Protests on Dec. 27 in New York City. a katz / Shutterstock.com

It is difficult to understand why people, particularly Christians, view a statement as patently obvious as “Black Lives Matter” as a subject for controversy. However, sometimes the most obvious things still need to be said.

So:

Black lives matter because God made every one of us in God’s image. Black lives matter because the Bible tells us that we are part of a body and the eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” Black lives matter because God pays particular care to those crying out under the burden of injustice and oppression.

As people of faith in a neighborhood that has been rocked by protests, tear gas, and arrests, we have sought to stand in solidarity with those who are groaning under the burden of oppression. We offer some physical support — hand warmers, a cup of coffee, an extra pair of socks, but we also offer our presence. The Bible often refers to Christians as “witnesses,” and there is something important about simply standing next to our neighbors in the streets and seeing what is actually happening.

We firmly believe that Jesus needs to be down in the clouds of tear gas and he lets us, his people, participate in his reconciliation by bringing him there with our own two feet. Christians, and particularly evangelicals, need to be in the streets. Our neighbors are just outside our doors, crying out that the system is broken and that our culture doesn’t value the lives of our brothers and sisters. We, as Christians, believe in sin and brokenness and we need to live out our belief that God values all of God’s people even as our culture picks and chooses who is worth caring about.

We believe we are called to motivate evangelicals to engage in the issues of racial justice. Our core group has been extremely active in the established protest movement: making friends, attending meetings, and showing up on the street. When we hear that they are pepper spraying protesters and making arrests, we go, not because we want to get pepper sprayed or arrested and not because we think we can stop it, but because we serve Jesus, and before Jesus died for our sins, he came down and lived with us. He ate our food and sat in our houses. He calls us to love our neighbors the way he loved us, by showing up when they are in trouble, not to fix things and not to try to take power and control, but to simply be with them, to walk the streets next to them and, when they are in trouble, to show up.

In addition to this personal call, we believe we need to help the evangelicals around us become more involved. Our coalition, Faith for Justice, has tried to find ways to help evangelicals engage in the issues that are churning in their city. To that end, we plan our own marches, forums, and events focused on helping confused and frightened church people enter into the movement. On MLK weekend we marched through the Shaw and Tower Grove neighborhoods in South St. Louis City, which have been rocked by intense protests. We see this as an opportunity to build unity between groups that have often kept themselves separate. We were joined by evangelical and mainline churches, Catholics and Protestants, local political leaders and hardline activists, black churches and white churches. We believe that only Jesus can reconcile people who have become entrenched in their divisions and we need to be a picture of that reconciliation.

On all sides people are shouting about their ideas to the detriment of the people around them. Everyone has ideas about what protesters should or shouldn’t do, political solutions, even the facts of cases. Ideas are important, but, in the end, we have to affirm that ideas aren’t as important as people. Ideas come out of the minds of flawed human beings, but people are made in the image of God. God’s primary blessing to us is not our ideas, but our brothers and sisters, so we MUST stand up and affirm their value. Affirming that Black Lives Matter isn’t an option for Christians, to say anything else is blasphemy against the image of God.

We wish this hadn’t happened in our city. We wish we didn’t have to hug grieving mothers and walk streets clouded with tear gas, but, in the end, we believe this is not a curse — it is a blessing. God has chosen to use these difficult times to break down our divisions and allow us to stand with our brothers and sisters and we must throw ourselves into that blessing.

Amy Pedersen is a freelance writer, a returned Peace Cops Volunteer, and a graduate of Wheaton College. She currently volunteers as the Assistant Community Engagement and Outreach Coordinator at South City Church in St. Louis. for the Faith for Justice Leadership Team.

Michelle Higgins is Director of Worship Arts and Community Engagement at South City Church in Saint Louis.

Howie Meloch has been on InterVarsity staff since 1997 and currently serves as Associate Regional Director for InterVarsity in the Central Region and is a member of the Leading Servants Team, InterVarsity’s Black Campus Ministries national leadership team.

Craig Scandrett-Leatherman Craig Scandrett-Leatherman is a leader of Outpour Evangelical Covenant Church and in the process of co-founding Ecoblock.

Image: Protests on Dec. 27 in New York City. a katz / Shutterstock.com

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