Black Lives Should Matter To White Christians

10/05/2016 01:14 EDT | Updated 10/05/2016 02:04 EDT
David McNew via Getty Images
EL CAJON, CA - SEPTEMBER 30: A protester holds a Black Lives Matter placard during march in reaction to the fatal police shooting of unarmed black man, Alfred Olango, on September 30, 2016 in El Cajon, California. The security detail consisted of members of The Black Panther Party, Nation of Islam and a coalition of black activist groups. A family member called police to help Olango as he was undergoing an emotional breakdown but shot him when he quickly pulled out an electronic cigarette device. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

Last week, the New York City chapter of Christian mega-church Hillsong made clear their stance on the ongoing fight for racial equality.

"At THIS church, we are not saying 'all lives matter' right now because this is a logical assumption that most reasonable people agree with," the church posted on their Facebook page. "All lives are not at risk right now. We ARE saying BLACK LIVES MATTER. Because, right now, black lives apparently are worth LESS on our streets. It's 'our fight' not 'their fight.'"

I immediately shared the post on my own News Feed, not only because I'm (slightly) obsessed with Hillsong Music, but more importantly, because public support from the church for the BLM movement is an exceedingly rare occurrence.

Four years after the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin and the emergence of BLM both as a political and social movement, the Christian church has largely failed to advocate for the lives of black people. At times silent and at others deliberately distancing itself from BLM, the church has sent a clear message:

Black lives do not matter.

The first time I heard the term "black lives matter" in my own church was a mere few weeks ago. The moment came as a shock, not because it was the first time, but because the words were said with such contempt. As if the assertion that black lives were of value was somehow synonymous with some deadly sin, the words were said with an animosity that was impossible to ignore.

It was then that I realized that despite all the biblical teachings of love and unity, there were still white Christians willing to perpetuate the deadly societal belief that black lives are of lesser value.

Just days before, Keith Lamont Scott had been killed by police in Charlotte and an unarmed Terence Crutcher had been shot and killed by an officer in Tulsa. The two killings had once again brought out protestors en masse and led to renewed calls for an end to police brutality.

"Jesus Christ died on a cross for me, my black skin and all my blackness. My life matters."

Their killings bore a painful resemblance to the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile earlier that year. Both allegedly unarmed (although Scott's family says he did not have a gun, Charlotte police say otherwise), their deaths at the hands of police were both filmed and their final moments shared online for the world to see.

Two more dead black men.

And yet, for so many white Christians, the never ending targeting and killing of unarmed black men is easily overlooked -- or worse, denigrated. Many of those who commented on Hillsong NYC's post in support of BLM were quick to denounce the movement and deny the role that race often plays in police killings.

One clearly misinformed soul went so far as to comment that "a black person has a better chance of getting struck by lightning than getting shot by a police officer." (While the odds of being struck by lightning are one in 700,000, one person is shot and killed every eight or nine hours in the United States.)

Such comments come as little surprise when the data on Christian support for BLM is considered; according to a study from Barna Group, while 76 per cent of evangelicals believe that all lives matter, ironically, only 13 per cent support the movement's message.

The gap between the church and Black Lives Matter is not only large but also problematic. As racial tensions continue to grow, many black Christians are turning to their churches for comfort. And yet too often, the very institution that is meant to symbolize love and serve as calm in the storm is showing the opposite.

Inarguably, it's this very hypocrisy that poses the greatest problem. As Brooke Hempell, vice president of research at Barna Group points out, "By failing to recognize the disadvantages that people of color face, we perpetuate the racial divisions, inequalities and injustices that prevent African American communities from thriving. If white evangelical Christians genuinely care for the wellbeing of their African American brothers and sisters, the first step they must take is being honest about their own biases."

For white Christians who may not know where to start, I offer this simple reminder:

Jesus Christ died on a cross for me, my black skin and all my blackness. My life matters.

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