Jesus, the Church and BLM

#BlackLivesMatter has been a giant movement – one that is overdue, and has been overlooked for so long. I’ve had the intention to write something about this, but I’ve been torn. I’ve posted a few things on my Instagram account, to show my allyship but when it came to writing a blog, I’ve hesitated. I want to address why.

The posts I’ve shared on Instagram have been regrams from other people sharing useful information, not my own original content. I follow a lot of people – from celebrities, to church pastors, close friends and people that I’ve met and known, but no longer in contact with – and I like looking through the windows of these different people’s lives, I like their photos, I read their captions, and I occasionally comment.

When divisive issues come up, I like to read the comments. I want to understand different perspectives, understand and learn from people’s mistakes when they post. The #BlackLivesMatter (or BLM) movement has caused me to read a lot of comments. I wanted to show my support – my allyship – because I don’t believe that someone should be considered as less than a person because of the colour of their skin, their gender or their sexuality. But I also didn’t want to make a mistake and say the wrong thing and make things worse.

As a Christian, I thought I would look at the pastors I follow, and one particularly vocal leader was (and still is) Pastor Carl Lentz, the pastor for Hillsong NY. He’s an incredibly passionate leader and is well known for chasing down the one person. Ellen really likes him, and introduced him to me via Instagram, and I’ve found him to be someone who challenges your opinions and views (in a good way) to help you grow. In gardening terms, I guess he looks to prune away to ensure better and bigger growth in you.

He posted and deleted, posted and deleted, got himself into arguments in his comments, because his posts were less than perfect in response to BLM. He got a lot of flack; but he was trying. He was responding, and every time he reposted, he explained why he had deleted the last post, that he was trying to learn to be a better ally – to be a better vocalist for this important cause. But it was clearly hard work.

I used my LinkedIn account, where I follow a lot of women from different locations around the world, in different types of work, and a lot of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) women and read the posts they were sharing, bought the Kindle books and audiobooks that were being suggested. I did the same on my Facebook account, and my Instagram. I wanted to learn more.

Last year, I joined the Empowering Women Network’s committee at work that has been running for a few years. I wanted to find an outlet where I could arrange some events – some external and internal speakers, networking events – things that would bring the femininity of our work force to the forefront, and embrace it: lean into it. Creating a safe space to talk about things that are innately female and effect how we work. In my white privilege, it didn’t occur to me that white women have things differently to BIPOC women, and I had been enjoying being gently challenged by other committee members about my white privilege, learning of terms like white saviourism among others.

This was the beginning of my re-education, then the protests sparked by George Floyd happened and are still happening, and I’m having new opportunities to learn and better myself. But why have I held off adding my two cents? I’m asking myself for myself as much as for you. Was it because I wanted to pen the perfect post? No – because whatever I write won’t be enough, it won’t be perfect. Am I scared of the potential comments? A little bit – I always get nervous when I’m challenged in comments, but this is bigger than that. It’s not enough to scare me off – I want to be better than I am now. I might not get it right first time, like Carl Lentz – but like him, I’m not afraid to try, fall and pick myself up again, in an effort to be a better ally to BIPOC. What I wanted to do was wait until I had something meaningful to say.

I recognise that white silence is unacceptable – it makes us guilty. By not speaking up, we’re continuing to cover up the problem, and allow our white privilege to continue unchecked. But I also feel that adding to the cacophony of noise without adding meaning, is not helpful either. It’s such a narrow ledge to tread – between silence and meaningless noise – but a position I wanted to take. So what is the meaningful content I have to say?

I have been quite shocked at the response of the Church to this movement – or should I say the lack of response, or the misunderstanding of the Church. I follow so many Christian accounts on Instagram, and the only person I have seen meaningfully and decisively engage and continue to engage has been Carl Lentz. So many people have posted once or twice, then reverted to their usual posts.

I’ve been watching church online almost since the start of lockdown. I’ve mostly been watching Emmaus Road church in Guildford, but the past two weeks, I’ve been at my parents house, so I’ve been watching their church (Grace Community Church in Bedford) online. In fact, since the protests started, I’ve only been watching my parents church, and a few things struck me.

I’ve got used to taking communion weekly with Emmaus Road – even if I don’t generally have bread or wine in the house, I take water and party rings (I believe it’s the action and the symbolism that’s important in communion, not getting hung up on having the right things. Time and time again Jesus tells us that it’s our hearts that matter, not the physical things, but also Jesus turned water into wine, and party rings aren’t that far different to communion wafers!) – so not taking communion on a Sunday morning suddenly felt odd to me. I asked my parents, and they couldn’t recall the last time they had taken communion with the Church, saying that they didn’t often do it in the Sunday morning service anyway, so it wasn’t a big change.

Their prayers felt like they were missing two important factors: as Ellen puts it in her recent blog, we’re in the middle of two pandemics – coronavirus and racism. The Church didn’t pray for the wisdom of the government, or for the BLM movement, which protests had happened in London the day before. My parents told me their church pre-recorded their service, and so they couldn’t update it the night before – but my counter argument was that it had been more than a week that the movement had been happening. This wasn’t new information.

So I decided to use my white privilege to try to do something about it. My silence was being broken, because that’s not good enough.

As white people, we need to be the ones standing up between the injustices faced by BIPOC. We can’t stay silent or seated. I thought about ‘what can I do?’ – so I went on my phone at the end of the service, found their “contact us” page and did a bit of bible research, put it in the form and hit send. Retrospectively, I wish I’d copied the message, or taken a screenshot of it. Because I got no reply, and that message has disappeared.

This morning, the church once again breezed over praying for the government to make the right decisions in this crucial time when they’re making decisions about easing lockdown, and prayed instead specifically for families and children. Moreover, BLM was conspicuous by it’s absence in the service.

Now I’m not picking on this church and calling them out as the only church doing it, but what I am saying is that now we are becoming more aware of the injustices, we should be doing our part – and making a stand. This is history being made. What side do you want to stand on?

Despite the painting in my grandmother’s house, Jesus was not white. No one in the bible was white if we’re being realistic. Thinking in modern terms, the people in the bible were Palestinian, Egyptian, Israeli, Iraqi, Turkish, Greek, Italian (Roman), and Turkish – amongst others. They were BIPOC. And the bible speaks of equality in various passages, but I feel most significantly there are 2 messages that we need to hear:

  1. Genesis 1:27 – So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
    • Not BIPOC, and then white people were made in His image – all of mankind. Every single person has been made in the image of God, no matter the colour of our skin, or our sexuality or our gender. We are all unique reflections of God.
  2. Matthew 22: 34-40 – Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
    • All we need to do is love God and love each other; that is all we’re commanded to do. To hate or discriminate anybody – because of their religion, the colour of their skin, their sexuality, their gender, or a combination of these things, or other things – is literally the opposite of what Jesus asks of us.

Right now I’m watching a talk/Q&A with one of the church workers at my parents church. I heard her story a number of years ago at a harvest dinner type event – I won’t go into the details (that’s her story and if you want to learn more, the talk and Q&A is available to rewatch here) but I will mention something that I feel is relevant to this post. Her parents were in Prague at the time of the Russian invasion in 1968, and she talks about her parents witnessing flags being burnt and tanks crushing people. She said that at the time, her father was reading the following passage, and felt called to do something:

‘If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. ‘

1 John 3:17-18

We’re not in a position of invasion, or war time (though I guess some might describe it as such) but we are in a position of seeing people in need. People are dying – not under tanks, but under the knee of white oppression. If we stand by and let it happen, how can the love of God be in us? Love isn’t just one Instagram post, then a return to normal, or a blog post, then nothing more said – it’s through actions (like the bible tells us). We need to hold people accountable, and make sure change happens on every level.

If your church isn’t praying for BLM and you don’t know what to do, I urge you to email them, to tweet them, comment on their Instagram posts, or Facebook page – however you know how to contact them right now – it might be speaking about it in your home group/small group/connect group, however you feel comfortable doing it. We need to take action, not just make platitudes, and it takes you (yes – you reading this right now) to call inaction out. If we all take that responsibility on, change will happen.

I wanted to share some materials I have found helpful in educating myself:

Me and White Supremacy by Layla F Saad – I’m listening to this as an audiobook and it’s really challenging. It was originally a 28 day Instagram challenge, and Layla F Saad has turned it into a fantastic journalling book, which challenges my deeply ingrained white privilege. It’s uncomfortable, but that’s exactly what it’s supposed to be. I highly recommend it.

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge – I’ve seen this recommended by countless people on various social media platforms. I’ve bought it, but not yet read it.

People to follow:

LinkedIn: Brigette Hyacinth, Cynthia V Davis FRSA, Talja Parkinson, The Female Lead

Instagram: The Feminist Nook, Brené Brown, Carl Lentz, Layla F Saad

Facebook: Stand Up To Racism

Here is a great article with some more suggestions if you want to flood your timelines with anti-racism posts.

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