This past December, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship hosted guest speaker Michelle Higgins, follower of Jesus, social activist, and director of the Christian advocacy group Faith for Justice, at Urbana '15, InterVarsity's global missions conference in St. Louis, MO.
On the second evening of the conference, December 28, Higgins delivered a captivating presentation addressed to the Evangelical Church and their seeming silence in the #BlackLivesMatter movement. She also urged the BLM movement to return to the model of justice provided by the Bible and which is exemplified through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Kevin Porter, reporter for The Christian Post, quotes Higgins as she clarifies the motives and purpose behind #BlackLivesMatter:
"'We do not want all people of color to go 'scott-free' from wrongdoing,' [Higgins] said. 'I don't want to see people of color never arrested for anything. 'Oh, Black Lives Matter' means black folks can kill everybody and steal stuff and we're going to all go home and say, 'Well, let 'em -- because of slavery.' That's not what we want. That's not what I want. What do we want? Justice. And what is justice? Justice means my baby boy, my baby girl will not be tried, condemned, sentenced and executed on the street. That is justice.'"
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA acknowledged their stance with #BlackLivesMatter in an article written on December 31, 2015,
"InterVarsity does not endorse everything attributed to #BlackLivesMatter... we reject any call to attack or dehumanize police. ...we are co-belligerents with a movement with which we sometimes disagree because we believe it is important to affirm that God created our Black brothers and sisters. They bear his image. They deserve safety, dignity and respect. InterVarsity believes all lives are sacred - born and unborn."
I stand to pursue racial justice and equity for all. I highly detest and condemn violence toward anyone, including those who protect us. Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. expressed his condemnation for violence by saying, "the ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it."
According to MSNBC reporter Joy-Ann Reid, 25,000 peaceful protestors gathered on December 13, 2015 between 2:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. for the Millions March NYC (MMNYC), organized by #BlackLivesMatter proponents, scheduled to conclude at the NYPD Headquarters in New York City.
Reid reports that MMNYC communications director, Kate McNeely, sent out a tweet at 7:26 p.m. which stated, "'anything that happens afterward was not organized by the MMNYC.'" Later, after the MMNYC's official conclusion, a cell phone camera documented a separate, smaller band of protestors on Manhattan's east side chanting, 'What do we want? Dead cops!' When do we want it? Now!'
Upon being notified of the video, MMNYC organizers released the following statement:
"'On behalf of the Millions March NYC, we express our deepest condolences to the families of the officers who were killed on Saturday. Our march last weekend was a peaceful outcry that senseless violence in our society is harmful to trust, community, and security. This tragedy is in no way connected to our march, or ongoing protests against police brutality, discrimination, and profiling... As New Yorkers, we will continue to march for a peaceful society, where trust between communities and law enforcement is finally achieved.'"
Unfortunately, the 'dead cops' chant is not an isolated event, but other protests and demonstrations more closely connected with the Black Lives Matter movement have occurred elsewhere in the nation.
Last August, in St. Paul, Minnesota, #BlackLivesMatter marchers directed chants ("Pigs in a blanket, fry 'em like bacon!") at nearby police vehicles and personnel who continued to secure their protest route to the Minnesota State Fair.
Bill Hudson, of WCCO-TV, reports that St. Paul Police Federation President Officer Dave Titus,
"'...fears that this kind of speech only escalates tensions instead of calming them. He hopes that it leads to a dialogue to show protestors how to voice concerns without promoting this type of violence.'"
Our police force is vital to maintaining peace. It is imperative that they, along with those whom they vow to protect, are not the targets of violent rage. Violence is not the answer and must cease within the BLM movement. MLK once said,
"You may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. You may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate, nor establish love. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars."
I choose to stand with my black brothers and sisters in solidarity - saying, 'Yes, I hear you. I see you. I want to know more. I want to listen to your story. I want to stand beside you and I want to see justice for your cause.'
I do not condone the violence committed or promoted by some protestors associated with the #BlackLivesMatter movement; I do, however, agree with the spirit of the movement - the need for justice. By abandoning or discrediting a plea for justice because of the actions of some, I do more harm than good. My silence and apathetic lack of participation does nothing to further justice.
Instead, I choose to speak out and stand with those seeking justice through peace. I urge others to follow suit and take the time to talk with and reason alongside others who may have different stories than themselves. Let us listen with vigor and respond lovingly with peace.
My approach may seem idealistic or unrealistic. Yet, as a follower of Jesus Christ, I strive to exude His abundant love, truth, forgiveness, and justice into every sphere of influence I am given.
On January 18th, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I was reminded of the peaceful integrity and firm faith in God MLK exhibited throughout the Civil Rights Movement. His simple but stalwart words are worth pondering:
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."