Christianity and Activism

I am Christian. It’s the identity I hold most dearest. As Christians we have some responsibilities that are not easy to follow, we live striving for the best, trying to replicate God’s will, showing his  love through our actions. No Christian is perfect, we are all sinners. 

Yet, something I have noticed within the community is the (I’m not even sure the right term for it) emphasis on particular sins over others. These particular sins mostly also seem to be those that negate other people their right to choice, to human rights, to love. Many things are wrong in this world, many things that we all participate in do not reflect what the Bible states. However it’s seems that throughout history, the main things some Christians have upheld as the “ultimate” sins (again no where in the Bible are these referred to as such) are abortions, homosexuality, and recently the Black Lives Matter movement. 

I have always had much trouble understanding why that is and accepting this. I have always found several contradictions in what we preach versus what we practice. How can one be pro-life but not say a word about the mistreatments of immigrant children at the Border? How can one tell me we are one in Christ but not be vocal about discrimination against Black and Brown people? 

It seems to me that the conversation many “conservative Christians” have is never one coming from the place of love (“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” – 1 Corinthians 13:13), but rather from a place aiming to castigate anyone who challenges their views on what is right.

There is this belief that constant condemnation is the right approach, over other routes that stem from understanding, mercy, and love.

For example instead of standing in the corner of the street with posts condemning a woman’s right to choose for their own health, how about getting involved in fields that work to improve healthcare so that maternal mortality rates are not so high? How about advocating for affordable childcare (which over the years has been increasing tremendously) so that families feel more economically stable to have children; just to mention a few.

Solely and continuously telling people what they are doing is “wrong” is not the way to bring by change. What is needed is an approach that includes sustainable solutions that help improve society in ways that, yes can abide by our faith, and do not involve mis-using the faith to infringe on other people’s rights. And trust me there is a way.

Yet, many christians’ mentalities is that this can not be done. It is either you are for us or against us. There is no in between. The demand is for others to follow what their notion of what the word of God is, without quite any helpful suggestions or will to do the work of meeting others halfway. How some Christians operate in bringing by the will of God is either by shaming people about the sins they are committing or by praying for the best. Many times ignoring the work that needs to be actually done. 

I have noticed this a lot in the recent stances against “Black Lives Matter” by some of my own Christians associates. 

First let me just say this really hurts. Personally, it was incredibly difficult to see people I have worshipped with, prayed with, spent time, and laughed with easily dismiss the significance of what’s currently occurring. 

How easily the harsh reality that Black people face were dismissed because it did not match their perspective of how the world is, because the demand for change does not agree with their notion of how a Christian should conduct themselves, it does not reflect what Christians should support. 

Human rights? Christians aren’t supposed to support human rights? Because if you truly have educated yourself to understand the fundamental basis of Black Lives Matter, you would comprehend what it is really about. 

At this point in history to blatantly deny/dismiss the systemic inequalities that BIPOC face in society, does not even stem from a place of ignorance but indifference. Period. To do this, is to consciously ignore the hardships that disproportionately affect BIPOC lives and state that there is no need for change.

Realizing that this was the case for many Christians was quite hurtful, because then do they truly believe I, or any other Black person, “brother or sister in Christ”, was also created in the image of God? Do they really believe that the way Black people are mistreated around the globe is how God wants it? How can they preach about kindness but not address the unkindness towards Black people? Do they realize that through their silence, they are siding with the oppressor?

Yet, sometimes what’s even worse than the silence is the continuous efforts to actively dismiss a movement that’s fighting for Black people to be shown the same compassion and love that other lives get. These efforts include but are not limited to: 

1. Saying “All lives matter because God made us all equal, and we should just stop, there’s no need for this, no need for protests or activism because God made us all equal and that’s all that matters”; 

2. Not agreeing with looting, therefore throwing the entire movement into the trash because “oh there were a bunch of looters and we shouldn’t condone violence, we shouldn’t be out there protesting because that’s taking revenge and that’s not what God wants us to do”; 

3. Posting only things that dismiss Black Lives Matter because the organization Black Lives Matter “stands for Marxism, is promoting equality for ALL black lives and that includes the LGBTQ community which is just not right, AND they are pro-choice, AND anti-capitalist so that must mean they support Marxism, well there’s our proof, it’s just wrong to stand up for such things as a Christian you know, and it’s our duty to point out what’s “wrong” 

4. “We should just pray, leave it God, have faith and it’s gonna be alright, let’s just move forward, pray that’s all we need and can do.” 

To these I urge you to think: 

1. God did make us all equal, that’s was and is his will. However that is not the reality in this world. Therefore don’t you think that if God wants us to be all equal, isn’t it also our duty to make that happen? To make sure others are treated equally? Won’t that be carrying on His will?  Yes we must have faith in the word of God (that we are all equal, that his God’s reality) but it also states “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” James 1:22 We have to do the work to make sure His will happens.

2. As much as you have suddenly become an advocate against looting, where was the exact same energy when Black lives were disproportionately murdered by police? Where is that same energy condemning the violence perpetrated by law enforcement? Why is it that this is what you have chosen to post about?

I am an inherent believer that if you are posting about something, that is what you care about. You will never see me post about motorcycles because I don’t care for them. So if the thing you post about (and sometimes the only thing) is about the looting, or how blue (or all) lives matter too, how good cops exist so this is unnecessary…etc., then in a way that is what is bothering you the most. Not the murder of George Floyd and countless others, not the fact that Breonna Taylor’s murderers and others are still free. 

So is it really about not condoning violence if you are biased to seeing violence only from the side advocating for Black Lives? 

Also where does Black lives matter equate revenge? Pro black doesn’t mean anti white.  It has been said again and again. Lack of educating oneself, lack of empathy and understanding and feelings of hate will lead one to believe that.

We are not out to take revenge. This idea again places violence as coming only from advocates. It falsely promotes the idea that Black people are out to inflict harm, when actually we are the ones being harmed. It completely negates/dismisses the sufferings done to Black lives by the hands of racism and police brutality. Many Black people and allies have died advocating against racism, we have seen acts of violence by police and racists (as recently as the case of Summer Taylor) but yet where is your post against that?

3. Do you believe Black lives matter? Is that contingent on what God has said or what an organization does? Do you think Black lives matter, yesterday, today, tomorrow? Or do they matter only when and if they are not making you uncomfortable? Only when they fit into your definition of what’s right? 

Do Black lives matter? Or do they matter only if they are not LGBTQ? Only if they are Christians, only if they do not commit crimes, only if they support all your ideals, only if they’re anti abortion or pro capitalism, only if they sit quietly and don’t demand equal rights? 

Do you hold these same contingencies for white lives? 

Is God’s love and mercy upon us contingent upon these same qualities you, a mere human being, are holding against another human being? 

Why is it that you stand up against certain sins but not all sins? Why is fighting for equal rights for Black people, why is abortion and being part of the LGBTQ community or an advocate for such community‘s access to equal rights a greater “sin” than others by your definition? Are you really preaching the word of God, stemming from a place of love and mercy or do you just want an excuse to be against something that makes you uncomfortable, gives you the entitlement to hate, gives you certain privileges?

4. If you can go to third world countries with predominantly Black and Brown children to do missionary work because they are in less fortunate situations, how come you fail to realize the less fortunate situations facing BIPOC in your country? Could it be a white savior complex that you have? Is Black people demanding equality stroking your ego because they are doing it themselves and not waiting for you to come “save” them? They are doing it in a way that doesn’t allow you to sit in your comfort, and place of privilege and doesn’t make you feel like a good person because they are calling out harsh realities? Is that what it is? Is that why we should just pray and leave it to God? How come you are not just praying and leaving it to God when it comes to your missionary work? 

Unfortunately, many Christians are not asking themselves these and many more questions. There is not enough happening within our Church to address systemic racism. Many believe that it is not the place of the Church to discuss or bring forth social change. However doing this is committing a great disservice towards the Black lives that are part of our faith. Like it or not, systemic racism also affects faith. For example socio-economic factors such as less funding for churches located in Black neighborhoods, lack of Christian-led community outreach in predominantly Black neighborhoods, resources and transportation to facilitate access to church services and meetings…and many more. In addition, the way many christians act towards “outsiders”,  the outright dismay of Black and/or LGBTQ lives, or issues affecting them, the silence when it comes to advocating for anti-racism and racial equality…does not bring people closer to God. Many times we Christians have failed to show others, the mercy and love God has shown us. We have failed for way too long and it needs to stop now. 

I often hear many Christians say the world is steering away from God, yet when the world is demanding for a change, a change that does reflect God’s will, we steer away. We exclude ourselves, on some honestly “holier than thou” nonsense. The world is not gonna change into a better place, if the people who can help make it better, do not contribute.

Christians, it our duty to get involved in social activism, it our duty to fight for our Black brothers and sister and demand for the World to show them the same kindness and compassion given to others, given to us. We can do this by starting with ourselves. 

There are many ways to help. 

  1. Deconstruct your own bias towards Black people. 
  2. Be ready and unwilling to be uncomfortable but also understand that this is not about you or ways you can make yourself seem or feel better. It is about how you can make sure that you or the person next to you does not perpetuate racism or become a victim of racism. It is about dismantling a society built on systemic racism. 
  3. Find ways to support black businesses.
  4. Choose your area of expertise or interest (which is also what I am doing now) and figure out how you can work to uplift Black voices within that field. 
  5. Willingly do the work yourself, without placing the burden on the Black people around you to educate you, or tell you what to do. For example instead of asking “how can I help”, find out on your own ways to appropriately contribute to the change. 
  6. Approach with a plan.  
  7. Engage in discussions about current events, and not one sided conversation where either you are putting Black people (or many time the only/few Black people in your church or organization) on the spot to speak or a non Black person is taking up even more space. 
  8. Ask well thought-out questions to understand various perspectives (and believe the feedback you receive even if “those were not your intentions”). 
  9. No free labor: pay the Black voices you invite to lead “diversity and inclusion” trainings/meeting etc. Advocate for equal pay. 
  10. Hire, give opportunities to Black students, employees, church leaders that extends beyond “diversity and inclusion office/task force.”
  11. Continue to learn about real Black history, continuously challenge spaces where inequality is seen, and advocate that all Black lives matter.

Just like our journey with Christ is not an easy short term path, fighting against systemic and individual racism is a life-long marathon. 

Pray and get to work. 

Book of the month: The History of Mary Prince, A West Indian Slave, Related by Herself” (by Mary Prince)

Video to watch: “I grew up in the Westboro Baptist Church. Here is why I left” Ted Talk by Megan Phelps-Roper  

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