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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Immigration, Capitulation and the Death of the GOP

The Republicans in Congress are eagerly intent in participating in their own demise.  Since November, when the Republicans lost an election that was theirs for the taking, the so-called Grand Old Party has been listening to- and taking advice from- their political adversaries on how to make themselves more appealing to Hispanics.

I’ve said and written elsewhere before that the Republican party needs to employ a new generation of messengers to deliver their message if they’re to be successful in expanding the political influence of their party.  These messengers are preferably admitted conservatives and under the age of 50; they don’t wear check pants or wingtips, they’re not members of country clubs and aren’t pasty white fellows who reek condescension.

And though the Republican party has a number of people who fit that exact description, they purposely neglect to use them.

Instead, they’ve chosen- beyond comprehension- to listen to Democrats to formulate their strategy in expanding their appeal and influence to minorities (specifically Hispanics) and young people. What sense does it make to listen to one’s political opposition when creating and implementing a plan to expand political influence?  Only a party that lacks common sense, credible leadership, and who would rather play ‘not to lose’ than to actually win does something as noticeably and embarrassingly stupid as this.

How stupid?

Motivated by a combination of Democrat deception and the lack of testicular fortitude to practically engage this serious issue, Republicans in both houses are intent on passing a so-called comprehensive immigration bill that would have the effect of normalizing more than eleven million illegal immigrants. Though the devil lay in the details- in tandem with Democrat party credibility- the bill amounts to what many consider to be nothing short of amnesty prior to closing the borders, which would thwart more would-be illegals from taking advantage of congressional stupidity.

And increasing the numbers of Democrat voters.

In other words, Republicans- led by the Gang of Eight- foolishly believe that offering a relaxed path toward legality or citizenship to a group of people who willingly and knowingly broke the law will endear them to Hispanics, increasing Hispanic support come midterm elections in ’14 and in the presidential election in 2016.

Morons.

How breathtakingly naive is the GOP in their foolish attempt at courting Hispanics?  According to Census Bureau data, Hispanics only accounted for 8.4 percent of the electorate in the 2012 election.  8.4 percent.

As a parenthetical, blacks accounted for 13.4 percent of the electorate. The fact that Republicans are willing to fall on their political swords for Hispanic amor when blacks represent a greater percentage of the electorate is indicative of the lack of political capital blacks have as a result of their unquestioning loyalty to Democrats (even at the expense of  their own self-interest).  It’s a major reason why Republicans won’t take the time to create a credible strategy to improve their messaging among black Americans.  They’ll simply continue their half-assed attempts in appealing to blacks, which many will argue is a justified course of action, considering.

Returning to the incompetency of congressional Republicans. They are willing to commit political suicide for 8.4 percent of the electorate.

One of the captains of the sinking ship Republicans refuse to abandon is Marco Rubio.  At one point, Rubio was seen by many as the potential (conservative) savior of the Republican party.  He’s bright, articulate, he’s an effective communicator and seemed to possess the necessary qualities of leadership.

Not anymore.

Rubio, either through political naivete’ or an inflated sense of importance from reading his own press, has allowed himself to be irrevocably attached to- and politically cornered by- this sham of an immigration bill.  As information began to leak regarding how bad this bill was becoming, Rubio chose to double down on his support for the bill rather than take a stand against the detrimental changes.

When more information became known regarding the infinitely flawed bill, rather than admitting the error of his ways and dropping his support for the bill- potentially salvaging his political future, he’s confusingly maintained his support for the bill further souring his name in the mouths of many of his previous supporters.

Whatever the case, Republicans are engaging in their party’s self-destruction by attempting to legitimize this bill.  I’m not sure if they’re bright enough or care enough to know that this bill isn’t meant to pass.  It’s simply a political tactic used by Democrats to expose their vulnerability (toward Hispanics) and politically neutralize them in the upcoming elections.

Since Republicans are complicit in their own self-destruction, I created a video to celebrate their achievement.