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Just what does the Black Lives Matter movement stand for?

August 2020 | by Mike Judge

All right, let’s get this out of the way first. I know that when people repeat the slogan, ‘black lives matter’, it doesn’t necessarily mean they support every single ideological belief of the whole BLM movement. For many people it’s just a way of saying, ‘I oppose racism.’ I accept that.

I also know that racism is real, it is a sin, and it exists in our world. If we really believe in a universal fall and total depravity, then we accept the curse of sin and death has entered into every facet of life. Racism exists in every country, every culture, every society, and every era.

However, Christians — of all skin colours — shouldn’t ignore the difficult questions that the BLM movement raises. Nor do I think we should be so casual about slogans which carry a lot of troubling associations. So what is the BLM movement, and what is it trying to achieve?

First of all, I call it a ‘movement’ rather than an organisation because that’s precisely what it is. Yes, there is a US-based organisation which acts as a sort of unofficial umbrella group, but across the Western world a multitude of groups have spawned, all claiming some sort of BLM affiliation.

For what it’s worth, the US organisation has some radical ideological beliefs which no Bible-believing Christian could support. The group sees the nuclear family (a dad, a mum, and their kids) as inherently ‘Western’. Their stated goal is to disrupt the structure of the family. Children should, they say, be raised with the support of a community or a village.

The organisation wants to dismantle ‘patriarchal’ practices. In other words, they reject the idea of a husband and a father being a ‘head’ or a ‘leader’. Presumably they would reject male-only leadership in churches too. And they strongly push an LGBT agenda.

But that’s the US organisation. The UK groups (there are several) who associate themselves with BLM are entirely separate. What do they stand for? The most prominent British group is the ‘Black Lives Matter UK’ coalition — known on twitter as @ukblm, and on Instagram as @blmuk.

One of the group’s stated aims is to dismantle capitalism because, they claim, it is inherently racist. I accept that capitalism is by no means a perfect system, but what are they comparing it to? Communist countries like Stalin’s Russia and modern-day China have an appalling track record on persecuting ethnic minorities.

Black Lives Matter UK also says it wants to develop and deliver ‘strategies for the abolition of police’. They don’t just want to weed out racist officers (decent people would surely support that) or reform the force, they want to ‘abolish’ the police altogether.

For anyone who cares about the rule of law, it has been alarming to see police officers being assaulted by angry mobs on British streets. The peaceful protestors have rightly condemned such violence. But the radical rhetoric of BLM UK hardly helps to cool down hot heads.

Who is behind BLM UK? No one really knows. It’s not a registered charity. There are no named trustees. The group’s GoFundMe page has raised over £1million. Where’s all that money going? We don’t know. Where’s the accountability? There is none. They say they will publicise the spending of the funds in due course, but for now they remain highly secretive.

Yet, despite the anonymity and the radical agenda, a long line of celebrities, corporations, and broadcasters have lined up to signal their support for the movement. The English Premier League has given it extraordinary publicity. And many evangelical churches and leaders have jumped on the bandwagon.

I accept that the lightning speed of the spread of the BLM movement may have caught many off guard. Social media has played a phenomenal role in promoting the cause. It went very viral very quickly. So perhaps there wasn’t time to properly assess the movement. Many people simply reacted — instinctively and instantly — to the appalling and unjust death of a black man at the hands of a white US policeman.

Therein lies the problem. Social media demands instant reactions, instant responses, instant replies. But to those of us who have been keeping an eye on the social justice agenda, or the debate surrounding intersectionality, there were alarm bells ringing about the BLM movement.

One of the blessings of Evangelical Times being a monthly publication (there are burdens too, believe me) is that there is time to be more reflective and less knee-jerk. Surely, all of us could do with pressing the pause button from time to time.

Aside from the demand for instant responses, social media can also be very polarising. If your politics is of a more progressive persuasion, the algorithms will feed you more of what you want to read. Same goes if you’re more socially conservative in your opinions.

That gives a very distorted view of the world, where anger and fear can rise to the boil very quickly. There are those lurking in the shadows who see the potential to use social media to destabilise societies. Anti-Western nation states would be very happy to see us all turning on one another.

Of course, we mustn’t overplay the influence of social media. After all, they are just a part of our lives. We all have lives outside of our smartphones. At least, I hope we do. But nor can we ignore the subtle — and not so subtle — ways that social media shapes modern debates.

Speaking of shaping debates, the coercive way in which the BLM movement restricts language is another alarming factor. Unless you say the right thing, in the right way, at the right time, you can be denounced and shut down.

The ‘cancel culture’ and the ‘non-platforming’ of anyone who disagrees is very unhealthy for an open and democratic society. In order to speak the truth, we have to risk being offensive. Believe me, I’m all too well aware that writing this article may unsettling to some.

As I write this, some sports stars and TV presenters — of different skin colours — are beginning to feel uncomfortable associating themselves with the radical ideology of the Black Lives Matter movement. They’ve stopped wearing the badges. Perhaps some evangelicals will likewise reassess their support.

But there is one aspect of the BLM movement which should surely concern all evangelicals. Leaving aside the radical ideology and the anonymous structure, the quasi-religious nature of the movement ought to concern us the most.

Writing in The Spectator, Stephen Daisley says, ‘The religious character of coercive progressivism is central to understanding its relentless, missionary vigour.’ He agrees with Antonia Senior, who says ‘identity politics’ is like ‘Christianity but without redemption’.

He writes, ‘There are rituals, hymns and almsgiving. In place of justice, there is martyrdom; baptisms are now conducted at the site of Floyd’s death. There is original sin in the form of “white privilege” and heritable guilt.

‘Iniquities are confessed and, by way of penance, apologies given for the actions of others and patronising genuflections made to shine the shoes of black people. Heretics are shunned or browbeaten into repenting and even the insufficiently pious are damned.

‘Graven images are smashed by the faithful and the theology is suitably confusing, with some activists demanding white people speak up and others that they shut up. But where Christianity offers salvation, sin is eternal in this religion and the hope of deliverance absent. There is only the cross, no resurrection.’

That’s why all of us, as evangelicals, should be alarmed. It’s a false religion. It offers no one any hope of redemption. Only the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ can save people from their sins. I want to talk about him, and proclaim him, and make his name known. In him — and only in him — is there grace, and mercy, and forgiveness, and redemption. That’s the gospel we should profess, not the gospel of identity politics.

Mike Judge is editor and a director of Evangelical Times, and pastor of Chorlton Evangelical Church, Manchester.