Jun 032020 17 Responses

Why Our Church Says “Black Lives Matter”

Imagine if every time one of my children said, “Dad, I love you,” I responded with “I love all my children.” It wouldn’t take long before they would begin to doubt my love for them. And if I don’t love each of them, I don’t love all of them. We can’t love the all unless we love the each. Yet when I consistently show and say my love for each of my children, it removes any question about the love I have for all my children.

One of the great privileges of the pastorate is that I get to regularly affirm the value and worth of all people. In a society that loves to devalue others in an attempt to justify ourselves, the message of Jesus is radically different in that it gives every human respect and value based on their Creator rather than their ability to produce.

We Regularly Announce Value

In most cases, these announcements of value are widely appreciated.

As the parents of a child with special needs, Jenny and I regularly remind others that people with special needs matter. They have the same hopes and dreams as everyone else. They have the same basic needs of acceptance and friendship. Although the world has long excluded those who are different, we have joined countless others in promoting inclusion for those with physical or mental differences.

As a young man, one of my first sermons was a reminder that students (called teenagers back then) matter. The church often overlooked the young calling them the church of the future rather than recognizing the contribution they can make even while they are still in school. I reminded the church that students matter.

As a seminarian, my first pastoral job was as a pastor to single adults. It was my privilege to remind the church that marriage is not what gives a person worth. The church, especially in the south, often sees single adults as second class citizens who cannot fully contribute until they are married. Many churches will not hire an unmarried pastor. It was my honor to say single adults matter.

As a young pastor, our country was attacked which led to multiple wars. During those times I was able to affirm that men and women in uniform matter to God and matter to us. Both military and police have tasks which are difficult to imagine, yet they should carry out those tasks with a firm belief that God loves justice and is on the side of the peacemakers. I gladly affirmed that soldiers and police officers matter. (See: The Nobility of Police Restraint)

As an older pastor, I get to look at a variety of people and situations seeing where society devalues people. It becomes my joy to confront the lies and speak the truth of value into their lives. Single moms, people who have been divorced, those of a lower income, or former prisoners and a variety of people have been seen a second class in society (and the church). It has been a blessing to speak value into these situations and call specific groups by name saying they matter and they have value.

At no point, do I get push back when announcing value in the lives of these people, until I speak value regarding those who are black. Then there is an opposition. No one is foolish enough to say, “that’s not true.” They won’t publicly question the value of black people, but they will protest singling out black lives and saying they matter.

Why?

(see the following video from my friend and co-worker, Jackie Flake)

So We Say Black Lives Do Matter

No one hesitates when I say that Ella and people like her matter. Why would they object when I look at some of our church members and say they matter? It’s only because of the color of their skin.

In our church, we gladfully, joyfully, loudly proclaim that black lives do matter. In no way does this devalue or diminish the value of others. It’s only in saying that black lives matter that we can honestly say all lives matter. If you can’t say the former, you probably don’t believe the latter. We can’t love the all without loving the each. So we don’t hesitate to announce the clear Biblical message. Every person is created in the image of God and has value.

Of course, the only way to make the message true is for every person to call people, groups, families, and communities by name. This includes races. Didn’t we do this as children? We sang “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world.” Then to clearly communicate who the “all” was, we sang “red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.” We proved the all by naming the each. (For a difference between the phrase black lives matter and the political movement under a similar name, see John Piper’s What Can We Learn From Black Lives Matters?)

It was true then and it’s true now that this especially includes those who are black because the church, our community, and our country has long failed to show and say that people of color have value. We have sinned. Not only do we seek forgiveness, but we also seek to do better. We now seek to live the song we have long sung. (See Russell Moore’s article “What George Floyd’s Death Should Remind Us About Justice and the Gospel”)

I love all my children. My love for all of them is proven through my love for each of them. Saying I love one doesn’t diminish my love for the other; it reinforces it.

As a pastor, let me remind you–black lives matter to God therefore they matter to us.

For more, see:

Southern Baptist President J.D. Greear

Matt Chandler

17 Responses to Why Our Church Says “Black Lives Matter”
  1. Glenda Reply

    With Grace Missionary Society, we experience this because we serve Roma (Gypsies). Because we were serving Roma, most Christian food distribution ministries (Feed the Children for one) would not provide food through Grace MS. We believe Gypsies matter too. You are right Kevin, All lives matter. When someone says something like, “Did he gyp you?” I cringe at that prejudicial statement, even though the person making it thinks nothing of it. It seems to me, though, that media ads on social focus, such as Tset for changing attitudes about smoking, would be more heart changing among the masses than destruction of property. just my thoughts. Of course being the mother of a police officer, I want to say, their lives matter too.

  2. Kristopher A Bailey Reply

    Does our church separate the sentiment of “black lives matter” with the initiatives of the grassroot Black Lives Matter movement?

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      We affirm the overarching idea. Like many movements, there are many branches of which we may or may not agree. We know this well since so many have wrongly used the name of the church to do all sorts of evil, yet we still claim the name and continue to do the work. I understand why some would hesitate at the phrase considering some have used it for violence (both blm and the church), but the concept is too important to give up on the actual words “black lives matter” or “the church.”

      • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

        To further clarify, our church agrees with the concept that black lives matter. We are not announcing support for any specific organization who claims ownership of the phrase or any specific political movement who uses the phrase.

  3. Jesse Cummings Reply

    ALL Lives Matter.
    Lately I’ve has a few people become upset after I typed that following a statement of Black Lives Matter.
    Y’all need to lighten up. As Andy Griffith sometimes says to folks –
    “ Y’all beat everything! Ya know that! Y’all just beat everything! ( this is the strongest words Andy ever uses towards someone) Cuz y’all basically agree, but you’re wanting to use different words; so straighten up, act right, and be nice!
    I’ve been chastised and judged and told my heart is not right, and informed that if I believe all lives matter, then I probably don’t believe that black lives matter. Nonsense! The word all means all and includes black lives, and it includes brown lives, red lives, white lives, beige lives, blue lives, green lives, etc…. ALL lives. All lives equally. People choose to judge me by these few words that don’t even know me. Pastors even chastise me, saying my heart isn’t right, and that since I say all lives matter, then I probably don’t truly believe that black lives matter.
    Really? How can they be so judgmental? As far as I can remember, I’ve never been racist towards black people or anyone because of their skin color. I’ve always believed as Dr. King said, that all are created equal and should not be judged by the color of their skin. So, therefore, all lives matter, elevating and prioritizing one race above another goes against Dr. King’s proclamation, and implies racism itself. All are equal; all matter.
    I served in the Air Force for 20 years. I never saw racism in the Air Force. We served and fought and worked together as one team through whatever mission needed accomplished. We were all one color – blue – Air Force blue. The only discrimination that I recall was early in my career there was a lot of mistreatment towards military people by the civilian world. Base Commanders published lists of off base businesses that were off limits because of it. We had to be careful about going off base and be quick about it. We were not allowed to wear our utility uniform off base. We had to wear a form of dress uniform. Even then, off base was often hostile towards us. Some places it was stronger, and some places not so much. So, I have experienced a form of discrimination. Also, when I was assigned in Germany, it was sometimes difficult to do business off base because sometimes the younger Germans refused to communicate in English, even though they knew it (its taught in school). When I was assigned in Korea, sometimes while off base, I would encounter difficulty with some of the young adults, because they too, resent us being there and don’t appreciate us being there.
    So, I know some about discrimination. I know though, its not to the extremes that other people have experienced. Furthermore, I see the BLM movement not always protesting peacefully, but destroying property, stealing, harming people, defacing monuments with BLM, etc…Its not protesting; its rioting. Dr. King protested a lot. Peacefully. And now I see where some churches are endorsing BLM. So then I guess I’ll be excommunicated.
    Y’all beat everything! Ya know that! Y’all just beat everything!

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Jesse, notice the intro to the article–we can’t love the all without loving the each.

  4. James Lane Reply

    Obviously you haven’t been blacklivesmatter.com and read their about pages or studied the background of its founders. It plainly states on their own website that they are working toward the dissolution of the Western nuclear family unit.

    That is part of the what they are about, in their own words. It’s not a sentiment of a fringe element of the movement.

    You are copping out with saying Black Lives Matter but we are not endorsing the organization itself. How many people are going to donate to that marxist political organization thinking that you did endorse it?

    Man up and set yourself apart from these hate filled women that are BLM. I dearly love my black brothers. Even they are targets of these women if you go and read their web page.

    I will stand beside my black brothers in this fight against the societal injustices that DO exist. But I do not ever want to be confused as supporting a Marxist, American Hating, Israel Hating organization like BLM.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Notice you capitalized Black Lives Matter making it a proper noun, whereas in my copy it was always black lives matter meaning a concept or idea. I more worried about people of color clearly understanding that I believe they matter than I am worried about someone thinking I support the destruction of the family.

  5. John Reply

    Three women originated the “Black Lives Matter” political movement. It is their desire to destroy God’s plan for families. From blacklivesmatter.com:

    ——— “We make space for transgender brothers and sisters to participate and lead.

    We are self-reflexive and do the work required to dismantle cisgender privilege and uplift Black trans folk, especially Black trans women who continue to be disproportionately impacted by trans-antagonistic violence.

    We build a space that affirms Black women and is free from sexism, misogyny, and environments in which men are centered.

    We practice empathy. We engage comrades with the intent to learn about and connect with their contexts.

    We make our spaces family-friendly and enable parents to fully participate with their children. We dismantle the patriarchal practice that requires mothers to work “double shifts” so that they can mother in private even as they participate in public justice work.

    We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and “villages” that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable.

    We foster a queer‐affirming network. When we gather, we do so with the intention of freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking, or rather, the belief that all in the world are heterosexual (unless s/he or they disclose otherwise).” ———

    They reject God’s plan for a father at the head of the family and promote abhorrent sexual practices. This is not a group who has co-opted an existing, honorable movement for their own purposes. They created it (the ACLU and academic sources confirm this) and millions have blindly supported. This political movement seeks to place all blame for the plight of the black community on outside forces. While racism, both individual and institutional, has played a role in damaging the black community, it is not to blame for everything.

    Surely the church can find a way to show that we absolutely love black people without aligning ourselves with this movement. If you love someone, you tell them the truth. When your society rejects God’s plan, your society suffers. Racism and other evils will always exist, but prejudice against (and the dehumanization of) black society could be greatly reduced if the culture of illegitimate birth, drugs, violence, theft, black-on-black murder, and contempt for law enforcement were reduced. To do so, God-fearing fathers must be put back at the head of black families. Teaching that truth should be the response of the church.

    Parroting the slogan that was created by a leftist political organization may relieve some “white guilt” and pay lip service to loving others, but it only harms those that we claim to love by supporting the practices that are destroying the moral fabric of their community. Saying that we “agree with the concept” of “black lives matter” without supporting the organization behind it is simply going to confuse everyone about the position of the church.

    Since I used the collective terms “we” and “our” in regards to the Christian church I feel that I should clarify: My beliefs are my own. I have no affiliation with Kevin A. Thompson’s specific church group.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Would you say the same about the term pro-life since it has been widely used to plant bombs and threaten others? For me, there is a difference between the phrase and a variety of political movements that use similar terminology.

  6. Kurt Smith (married to Michelle Smith (Green) and Thomas Jefferson for Colonial Williamsburg. Reply

    This is so good. Thank you.

  7. Ricky F. Young Reply

    Kevin, I heard today that everytime we wash our hands we should say a prayer for our country.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      That’s a good word. It’s a good time to say the Lord’s Prayer for ourselves and our country.

  8. Phil Reply

    Great post, than you. As a lifelong evangelical Christian it’s hard for me to understand how there can be so much anger from fellow Christians when a class of people cry out that they’re continuing to be oppressed. While racism may not be as overt as segregation was, let’s be honest, it still happens, just more subtly now. Independent data backs that statement up without any doubt, and now phone cameras are bringing it into our living rooms. What happened to the love of Christ by us Christians? I just can’t hear Jesus arguing with blacks (or Jews under Assyrian or Babylonian or Roman oppression) to “quit complaining, actually you’re just fine”.

    Besides all this, what does it cost us to be more loving towards our black brothers and sisters? What does it cost us to listen gently? What if the church proved to be the most loving, tender, caring and listening community in America instead of angry, disagreeable and opposing? What if we followed Jesus first, instead of a political party first? Would we represent Jesus better? What if we stopped seeing this issue through a political lens but instead looked through the lens of Christian love?

  9. Ross Roberts Reply

    I agree with your position that it is good to specify our love for the each.

    However, your initial scenario, “Imagine if every time one of my children said, ‘Dad, I love you,’ I responded with ‘I love all my children'” is not the scenario that we are seeing in our society right now. If you want to use your relationship with your children as a helpful analogy to what is going on in different elements in our society, and how Christ’s church should be responding to the George Floyd killing and the hue and cry “black lives matter” (not capitalized), here is the way you need to set it up.

    I don’t know you or your children, so I’m going to make up that their names are Jo, Kai and Bo (chose those because they’re nice and short – hopefully not any of their real names). Now, you have been guilty in the past of being harsher in your punishments and stingier with your love for Bo over the way you have treated Jo and Kai. Finally, you do something that is particulary harsh towards Bo, and Bo says “Dad, I didn’t deserve that! What is your problem? Why have you been mistreating me like this for years?” And the Spirit moves you to repentance, and you cry out “Youre right! I have been terrible. Please forgive me.” To which Bo responds, “OK, what I need you to do to prove that you mean that is put up signs in the yard, and posts on Facebook, and talk about it from the pulpit, and any other way that you can find of saying it that “Bo matters! Bo was treated wrongly! Bo is special! Our family needs to do special things for Bo!” And you, feeling contrite, say, “OK, I will do that.” And you do. And you keep it up for a while. And then Jo and Kai, who have done nothing wrong, and have merely been more favored by you over their brother, start to think “Wait a minute! I’m glad Dad loves Bo now, but now all we hear about is how Bo is special. What about us? Don’t we matter?”

    And at this point, you realize that you have swung too far the other way; that what you really need to be doing is saying, “Bo is loved and special, and Jo is loved and special, and Kai is loved and special” because we should say that each is loved and matters.

    But repeating that all the time gets a little cumbersome, so you very soon just start to tell your kids, any of them who asks you about how you feel about them, ‘You know, Bo (or Jo, or Kai), *all* my children are special, all of you matter.”

    And that just makes sense and is right. Now if Bo thinks that this is not acceptable, Bo still feels as though he should singled out as special, then Bo has a heart attitude problem that needs your loving correction.

    • Liz Reply

      This all sounds nice, except… in the real world, things have not yet been resolved with “Bo.” You are assuming that amends have been made and the underlying issues fixed and that everyone is ready to move on. But in the case of racism, that has not happened. If all lives truly mattered, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and Philando Castile and many, many more people that mattered would be living today. There is so much more fixing to do. What “Black lives matter” means is “Black lives matter TOO.” They haven’t until now, and it will take a long time, and a lot of change in hearts, government, society, and more, until they truly do. There isn’t a quick, simple fix like there is in your example. The few things that the parent did are just a start. It isn’t the right time yet to be yelling out, “But all lives matter!” It’s okay to sit quietly and stop talking over people who already have been silenced and shushed for so long. It’s not about us at the moment. It’s okay to be humble and stop yelling for attention that is due another person right now. Tend to the hurting, first. They are still hurting, unlike “Bo.”

      And furthermore, most people that use the response “All lives matter” know, on some level, that it is hurtful. Even if they can’t – or refuse to – understand why, they KNOW that it hurts. Yet they persist in saying it. Why? That doesn’t seem to be a very Christian thing to do. When our spouses or our children come to us and say, “You know, when you do X it is hurtful to me,” we stop. Even if we can’t identify with their feelings, we discontinue the behavior because we have kindness in our hearts and because we are acting out of love. That is what we should do in this situation as well.

  10. J. Parker Reply

    Some here have talked about the organization Black Lives Matter (which has some serious problems), but that’s different from the movement and the statement that black lives matter. That phrase should be easy for us, especially Christians, to say, as only a first step—after which we must live out the principle that everyone matters in our daily lives. Just as Christ did.

    Regardless, you should send this to Vice President Mike Pence. 😉

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