The Black Church and The Black Lives Matter Movement

The Black Church exists because of white supremacy and racism. In America, Blacks were forced to worship separate from Whites. Since then, the Black Church has given Black Americans purpose and the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. 

Historically, the Black Church is known for being the spiritual center for Blacks in America. It has been the catalyst for social justice, civil rights, and education. Many Black leaders were discipled and set in motion by the Black Church. Since the emancipation of slaves, America has found new ways to oppress Black people and we are still fighting the collective sin of white supremacy and racism. 

Recently, America witnessed a white cop kill a Black man without any remorse. The world saw George Floyd helplessly beg for his life and the Officer didn’t care. After this tragic event, rioting, protesting and looting broke out across America and the world. Yet again, Blacks are fighting for their basic human right—to live. 

This time, the Black Lives Matter movement is leading the way towards justice and equality. However, its prominent leaders are not clergy. Black Lives Matter was founded in 2013, by three women, in response to the unjust acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murder. Since then, this multi-faced movement has gained momentum and notoriety across America and the world. According to the website, “Black Lives Matter Foundation, Inc is a global organization in the US, UK, and Canada, whose mission is to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes. By combating and countering acts of violence, creating space for Black imagination and innovation, and centering Black joy, we are winning immediate improvements in our lives.”

After reading what Black Lives Matter stood for, I wondered if the Black Church fully supports and understands this movement’s agenda?

I spoke with a young minister from the Black Church who said, “I think we understand Black Lives Matter as a slogan, but don’t understand the movement.” This quote led me to reflect on the Black Church and the Black Lives Matter Movement. 

During my own frequent strolls through social media, I have seen different Black clergy using the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag, but I haven’t seen an official endorsement by black churches in support of the actual movement and its agenda.  In my opinion, the lack of Black clergy leadership in the forefront of this movement, makes it easy for the Black Church to disregard the actual agenda of the movement. With that, the Black Lives Matter Movement agenda isn’t being implemented in the Black faith community  except through marches. Unfortunately, we resort to using the hashtag for our own cavalier purposes. I’m not here to condemn our efforts. I believe there is an anxiety or fear that something bad will happen to those who partake in the implementation of the Black Lives Matter movement agenda. Some believe it is too radical and the methods are too abstract and risky for members of the Black Church to partake in.

Furthermore, I believe the movement itself is more diverse than its slogan. Many different people from diverse backgrounds are supporting and advancing the actual agenda of the movement; from Whites to Transgender politicians. This leads me to then ask a few more questions of the Black Church: Does the diversity and abstract methodology used to fight injustice impede on the traditionalism of the Black Church? Does the idea of fighting for ALL black lives infringe on basic Christian theology (i.e. Black LGBTQ lives, Black Muslim Lives, Black Atheist Lives). Is it permissible to fight for those who do not believe in or serve our God? 

In this article, I want to offer three ways the Black Church can understand and participate in the Black Lives Matter movement to maximize our fight for justice and equality in America.   

  1. Recognize that we are fighting the same fight. We all want liberty and justice for Blacks in America. To that point, I think the Black Church has to release its righteous indignation. For example, many Christians are judging who is worthy of fighting for. This mentality goes against the very Gospel we believe in. An example of this mentality is how some are recounting all of George Floyd’s past mistakes and wrongdoings to justify why he isn’t worth fighting for. My question for a Christian struggling with this is, did God withhold His love and sacrifice of Jesus because of your past and current sin? Certainly not. God sent Jesus to save the world (John 3:16). Therefore, we should take on the mindset of Christ and fight for the lives of those who are killed unjustly despite their background or skin color.
  2.  I believe the tension lies in the methodology used to fight injustice. To this point, I believe everyone should do what they are comfortable doing to protest. However, silence or no participation is unacceptable. Yes, I believe in non-violence protests. But, I also believe in Martin Luther’s King Jr. quote, “Riots are the language of the unheard.” I believe this level of rebellion advances the movement as well. Nonetheless, our actions shouldn’t cease because everyone isn’t fighting the same way. There are different methods to fighting.
  3. We must be willing to see one another. A greeting in the Zulu tribe is Sawubona. It means “I see you.” It’s letting the person you’re in front of know that you acknowledge their existence. Let’s hear what the leaders of the movement had in mind. Let’s read the website. Let’s educate ourselves on the movement and treat its intent with respect. 

In conclusion, in Isaiah 61:1-2 it is written: 

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn.”

In the New Testament, Jesus read this same scripture and stated the scripture was fulfilled. Jesus gave us insight into the will of God and the role of the Minister/Clergy. We are to fulfill the scriptures and we are not at liberty to choose who we do it for. As a Minister and member of the Black Church myself, I’m committed to understanding the Black Lives Matter movement. I’m open to the diversity and inclusion it will take. At the same time, I’m certain about my identity in Christ and commitment to do His will. With that being said, any Christian afraid to take action, educate yourself. Lastly, love your neighbor as you love yourself and leave the final judgment to God.

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