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The UK Church and the Black Lives Matter movement

Over recent weekends, we have witnessed violent protests as the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement responds to the tragic and indefensible death of George Floyd in the US. As the fallout spills into the UK, last weekend’s protests were met with counter-protests this weekend which also ended in violence; a situation made worse by the unqualified endorsement of BLM by most of the mainstream media. The sight of the UK police ‘taking the knee’ before BLM protesters and the defacing of symbols of British history has added to the sense of unease and polarised an already volatile situation.

Although we unequivocally support the notion that black lives matter, we fear the BLM movement will simply foster more unnecessary division, certainly in this country. It seems a little absurd that the police in the UK (who are arguably the most restrained in the world) have come under attack because of a police incident in the US, something we have no control over at all. While it is easy to resonate with the ‘no justice, no peace’ slogan, in the absence of any specific demands or suggested solutions, this can really be reduced to an incitement to violence. Furthermore, it appears that not all black lives matter to BLM. They seem far less vocal about the plight of those in the black community unless the ‘white supremacy’ narrative to be imported into the equation. In fact, it is not uncommon for some within the black community to suffer most when BLM rhetoric further inflames events and leads to rampant disorder.

However, our main concern is that, to our astonishment, we find so much of the mainstream church in the UK offering unqualified support to BLM when this movement is so overtly at odds to Scripture. This has included moves such as bishops ‘repenting’ of the white privilege and others ‘taking the knee’ in solidarity with BLM.

We would encourage the discerning Christian to look at the ‘What We Believe’ page on the BLM website. Among other things, BLM aims to ‘disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement’ – in other words, BLM aims to rip the biblical model of the family apart, something which is a deliberate design of God and the very fabric of a healthy society. Furthermore, the movement is open about its intention of freeing itself from the ‘tight grip of heteronormative thinking’. Again, a very strange goal for an organisation that claims to care about the lives of the black community and is clearly contrary to God’s design for human relationships. God’s parameters for the structure of family and human relationship are the optimal model for the good of everyone. Moreover, the institution of human marriage is the closest idiom used in the Bible to help us understand the spiritual relationship between Jesus and his church – when this is openly distorted and rejected by any organisation, the church should lovingly create a healthy distance even though it shares the common goal in declaring that black lives do matter.

In fact, some would argue that BLM meets many of the criteria normally associated with a religious system and even a cult; for example, they have a list of beliefs. Also, the ‘taking of the knee’ ritual that seems to accompany the act of endorsing the movement (if you are white) is an example of this. Even if you accept the ‘systematic racism’ narrative, an apology in any other context would never normally result in taking the knee, an act which implies worship and submission. The Christian will only bow the knee before the Lord Jesus.

We recommend this blog where Michael Brown separates the value of black lives from the BLM movement – a crucial distinction. Kevin Huang’s recent blog is also a balanced summary of relevant Scripture on issues raised with this.

Unfortunately, much of the visible church in the UK appears to be more concerned with being seen as ‘woke’ without pausing to exercise spiritual discernment. Taking a firm stand against racism should not result in blindly supporting the loudest voice in the public square at any given time. The church needs to exercise wisdom and resist the temptation to join in with what appears to be virtue-signalling on occasions.

BLM is undoubtedly here to stay. This movement will receive the enthusiastic adulation of our culture and the huge financial and platforming power that comes with that. However, because of that, it is essential to maintain a clear distinction between the message that black lives do matter and the BLM movement. Although it is easy to be manipulated by the ‘saying silent is being complicit’ mindset, the Bible frequently warns us to think before we speak and there are occasions when restraint (and even silence) is a more prudent approach. Furthermore, why would the church endorse an organisation that openly seeks to undermine and even remove governing authorities? The call to ‘defund the police’ is a clear attempt to remove any means of maintaining law and order. The Christian is instructed to ‘submit to the governing authorities’ (Romans 13:1). This does not mean that the church should not campaign for change. However, it is perfectly possible to hold resolutely to the notion that black lives matter while creating as much distance from the BLM movement as possible.

As followers of Jesus, we firmly take a stand against any form of prejudice and discrimination, among which racism is arguably the worst form. We are ALL made in the image of God. Without exception, every human being has infinite value in the eyes of God and we all have a duty to speak against injustice and prejudice whenever it is found. God does not see skin-colour or any other individual characteristic when he looks at each of us – he simply sees a precious and deeply loved person who desperately needs a restored relationship with the living God, through Jesus Christ. This message should be the focus of the church rather than cheerleading a movement that is clearly antithetical to the gospel.

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9-10 NIV)

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