I shouldn’t have agreed. Why? Because I knew what the responses would be…indeed I could have written them myself. To be honest I could have done without the grieve – the shrill cries of ‘racist’ , ‘alt-right’– the self-righteous ‘don’t you care as much as I do’ posts. It felt as though I had committed the heresy of questioning BLM.
I knew I shouldn’t have done it. But I could not resist the temptation. The editor of Premier Christianity asked if I would write an alternative view on the Black Lives Matter movement. There was no difficulty in getting Christian leaders to speak out against racism and be in support of the BLM movement; bishops were queuing up to be photographed to take the knee; but getting a Christian leader to have a different perspective was difficult. (when I say a different perspective – I don’t mean speaking in favour of racism – which I detest – but rather a different take on the BLM movement). So I accepted the poisoned chalice and wrote this…10 Christian Responses to Racism – Premier Christianity
I shouldn’t have agreed. Why? Because I knew what the responses would be…indeed I could have written them myself. To be honest I could have done without the grieve – the shrill cries of ‘racist’ , ‘alt-right’– the self-righteous ‘don’t you care as much as I do’ posts. It felt as though I had committed the heresy of questioning BLM. And then Premier, who had dedicated a whole magazine to the issue – entitled Black Lives Matter –, published this response piece by Rev Kumar Rajagopalan (minister of Totteridge Road Baptist Church, Enfield. He was formerly Regional Minister for Racial Justice with the London Baptist Association.) https://www.premierchristianity.com/Blog/Don-t-be-defensive.-Christians-need-to-lament-and-repent-of-racism
I would have had no problem with an article which disagreed with what I said – as long as it engaged with what I said. But this was a somewhat disappointing article; implicitly and explicitly, accusing me of being defensive, denying my own personal sin, woefully ignorant of history, making well-intentioned but ill-informed statements, offering no compelling alternative to BLM, and damaging church unity by not practicing and living the Gospel of reconciliation. I would have liked the right to reply, but I can understand why the editor did not want ‘a back and forth’.
An article which answered my points would have been fine – but Kumar’s piece does not answer the point and instead indulges in a repetition of critical race theory mixed with historical errors, emotive irrationalities, biblical misquotes and theological misrepresentations. I was profoundly saddened when I read it. Of course, to respond to it is extremely difficult because of the element of emotional blackmail and judgementalism within it. How do you respond to a piece which accuses you of being defensive without proving you are being defensive? There was no point. As they say in Twitterland ‘haters are gonna hate’. In a world of emotion – what your ‘heart’ tells you will always be The Truth. Those who ‘feel’ that I was right will still feel it…those who ‘feel’ that Kumar’s caricature was correct will still feel that. So what’s the point? I was going to leave it…
And then the thought struck me. This can be a learning experience. So I wrote the following analysis of the article – not as a defence of my own article (Kumar does not really engage with that and I am quite happy for you to read both and make up your own minds) – but rather because Kumar’s article is a great example of what is wrong with so much of the UK church today and helps explain why we are not growing. So let me go through it…I will not comment on the parts I agree with (there are several) but rather on those I think that are distorted and just wrong. And the advantage of this not being published on Premier is that it can be, and is, a good bit longer! At the end of each section I suggest a principle that we need to follow if we are to be effective salt and light in our cultures.
Not Listening or Engaging –
I don’t think the article listens or engages at all. It’s just a simple set of accusations and rehashed memes offering simplistic solutions to complex problems. This is where we are at in society – people take positions and then just simply react emotionally to anything that would question their position. Which is why there is no point in you reading on if you have already pre-determined that I am just an apologist for racism – which for the record I totally despise. But like Kumar you will already have your answer – ‘you are only saying this because I’m defensive about your own racism”…and so the never-ending circle goes around.
1. The church must avoid adopting the ‘social media’ methodology of not engaging and not listening; picking our tribe and letting fire! We do not fight with the weapons of this world.
Accepting the philosophies and politics of this world rather than the philosophy of Christ.
The article makes several highly questionable political statements.
“racism is intrinsic to Western society” – who says? – apart from the Critical race theorists and those who want to self-flagellate about other people’s sins? Is racism any more prevalent in Western society than any other? Is not racism a form of tribalism and are we not all societies ‘tribalistic’ to some extent? Indeed a case could be argued that Western societies are the most diverse and non-racist in any human history. I would argue that the basic teaching of the Bible, that all human beings are created equal, is the reason why racism is seen as a sin in the Western world – and why in general it is less prevalent in multi-cultural Western societies than in many other countries in the world. Of course, there is racism, as there is theft, murder and adultery – but these are not the norm and are regarded as sin. Although as we move away from our Christian roots, I suspect that that concept of sin will be redefined to permit and justify what God calls wrong. It is ironic that having moved some way towards Martin Luther King’s dream of people not being judged by their skin colour, BLM and their woke allies in the media and corporates, are taking us back to a place where people are defined by their skin.
“Today, British society is waking up to the fact that many black and other minority ethnic people have not been listened to for far too long.” Is it? What is the evidence for that? A few BLM marches and lots of chatter on the media and in the church? Is this really British society waking up and listening? I very much doubt it. And which black and other minority ethnic people should we listen to? The ones with the ‘correct’ political opinions who support BLM – or those who don’t? I have several BAME friends (who hate the catch all phrase BAME – apologies to you) who don’t agree with the BLM movement. Of course we should listen to all people – especially those who have suffered discrimination and disadvantage -but we should not select certain groups as being more worthy of being listened to, than others. We must not get caught in the victim game trap – where the group that shouts the loudest gets to win the oppression stakes.
If we are really concerned about black lives mattering, then it should concern us that the KKK murdered 3,446 African Americans in an 86-year period. Every six months in the US the same number are murdered by other African-Americans. Yes, we should be concerned about the handful that are killed by police but why is there so little concern for the thousands killed every year? Why is it that white ‘anti-racist’ people seem only to care about the few and not the many? Of course, the reasons for all these murders are complex (poverty, guns, drugs and the consequences of systemic racism) but a major factor is that the black illegitimacy rate has gone up from 24.1% in 1965 to 77% today. The breakup of the family is the major cause of black deaths by murder (other than abortion). So how can any Christian write in support of an organisation who have as one of their aims the break-up of the family? It’s a strange way to show you ‘care’!
2. The politics and philosophies of this world are fundamentally shallow and superficial. For us to adopt them is not wise. Christians need to be far more radical, discerning and wholistic.
Misuse of Scripture –
There are several examples of Kumar simplistically using Scripture to illustrate his political/cultural viewpoint.
In Acts 10, God demolished Peter’s prejudice against Gentiles, yet in Antioch past socialisation and fear led him back to prejudicial behaviour, which Paul rebuked. (Galatians 2:11-13)
This is true but is it really about racism? Is it not more about religion? And the change in the law – from Mosaic law to Gospel? Paul rebukes him because he was being hypocritical – professing to follow Christ but reverting to the legalism of Judaism. Yes – there are implications for racism but was this really about ‘socialisation’? Peter was being cowardly in this instance by being afraid and resorting to the societal norms – just as today there are few Christian leaders who dare to stand up against the societal and religious norms in our culture.
I don’t endorse all aspects of Black Lives Matter (BLM), but their slogan, “No justice, no peace” is scriptural. In Isaiah 59 the prophet laments the absence of truth and justice, hence there’s no peace, but God acts. He has ultimately acted at the cross where the truth of sin is writ large, justice accomplished, and our peace procured (Isaiah 53).
A text without a context is just a pretext for whatever opinion the writer wants. Like using Isaiah 59 without seeming to be aware of its context – just because it mentions justice (although it does not mention peace). But the reasons for there being injustice is because we have turned away from God – ‘our offences are ever with us….truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter…no one pleads a case with integrity. They rely on empty arguments, they utter lies; they conceive trouble and give birth to evil…..Their deeds are evil deeds, and acts of violence are in their hands”. I think it is indeed an appropriate biblical text for our times…but not in the limited way that Kumar uses it. He cites it in support of an organisation which uses violence, seeks to bring down society and openly avows that it wants to get rid of the family and the bibles teaching about gender and other subjects. Racism – and the BLM response to it are both sinful rejections of the law and love of God. To equate the ‘justice’ of the BLM movement and the ‘progressives’ with the justice of God is a false equation.
Isaiah 53 is about Jesus procuring peace with God. It is whilst we were still his enemies that Christ died for us. This is not first of all about social justice and the kind of ‘all we are saying is give peace a chance’ view of peace. It includes that – but as a consequence of peace with God coming – but it is also about something much, much deeper. I doubt that many of the BLM proponents that the article is supporting will appreciate being told they are enemies of God, and they need peace with him first! They don’t think they are the problem…it’s the white racist society….
Robertson thinks BLM protests have set back race relations in the UK and US by 20 years. He may be right, but not because of BLM protests. When Pharaoh realised the Israelites had left, he marched out to recapture them (Exodus 14). The Judaizers sought to bring Gentile converts under the Mosaic law (Acts 15). Power and privilege are never willingly relinquished; white hegemonic power will seek to reassert its dominance, and sadly will probably succeed.
The first sentence is illogical…You cannot say I may be right about BLM protests setting back race relations whilst at the same time saying that this not because of BLM protests. It’s a basic principle of logic that A cannot equal non-A! Furthermore to equate the police in the UK or the US with Pharaoh in Exodus or the Judaizers in Acts 15 is eisegesis (reading into Scripture what is not there) of an extreme order. The sentence about white hegemonic power (apparently causing the riots, looting, shooting and trouble) is straight out of the Critical Race Theory manual – and nothing to do with the Bible or Christ. It’s also meaningless waffle.
When I dialogue with people who experience caste prejudice, I am quick to listen, hardly speak, and am only angered by the injustices they have suffered (James 1:19).
Apart from the miscitation of Scripture and the somewhat proud reference to self – the text Kumar quotes says nothing about becoming ‘angry about the injustices they have suffered’.