Some Evangelicals Struggle With Black Lives Matter Movement

Michelle Higgins, director of the advocacy group Faith for Justice, based in St. Louis, argued for evangelical support of Black Lives Matter.

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.

 

For some Christians, support for the Black Lives Matter movement is a no-brainer. After all, Jesus opposed violence, opposed the taking of life and opposed racial distinctions. As the apostle Paul taught in his letter to the Galatians, there is neither slave nor free, for “you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Many Christian groups have become active in Black Lives Matter as the movement has progressed. The website of the United Church of Christ, for example, offers “Black Lives Matter” buttons. A campaign by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) “affirms the Black Lives Matter movement.” And the American Baptist Churches alluded to the movement in its resolution, passed last March, celebrating its denomination’s role in civil rights. “We affirm today that black lives matter,” the statement read. “Every life matters.”

But those denominations tend to be liberal in their thinking. The path is trickier for conservative evangelical groups. They would all agree that black lives, like other lives, matter. But evangelicals, especially those who support Republican candidates, are uncomfortable with the movement because of its embrace of liberal politics, associated with Democrats.

That was a lesson that 16,000 evangelicals, most of them student members of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, learned in the aftermath of Urbana, the group’s triennial student missions conference in St. Louis in late December.

On the second night of the 75-year-old campus organization’s conference, song leaders took the stage wearing T-shirts bearing the slogan “Black Lives Matter.” And the keynote speaker, Michelle Higgins, director of the advocacy group Faith for Justice, based in St. Louis, argued for evangelical support of Black Lives Matter.

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.”

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