Some days I think Paul was a bit too optimistic. For example, in II Corinthians he wrote:
So I beg you to reaffirm your love…so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs. (II Cor. 2:8,11)
The fact is we seem to be outwitted by the enemy on pretty much a daily basis. As I mentioned in an earlier post, we all too often let our politics interpret our faith when it ought to work the other way around. But we lack discernment and are woefully “ignorant of his designs.” So we end up merely adding to the noise of the left/right political debates…progressive “Christians” and the religious right each playing the political whore in turn, faithfully proclaiming the gospel of their preferred media outlets in support of their opposing political saviors. And so, a bunch of would be Jesus lovers end up devouring one another–essentially becoming agents of Satan, the devourer.
“Black lives matter” is a case in point.
Social media is on fire with debates: Cops are great. America is racist. Look at this good cop. Isn’t this a nice black person. Look at the police man hug the black person or play with the black kids. Hey that guy that got shot had a rap sheet a mile long…stick that in your pipe and smoke it you cop haters, this was obviously a justified killing. You white folks don’t get the humiliation of being pulled over for driving while black. Statistics show that more white people get shot by police than black people. Um, there are more white people. Hey I have a concealed carry and this is how to conduct yourself in a traffic stop. Hey, I am black and this is how not to get shot if a cop pulls you over.
Black lives matter.
All lives matter.
Cops lives matter.
Black lives matter.
It isn’t that there is no truth in the discussion. It isn’t that none of it is positive.
Certainly it needs to be addressed. If there is a problem in our nation that needs genuine spiritual discernment as a gift from God working in his church it is the current racial tension–and merely co-opting a slogan and/or changing it while touting your favorite statistics accomplishes nothing.
And we, dear American church, have become so caught up in the debates that we remain ignorant of Satan’s devices. Our nation is being pulled apart, and we are unable to bring healing because we are too busy ripping each other apart. Satan is the “accuser of the brethren,” and we seem so ignorant of his devices…disunity growing from his seeds of political discord cripple us and make us ineffective in our call to be peacemakers.
To clarify, there can be no unity apart from truth. I am not talking about seeking a false unity with heretics who deny the truths of the Creeds or the teachings of scripture. I am not interested in a false unity with false friends who willfully ignore plain teachings of the church on matters of life or sexuality or poverty. I am speaking here to real Christians trying in the midst of political chaos to support political measures that promote truth, godliness, and virtue in society, but end up so dedicated to one point that they unwittingly compromise the truth on another.
If you follow the media and social media it appears that three words are about to tear us apart in a way that seems almost incomprehensible. Devout conservative Christians, obstinately ignorant to the damage they are doing, keep hammering home the slogan, “All lives matter.” Meanwhile other genuine Christians with a more tenuous relationship to political conservatism (because of views on race relations and poverty issues) uncritically and problematically embrace the hashtag blacklivesmatter.
We need discernment, and as I noted in an earlier post discernment begins with a healthy consideration of the words of James:
“Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” (1:19)
“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” (3:17-18)
So where do we start? How can we address the racial tensions in such a way that we can begin to really listen to each other? What can be said to make us open to reason, impartial, and sincere?
Obviously we should begin with a discussion on abortion.
Racism and abortion are built on the same lie and fueled by the same demonic spirit. The lie that one human being is less of a person than another human being makes way for violence justified by fear and a desire for self preservation. The circumstance of every instance of racial violence and each murder of the unborn may look different on the surface, but at the end of the day each of those is an act in which one person acted on fear in such a way as to do violence to another person and justified those actions by refusing to recognize the value of another made in the image of God.
Interestingly, not only do these sins have the same root, Satan uses the same devices to defend his evil work.
Consider, what is the go-to argument of pro-choice advocates that gets picked up by Christians embarrassed by the pro-life movement? When the genuinely pro-life advocate speaks boldly on behalf of the unborn, when she calls to account the greedy abortion industry for feeding on the fear of young women and capitalizing on the government endorsed murder of babies, there are few things more disheartening than to have another Christian who should be an ally cave to political embarrassment and make the asinine remark, “Why are you only worried about the unborn?”
Such a disingenuous remark! It implies a lie (none do more to help poor and unwed mothers than the pro-life community), and it maligns the advocate.
If you can understand the pain and anger felt by such a pro-life advocate when they are so rudely treated by those other Christians who should support them, then you can begin to understand how a Christian minority and/or advocate for racial justice feels when we “correct” him for saying “Black lives matter” with the ever so haughty, “No, all lives matter.” We have essentially maligned and accused a brother or sister in Christ of being unloving for their efforts to draw attention to a serious societal sin. They never said “only black lives matter.” They are simply trying to point out a social disparity.
At the same time, while we ought not criticize and judge fellow believers for using the phrase, “Black lives matter,” those who use it need to grasp that we may not all feel comfortable using the phrase…not because we are racist, but because the group behind the hashtag is a self defined movement. The hashtag was a brilliant piece of marketing (and I mean that as a compliment), and from everything I have read on their website they view it as a sort of intellectual property. They have attempted to attach it to their radical queer feminist deconstructionism. While they are right to oppose systemic racism and bigotry, their countering vision of the good life is something very unChristian. While I will not assume that everyone who says “Black lives matters” is ready to embrace their views (or is even aware of them), I remain hesitant to use it because I am aware. Still, who knows whether the meaning can be broadened with use–so we ought not judge our family if they do use it, but trust them.
More importantly, we need to move beyond our defensive stance. We need to listen to our black brothers and sisters and seek to understand their experience of systemic racism. Certainly things are far better than they were in 1960, but that doesn’t mean their aren’t real problems. And our self defensive stance and our rebuttals to every expression of “Black lives matter” keep us from Christian unity that remains essential if we are to bring healing to this broken nation.