Three Reasons Christians Should Not Speak the Slogan, ‘Black Lives Matter’
It should go without saying that Christians believe black lives matter. Christians believe all lives matter. It should also go without saying that any true follower of Christ thinks racism (pervasive, systemic, or otherwise) is an affront to the Gospel. If only things were that simple in our present societal chaos.
At a time when people are “canceled” for not putting black squares on their social media, and when they’re harassed by mobs for not raising fists in the air at outdoor eateries, it can be very tempting for Christians to repeat the mantra, “Black Lives Matter.” Should we, though?
I had the privilege recently of helping my alma mater (and current employer) Southern Evangelical Seminary and Bible College (SES) write a statement on Racism and Social Justice. Given our classical natural law approach to moral issues — unique in the evangelical world — we felt we had something different and important to offer to the conversation. Our desire was to be bold but gracious, and clearly explain why SES values all black lives (and all lives in general), but will not say, “Black Lives Matter.”
I think this phrase is inadequate, even dangerous, when uttered from the lips of Christ-followers, for at least three reasons.
1. Christians Must Promote Love and the Good
God calls believers to love Him with their whole being. Part of loving God well is loving our neighbors well (Matt. 22:37-40). Classically understood, love means to will the good of another. This obviously rules out any form of racism). Peter tells us in 1 Peter 2:15-16, “For it is God’s will that you silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing good. As God’s slaves, live as free people, but don’t use your freedom as a way to conceal evil.”
So the question is, Is it “good” to implicitly or explicitly support the Black Lives Matter (BLM) organization by reciting the mantra? To answer that, we must know what it means for something to be “good.”
As we explain in the SES statement, “Something is good to the extent that it is perfect, and something is perfect to the extent that it fulfills the end/purpose towards which it is directed according to its nature (i.e., what it is).” We can apply this thinking to human beings specifically, and derive classical natural law morality. This includes a robust defense of natural rights — the very same natural law argued for by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
True Freedom and Justice
True freedom or liberty, we find, is the ability to do what one ought, according to whatever is objectively good. This contrasts with a false view of freedom, that one can do whatever one happens to desire.
Further, real justice is giving someone whatever is owed them. This means equal opportunity, not necessarily the equal outcomes that many “social justice” advocates desire.
SES applies this thinking to the BLM organization, and points out, “Holding to mis-defined notions of love, freedom, and justice, BLM stands against the nuclear family, promotes homosexual and transgender ideologies, and is an admittedly Marxist organization.” Such ideologies are anti-Gospel and contrary to the good humans are to pursue. Therefore, it is objectively unloving to promote or endorse the BLM organization or their ideologies.
2. Christians Must Avoid the Appearance of Evil
But what about those who are simply trying to support black people in general, not the organization? I recently saw a Facebook meme posted by a fellow believer that read, “When we say Black Lives Matter we aren’t talking about an organization. We are talking about our LIVES.”
Admittedly, I was a bit taken aback and very saddened by this post. In all honesty, I wonder at what point many of my black friends began to feel that others do not think their lives matter. Nevertheless, for those who do not support the BLM organization, what should we think of simply saying “Black lives matter”?
The reason is simple. Words and phrases can be co-opted to mean very different things from their original meanings. Imagine if a Christian friend told you they support gay marriage. You wouldn’t assume they meant a very festive or lively wedding ceremony.
Confusion is Very Difficult to Avoid
The same holds true for “Black Lives Matter.” Like it or not, it is very difficult to separate this phrase from the BLM organization. The BLM organization is nothing short of anti-Gospel. SES notes, “The ‘black lives matter’ mantra has been so tied to the BLM organization that one is hard pressed to recite the words ‘black lives matter’ without providing implicit endorsement for the organization (whether intentional or not).”
1 Thess. 5:21-22 makes clear we must “test all things. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil.” Just like someone saying they support gay marriage would be presumed to support homosexual relationships, a Christ-follower holding a “Black Lives Matter” sign can very easily be presumed to support the BLM organization.
Certainly, black lives do matter. Given BLM’s anti-Gospel platform, however, such implicit support of BLM could serve as a serious source of confusion. There are other, and better, ways to say what needs saying.
3. Christians Must Do Better Than Mere Slogans
Both the “Black Lives Matter” phrase and the BLM organization assume that a large portion of society and its institutions do not care about black lives. Many Christian leaders have assumed racist motives behind recent police shootings. Too many have drawn that conclusion ahead of any evidence could come in or investigations be done.
Yes, individuals have suffered real racism at times. That is a sad fact, and no doubt it will continue to be true. However, one dare not draw systemic conclusions from personal experience or appearances alone. Righteous judgments can only come by way of seeing facts truly, and by appealing to the true and the good. This is how we truly love our neighbors and those who either are, or feel, oppressed.
Lasting change won’t come by way of placing black squares on social media. It won’t come by reciting catchy mantras. We need tough conversations, the sort that can lead to genuine solutions. To do that we must learn to put truth over perception, facts over feelings. We won’t get there by sacrificing truth and goodness on the false altar of “woke” ideologies.
As SES summarizes, “The truth is, [‘black lives matter’] is woefully inadequate. As Dr. Corey Miller, President of SES ministry partner Ratio Christi, observed, ‘All black lives are sacred.’ In fact, all human lives are sacred, whatever their ethnicity. Why? The fact that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died on the cross to purchase eternal salvation for every human being who will accept Him as their Lord and Savior makes every human being sacred.”
That is the truth that will shine light into this dark and desperate culture.
Adam Tucker holds an M.A. in Philosophy from Southern Evangelical Seminary where he serves as the Director of Recruiting and Admissions and also coordinates special events and ministry partnerships.