Evangelicals, Black Lives Matter and The New York Times

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Last week the New York Times ran an article discussing the trepidation some Evangelical Christians face when it comes to the Black Lives Matter Movement.

It notes that religious support for Black Lives Matter generally lies with Christians and denominations that are more progressive, like the United Church of Christ, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the American Baptist Churches, whereas more conservative Christians, groups and denominations are much more cautious in supporting a movement with such a radical agenda.

Part of this tension is seen in the repercussions InterVarsity encountered last month after a keynote speaker, Michelle Higgins, spoke at the Urbana Missions Conference where she not only argued in favor of Christian support of Black Lives Matter, she insulted the sincerity and authenticity of the Christian commitment to being Pro-Life but seemingly ignoring the issue of adoption.

From the New York Times:

InterVarsity, one of the country’s leading campus Christian organizations, is known for its history of racial cooperation and integration. But many of its members and supporters are conservatives who oppose abortion, support law enforcement and are skeptical of the welfare state. And in her wide-ranging comments about social justice, Ms. Higgins did little to make her speech more palatable.

“We can wipe out the adoption crisis tomorrow,” Ms. Higgins said at one point. “We could wipe it out this week, but we’re too busy arguing to have abortion banned, we’re too busy arguing to defund Planned Parenthood. “We are too busy withholding mercy from the living,” she said, “so that we might display a big spectacle of how much we want mercy to be shown to the unborn….

Even had Ms. Higgins never ventured into the dangerous terrain of abortion politics, her speech probably would not have pleased many evangelicals, who consider Black Lives Matter to be a liberal movement.

“Consider Black Lives Matter to be a ‘liberal’ movement?” That’s like saying some people “consider” it lighter in the daytime than it is at night. And Black Lives Matter isn’t “liberal.” It’s a progressive movement, period.

More from the New York Times:

The historian D.G. Hart, who teaches at Hillsdale College in Michigan, noted in a blog post that the website BlackLivesMatter.com, a prominent one within the movement, expresses support for transgender and gay rights, issues that are problematic for conservative Christians.

“Some who support justice for African-Americans and oppose police brutality may wonder legitimately what Caitlyn Jenner or Dan Savage have to do with Freddie Gray or Tamir Rice,” Dr. Hart wrote on the website Patheos, contrasting icons of the transgender and gay rights movements, with black men whose deaths have galvanized Black Lives Matter.

The discomfort of evangelicals about Black Lives Matter goes beyond specific policies. Many believe that the church should not be intimately involved with politics.

In an interview, Dr. Hart, a member of the conservative Orthodox Presbyterian Church, said that he took police brutality and racism seriously, and that those concerns might affect his voting in local or statewide elections. But in general, he thinks the church should not be a political actor.

“I tend to be a Machen guy,” Dr. Hart said, referring to J. Gresham Machen, the Presbyterian theologian who died in 1937 and was known for his belief that political participation could sully the church. “He believed that the church doesn’t do politics, though individual Christians may.”

Mimi Haddad, an evangelical, leads Christians for Biblical Equality, which works for the equality of women, including those in the church. She signed an open letter, printed in the liberal evangelical magazine Sojourners, congratulating InterVarsity for showcasing Black Lives Matter.

The Times reasons that this conservative Evangelical cautiousness stems from conservative Evangelical groups, “support[ing] Republican candidates [and being] uncomfortable with the movement because of its embrace of liberal politics, associated with Democrats.”

An interesting read regarding the obvious fact that Evangelicals aren’t a monolithic demographic who think and act the same. Nevertheless, a few observations are in order.

It’s noteworthy that the piece argues that progressive Christians support Black Lives Matter because of the teachings of Jesus and Paul — a thoroughly religious reason, of course — but conservative Evangelicals don’t support the Black Lives Matter because of their unflinching loyalty to the Republican party — a thoroughly political, non-biblical reason. It’s a passive way to commend progressive Christians (and by extension, the author?) for their fidelity to the Bible and dismiss conservative Evangelicals as playing politics. The Times doesn’t hesitate for a moment to consider that one reason conservative Evangelicals refuse to support Black Lives Matter is that its leftist agenda and confrontational tactics contradict the gospel’s rendering of mercy, love, and reconciliation.

Put simply: progressive Christians, good; conservative (political) Evangelicals, bad.

Also, I’m not sure I agree with Hart’s assessment that the church should abstain from politics. How far should that go, exactly? Honestly, at some point or another, all of politics deal with morality. Is it moral, or right, for the government to penalize some people through burdensome taxation, simply because they make more than others? Why? Based on what system of morality? Doesn’t it violate the directive against stealing? Or, is it morally right to weaken a citizen’s right to defend oneself, one’s family and one’s property through troublesome and prohibitive gun laws that seek to disarm him or her in the face of danger? If so, based on what moral value system? And, isn’t it morally right to influence policies that seek to mitigate racial inequality — a justice for some that doesn’t come at the expense of others? Is it morally right to seek “justice” for one racial group, if it causes an injustice to another? Why or why not? Again, based on what system of morality?

Though I share Hart’s viewpoint concerning the danger regarding the intimacy of churches and political parties, I would argue that it’s because of the self-imposed limitation and silence of many churches and their pastors from discussing political issues that’s led to the declining presence of the church’s religious influence upon our culture. This voluntary withdrawal has created a moral vacuum in which movements like Black Lives Matter have filled. This void has facilitated a thick moral confusion among Christians and non-Christians alike, emotionally manipulating and intimidating people into supporting “black lives” in a specific way or risk being labeled a racist and/or non-Christian. It’s to the detriment of both Christians and culture not to speak out confidently — with a Christian perspective rooted in both the bible and church tradition — on pressing cultural and political issues.

Conservative Evangelicals have the unique ability to fix this problem of refusing to preach and practically apply God’s word to how we should live in the world. Jesus is our guide. There’s a reason why the overwhelming majority of Jesus’ teachings and parables dealt with life outside of synagogues and the Temple — because outside of religious centers is where we live the overwhelming majority of our lives. If Jesus was able to do it, so can conservative Evangelicals.

Conservative Evangelicals need to increase their presence to inform and teach others as to how racial inequality and racial reconciliation should be approached — and it doesn’t include Black Lives Matter. If the church was on the forefront of this issue — discussing from a biblical and theological perspective on why all black lives matter (and not just ones in police custody or killed in police-involved shootings) — it would be much clearer why there’s an obligation to reject the Black Lives Matter movement. The church should be saying that black lives matter because they are created in the image of God, not because they’re black — and if these ‘black lives’ are Christian, that their primary identity is centered in Christ, not in being black; that black lives matter means black families need to be restored, black abortion needs to be reduced and black children need a married mother and father; that black lives matter means black children deserve quality education not abandoned in failing schools; that black lives matter means instilling and reinforcing Christian values at home and at church to mitigate the self-destructive behaviors that lead to disproportionately high numbers of blacks imprisoned; that black lives matter means much more than an empty slogan and socially-provocative, self-aggrandizing, behavior.

If conservative Evangelicals believe Jesus is Lord of all, they should start acting like it. Engage culture and politics using the gospel and common sense. Don’t be afraid to reject Black Lives Matter — not because you’re racist, or you’re a Republican, but because it doesn’t square with the template of reconciliation found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

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Sanctuary Cities Protect The Guilty At The Expense of The Innocent

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It’s past time to rethink the practice and name of sanctuary cities.

Sanctuary policies are laws, resolutions, and ordinances passed by local authorities that prohibit city employees from notifying federal authorities- or cooperating with federal immigration laws- regarding the presence of illegal immigrants living in and around their communities. The origin of these laws apparently originate from the so-called Sanctuary Movement of the 1980’s, an American social and religious agenda that sought to protect and provide “sanctuary” for immigrants seeking asylum from violence primarily in Central America. During this time, churches and other social organizations acted as safe havens for illegal immigrants and refugees who were refused asylum by the United States government.

Though the beginning of this movement may have been borne out of good intentions, the current policies associated with sanctuary cities are anything but. Now, sanctuary cities- and those who support them- openly defy and ignore federal immigration policies concerning illegal aliens. Sanctuary cities, by-and-large, no longer protect refugees seeking asylum. Rather, these cities are actively protecting illegal aliens who knowingly and intentionally thwarted the country’s immigration procedures to take advantage of the social and economic spoils that come with living in America- all coming at the expense of taxpaying citizens and immigrants who came here- or are in the process of coming here- legally. This law breaking and theft is aided and abetted by policies and supported by people whose moral and ideological worldview see no difference between illegal aliens, legal immigrants, and US citizens. For them, the so-called “rights” of illegal aliens are just as important as the rights of citizens. But when people deliberately come to the country illegally, or overstay their visas, they have no rights. They’re not immigrants; they’re lawbreakers who’re eligible for deportation. To purposefully equate citizens and legal immigrants with illegal aliens is immoral and it both undermines and trivializes US citizenship, and our immigration laws, respectively.

This kind of politicized and ideological defiance of federal immigration laws is an issue of public safety, as the recent murder of Kate Steinle in San Francisco demonstrates. Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, an illegal alien and seven-time felon who had been deported five times, casually murdered Kate Steinle earlier this month.

The original Sanctuary Movement and its illegitimate offspring, sanctuary cities, centers its moral basis among several traditions of defending life which includes the sanctuary cities found in the Old Testament, the Underground Railroad that sought to help slaves escape the dehumanization of slavery in the American south; and the program of protecting Jews from persecution and death during World War II. Though these precedents were noble actions that attempted to protect and sustain the sanctity of life against revenge and the forces of evil, my concern is the biblical notion of sanctuary cities and how this idea has been morally and politically perverted in favor of an ideological agenda that refuses to distinguish right from wrong in its quest to weaken federal immigration laws under the banner of social “justice.”

Biblically speaking, sanctuary cities were “cities of refuge.” Examples and prescriptions that applied to these cities of refuge are found in several places in the Old Testament (including Numbers, Deuteronomy and Joshua), where God commanded the Israelites to establish specific places as safe havens for those who had accidentally and or unintentionally killed another person. Because a person killed accidentally- as opposed to having murdered someone intentionally (and there is a moral difference between killing and murdering), the designated city would provide refuge- a safeguard against the avenger of blood (generally a family member seeking retribution for the unintended death). The person seeking sanctuary was required to remain in the city of refuge until the death of the high priest serving at the time of his arrival, after which the person was allowed to go back to his family without fear of reprisal.

However, if someone sought asylum in a city of refuge and was found guilty of intentional murder- proof of which came after a trial, he was not allowed to receive sanctuary; he was rightly put to death. He was shown no pity. The divine directive commanded the Israelites to purge the evil from their midst (Deut. 19:19). Plainly speaking, there was a very clear distinction between intentional and premeditated murder and unintentional killing; between the guilty and the innocent- all in the pursuit of maintaining the law and preserving the sanctity of human life.

Not so with the current manifestation of sanctuary cities. Unlike the recommendations regarding cities of refuge in the Bible, current sanctuary cities sanctimoniously and defiantly refuse to differentiate between the guilty and the innocent. In a moral inversion of the original, current sanctuary cities actually provide sanctuary for the guilty at the expense of the innocent. Sanctuary cities flout federal immigration laws, refusing to report the illegal aliens (and their extra-criminal activity) they knowingly harbor, consciously and unreservedly perverting justice in the process. Again, we must be clear: sanctuary city policies transparently and without shame, protect and defend the guilty, not the innocent.

Rather than bringing the deviants to justice, sanctuary cities redefine justice to appease and cater to illegal aliens, which is an injustice to legal immigrants and American citizens.

Illegal aliens receiving sanctuary (and those who grant it) are, by definition, guilty of intentional law breaking. As increasing examples demonstrate, many are guilty of much, much worse. In harboring illegal aliens, these cities don’t just simply blur the lines between life and death; they actually invite death itself. Again, as the preventable death of Kate Steinle demonstrates, Francisco Lopez-Sanchez (a fitting name, indeed)- the illegal alien and convicted felon– said he knew San Francisco was a sanctuary city so he knew he wouldn’t be deported.

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Politicians and others who create and defend sanctuary city policies and who willfully participate in blurring the lines between legal and illegal, right and wrong, justice and injustice, are guilty of perpetuating a caricature of moral authority that invites and nurtures the kind of criminality that violates public safety. Embracing a sympathetic ideology that lacks common sense to justify the continued harboring of illegal alien criminals is socially destructive and a moral shame.

And if sanctuary cities shelter the guilty and the criminal at the expense of the innocent, who or what protects the innocent victims of such policies?

Christian or not, politicians and those who support the postmodern notion of sanctuary city policies violate the law, common sense, and Leviticus 19:15 which says, “Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.”

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Obama Scripture Reference Undermines De Facto Amnesty Plan

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Last night, President Obama addressed the nation in an attempt to justify his decision to act unilaterally in deferring deportation for up to five million illegal immigrants.

Obama’s de facto amnesty speech omitted a number of things- such as how he “evolved” and can now act through executive order when he previously, several times over, argued that he couldn’t; why he refused to wait until the new Congress was sworn in so they could pass an immigration-reform bill; and how his imminent action of undermining current immigration laws were constitutional.

But Obama did find the opportunity to cite the Bible to religiously defend his imperial activity. The intention of the biblical reference was to persuade (deceive) the country into believing that he has the moral authority to act alone in this particular capacity toward illegal immigrants. What sanctimony.

Toward the end of his speech, Obama said,

Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger — we were strangers once, too. My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too.”

Of course Obama neutralizes the reference by saying ‘scripture’ rather than the ‘Bible’. I’m picky, but still. He also doesn’t give the ‘scripture’s’ exact reference, which is curious.

The reference could be Exodus 22:21 (New American Standard Bible) which reads,

You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

Or it could be Exodus 23:9 (again, NASB) which reads,

You shall not oppress a stranger, since you yourselves know the feelings of a stranger, for you also were strangers in the land of Egypt.

There are many other verses in the Bible that say similar things- among them Leviticus 19:34 (English Standard Version), “You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” and Deuteronomy 10:19 (English Standard Version), which reads, “Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.”

Sounds moral and decent, right?  Sure does.

The problem is the verse that Obama appeals to religiously defend himself actually undermines his reason executive order and his open-border stance.

The Hebrew word (ger, gwr) translated “stranger” or “sojourner,” in Exodus 22:21- along with Leviticus 19:34 and Deuteronomy 10:19- denotes an immigrant who entered Israel, followed the process of law, had legal sponsorship of the government (or a family), and upon recognition of citizenship status (legal, resident immigrant), fully embraced– and was subjected to– the laws of those among whom they dwelled.

Whoops!

In other words, during the process of- and in gaining legal status, these ‘strangers’ assimilated and followed the laws of those whom they sought cultural and material benefit. They also received the same legal protections as the native born and were considered permanent residents. These ‘strangers’ didn’t game the system or take advantage of those whom they requested refuge. Their new leader (or government) wasn’t a proud and arrogant conduit of further law breaking.

It’s painfully obvious that Obama doesn’t read the Bible that often, but the very least he could do with accessibility of his so-called spiritual advisors is to find a verse that doesn’t directly undermine the point(s) he’s trying to make or the unlawful action(s) he’s trying to defend.