#Blacklivesmatter, Advocate for the Gospel, Do justice love mercy walk humbly with our God, Martin Luther King Jr., Silence is Violence, The Language of the Unheard, Wanting to be heard, Work against Injustice
Whatever language we use, we use it to be heard, and though MLK Jr. did not condone riots since they are just another form of violence, he understood it is a resort of those who simply have lost hope in their voice. This is not new, many years ago Odysseas Elytis said:
The lack of synchronicity between nature and man caused the lack of synchronicity between body and soul. When the nightingale isn’t heard, the Molotov cocktail is.
The ongoing protests and riots in the U.S. and Canada challenge Christians in how to engage against injustice. Andrew Shaughnessy with CT wrote from Portland OR. about “the tit-for-tat violence, with national news featuring glimpses of the scene: speeches by Black Lives Matter activists, the festival-like atmosphere of volunteers handing out “Riot Ribs” and making art, and the “Wall of Moms” linked arm in arm to take the first round of teargas.”
“As the marches continue, local Christian leaders have weighed how or whether to get involved. Many care deeply about standing for black lives, yet the protests are complex and the goals and tactics of the participants vary widely.
The violence—stoked by a few—is real, but so is the dancing, music, kindness, and courage. Add in the concerns of some about the ideology of groups like Black Lives Matter and the moral ambiguity of joining a crowd of thousands to protest in the middle of a global pandemic, and many find themselves caught in a conundrum:
How ought Christians fight for justice for the marginalized and oppressed in this complicated moment?
The Aftermath of Another Protest
We may share the same desire to fight against the injustice in our community, but not want to be involved in the violence. Shaughnessy noted that Keith Jenkins, an African American pastor at East Hill Church in Gresham, Oregon (just outside of Portland) has not participated in or attended the recent protests – but he hasn’t been silent either:
“The whole idea of a protest is to bring light to an issue, in this case injustice and inequality with the African American experience in America,” said Jenkins. “I had to make a choice whether to be on the front end, where the protest was happening, or on the back end, where policies and systemic change was happening.”
… A few weeks back, Jenkins organized a “non-political” prayer walk through downtown Portland with several area churches. With tear gas still lingering in the morning air, Christians laid hands on the Justice Center and Courthouse, they prayed for police officers and protestors, they cried out to God for peace and healing for their city.”
Standing there, looking at the aftermath of another night’s protest, [Pastor Jenkins] was not happy with what he saw. He cared so deeply for the cause, but how did any of this move things forward?
“… although I did not like the form of his protest, I was in solidarity with the substance of it. Likewise with Black Lives Matter.”
There is Complexity:
“Black lives matter” yet we worry that even that narrative can be convoluted in the protests, intermingled with the agenda of Antifa or with that of Portlanders more concerned with federal overreach than racial justice. Jenkins says,
“All of that is true, and yet it still shouldn’t stop the church from pursuing justice, loving their neighbor. That doesn’t change,” Jenkins said. “Listen, the world has always been messy. … And so, I have to be careful about being overly critical about things that I think aren’t helpful,” he said. “I just want to be an advocate for the gospel, for equality for image bearers.”
Silence is Violence
If you are like me, you may be deterred by the violence. You may be skeptical of the lack of a unified message or the protests’ ability to create tangible change. You may lay dormant in a time of chaos. This moment of silence is violence, as the saying goes. It is the violence of inaction where action must be taken for justice’ sake. Silence in the face of injustice is the tacit agreement with it.
Christians across traditions can agree that God’s Word is clear: We are called to ‘do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.’ We are to imitate Jesus by standing with the marginalized and oppressed.