This is a series of fictitious emails between an imaginary parishioner and myself. This is the first in the series.
This is a hard email to write, because I respect you, and I think your ministry here has been very effective. I don’t always agree with what you say, but I know you are a man of God. But this has really shaken me.
I saw your picture in the paper marching at a Black Lives Matter protest, and I was very disturbed by that. Aside from the fact that I don’t think clergy should be marching in the streets for anything, I am particularly distressed at your being at a Black Live Matter rally.
As a Christian, I believe that God values all lives. To pick out one race and say their lives matter more than anyone else’s just seems plain wrong to me. In Galatians 3:28 the Apostle Paul says, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
How can we all be one in Jesus Christ if we think one group is better than another? I have heard you preach this, and I remember many times when you did speak out against racism saying we must treat all people equally. Yet I see you on the streets carrying a sign that says, “Black Live Matter.” I just don’t think it is appropriate for any Christian to march in a Black Lives Matter march, much less a pastor, who is a minister of the Gospel.
I am not going to leave the church or anything, not yet, but I wish you would reconsider your position on this. And I know that I am not the only person who thinks this way.
Yours in Christ,
First let me thank you for your email. I am glad you took your concerns to me, instead of just holding them in. I know you are a man of God, and you are doing your best to follow Jesus Christ, and I want you to know that I hear and value your concerns. Since you wrote your concerns to me, I assume you want me to explain why I did what did. Your email was thoughtful and respectful, and I hope my response is as well.
I thought long and hard before I attended the rally. I knew it might ruffle some feathers, but I felt it was important for me to be there. I want to explain to you why I attended the rally.
You said that you did not think any Christian should attend a rally that singles out one race for support. Would you be surprised to know that I went because I am a Christian? Yes, I believe we are all one in Jesus Christ, and I certainly affirm Paul’s words in Galatians. But I still support the Black Lives Matter movement. How can I do that?
First, I think what Black Lives Matter stands for is biblical. When Paul says there is no Jew or Greek, he is not saying that Jews and Greeks are equal. He says that because there is a conflict. Various churches in Asia Minor, where Paul did most of his missionary work, were a mixture of Jewish and Greek Christians. And that caused some real problems, and not just at potlucks! There were a variety of ways the two cultures were in conflict. The book Romans Disarmed: Resisting Empire/Demanding Justice by Sylvia Keesmaat & Brian Walsh does a very good job of showing what those conflicts were. I highly recommend it. The two groups often clashed in the early church.
One example of that we find in the Bible is the incident of the widows in Acts 6. The church in Jerusalem had Jews who were born and bred in the Holy Land, as well as Jews from the Greek speaking world. The church had a meal program for widows and the Greek widows complained they were not getting as much food as the Hebrew speaking widows. The apostles decided to appoint a committee to deal with the problem. (This was the first board of deacons, by the way.)
They appointed “Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, together with Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. (Acts 6:5) what is interesting about this list is that every name is a Greek name! It was the Greeks who had the problem, and the apostles acted in a way that said, Greek Lives Matter.
And then there Jesus. Remember the story of the lost sheep? There are a hundred sheep, but one gets lost. What does the shepherd do? He goes in search of the one lost sheep. Apparently to Jesus Lost Sheep Matter.
You see, Black Lives Matter makes a great slogan, but often slogans need to be explained. When people say Black Lives Matter, they don’t mean that Black lives are the only lives that matter. They are saying that, given the inherent, systemic racism in America, it seems like Black lives do not matter.
Imagine this. Your wife is feeling down one day, and she needs some encouragement. She says to you, “Do you love me?” And you reply, “I love everyone.” How would that make her feel? When people who encounter Black Lives Matter say “All Lives Matter,” that is like you telling your wife that you love everyone Your wife needs to hear that you love HER.
I don’t know if this answers your concerns. I hope it comes close.
Yours in Christ