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“Black lives matter” isn’t always about black lives

On May 25 a Minneapolis black man, George Floyd, died in handcuffs while three police officers kneeled on him, including one, Derek Chauvin, who was kneeling on his neck. In the weeks that followed protests erupted in cities across the US and the world, and protesters also made their feelings known on social media, many using the #blacklivesmatter hashtag.

Christians nodded their agreement, but some wondered at the emphasis on blacks. After all, we know that all of us are just one race, and wouldn’t furthering that understanding be the best way to counter racism? So many well-meaning Christian noted that “all lives matter” because, of course, they do. But what this overlooked is the specific charge being made: protesters are saying that many black lives are not being treated like they matter. One clarifying analogy shared around social media about the “all lives matter” slogan told of a husband speaking at his wife’s funeral about how much she mattered to him only to have someone take the mike and share that “all wives matter.” This is a true statement, but at this time and place would be understood as entirely missing the point.

So let’s be done with “all lives matter.” Does that mean we should embrace the “black lives matter” (BLM) slogan? The problem with doing so is that there is more to BLM than just the slogan; there is also a Black Lives Matter movement. While the movement is loosely knit, some of its key leaders are as interested in promoting homosexuality and transgenderism as they are in fighting racism. In a 2015 interview with MSNBC, one of the founders, Patrisse Cullors, noted that the hashtag #blacklivesmatter:

“…was created by two black queer women, myself and Alicia, and one Nigerian-American woman, Opal Tometi…”

It doesn’t take much digging to find abortion-promoting work as well. So the slogan speaks to one matter, but the organization is taking on many more, much of it in direct opposition to God’s will.

There have been a couple of suggestions on how Christians might modify the BLM slogan to, on the one hand, acknowledge the grievance being made, and, on the other, distance us from the BLM organization. “All black lives matter” is a pro-life suggestion, meant to highlight how blacks are disproportionately victims of abortion. But, unfortunately, the BLM organization is already using this slogan, with the “all,” in their case, referring to transgender, gay, and lesbian blacks.

Another possibility: “Black lives matter too.” This acknowledges the grievance, but in a way that is more unifying, and less an us vs. them statement. And it also takes us a step away from what the BLM organization is doing.

Whatever slogan we use, what’s most significantly missing here is God’s perspective. The biggest contribution God’s people can make to this discussion might be to add just a few select biblical words. We can note that George Floyd, an image-bearer of God (Gen. 1:27), was killed. When we put his death in that context then it becomes clear what needs to be done and what should not be done. By making it about God, and His standards, then we understand Floyd’s life was precious for the very same reason that our lives are. We’ll know that justice needs to be done. It will also be clear that our calls for justice can’t be accompanied by evil. How can we demand God’s justice for one image-bearer, even as we throw bricks or insults at other such image-bearers?

#ImagebearerOfGod might not make for an effective hashtag, but it is the beginning of an explicitly Christian, God-acknowledging message, which is what our world most needs to hear.


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