On June 12, 2020, Josh Buice wrote an article entitled, “Three Reasons Why Christians Should Reject #BlackLivesMatter“
Buice is the lead pastor of Pray’s Mill Baptist Church in Douglasville, George (west of Atlanta). He is also the founder and director of the G3 Conference. A graduate of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he is a leading critic of the social justice movement and calls for a return of all church leaders to return to speaking the truth on serious topics on Christian doctrine. He calls on the Church to be led by “doctrinal purity.”
He makes a passionate argument that people should reject #BlackLivesMatter based on three points: The Radical Social Justice Agenda of #BlackLivesMatter, The Lawlessness and Injustice of #BlackLivesMatter, and The Religion of #BlackLivesMatter. In each of these posits, he makes an active decision to not separate the call that #BlackLivesMatter and the organization called Black Lives Matter.
And that fault in his argument kills his efforts before it even gets started. He refuses to distinguish the two and hides behind that decision.
But let’s break down his article anyway.
The Radical Social Justice Agenda of #BlackLivesMatter
Buice complains that in the 2020 agenda of the Black Lives Matter website is the following plank.
BLM’s #WhatMatters2020 is a campaign aimed to maximize the impact of the BLM movement by galvanizing BLM supporters and allies at the polls in the 2020 US Presidential Election to build collective power and ensure candidates are held accountable for the issues that systematically and disproportionately impact Black and under-served communities across the nation.
He is concerned with the use of the word “power” in that writing, “They want to gain power so they can change power structures …” He suggests that rather than going after “power”, Christians should go about “changing hearts with the good news of Jesus.”
Let’s stop there for a moment … and turn ourselves to a wonderful animated lesson from Schoolhouse Rock – the lesson of “I’m Just A Bill.”
Laws in the United States of American are written by the Congress of the United States. The members of the Congress are elected by the people of the districts and states those members represent. In a representative democracy, if a legislator is not representing the views of their constituents, many times that person is voted out of office during something that is called … an election.
How do the people influence the laws in this nation? By lobbying/writing their members of Congress to get a bill introduced that will fix a problem, or by running for office themselves so they can be able to address the issue. Either way, the message is sent by voters at the ballot box.
Now, laws may be needed to address the “bad apples” in police departments throughout the nation. There’s been talk of two different packages in the US House and Senate to address capturing the data needed to fully grasp the number of victims of police brutality, providing federal funds for diversity and de-escalation trainings and the like. If there’s going to be a public policy change that makes the lives of everyday citizens (which include Black lives that matter), it’s going to take power by the voters to send people to Congress, to the White House, to other public offices to get it done.
Why would a Christian be opposed to that?
Buice unfairly presents a quote from Killer Mike, an Atlanta hip-hop artist who spoke on the first night of riots in Atlanta, and tries to turn it into the words of someone who is trying to deceive people:
It is your duty not to burn your own house down for anger with an enemy. It is your duty to fortify your own house so that you may be a house of refuge in times of organization, and now is the time to plot, plan, strategize, organize, and mobilize. It is time to beat up prosecutors you don’t like at the voting booth. It is time to hold mayoral offices accountable.Killer Mike
So, let me get this straight, Killer Mike is asking that we hold our leaders in all levels of government to be accountable? Accountability for people in positions of power is essential both within and without the church. Much like St. Paul admonished believers in 1 Timothy 5:20 to reprimand leaders who are in sin, we should also hold our elected officials accountable for their actions regarding public policy.
#BlackLivesMatter is calling for change in those leaders who are not providing fairness and equality among the constituents.
Why would a Christian be opposed to that?
Buice argues that this is social justice 101 and that it is not the way of Jesus.
When it comes to governing, Jesus suggested in the Gospel according to Matthew that we should get involved with governing and participating in the state. It reads:
They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us the, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?
But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought Him a denarius and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied
The he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”Matthew 22:16 – 21(NIV)
Jesus gives us the framework for how we should see the connection between Christianity and the State. Yes, the state has rights and must be respected and obeyed. But the state is accountable to God and our mission for justice involves figuring out what things are needed for the state to be successful and what things belong to God. And we are to put those things right in regards to our own lives and in our relationships to others.
We can’t claim to love God and to follow the Bible and then ignore the needs of our neighbors. We cannot ignore that #BlackLivesMatter because black Americans are our neighbors just as much as anyone else.
Buice suggests that the current American justice system comes from God:
Our God is the God of justice – he created justice – and our justice system is designed in such a way as to reflect the justice of God. Although our justice system is imperfect and upheld by imperfect people, we are called to be people of peace, law, and order.Josh Buice
Thank you, Josh, for admitting that the American justice system is imperfect and is upheld by imperfect people. Logic would suggest that if something is not perfect, we should work to make it better. If there is a system of government that is oppressive, we should work to change it. If God is perfect than anything that is imperfect cannot fully capture God’s justice. It must be improved to provide that justice on earth.
South Africa, after years of struggle, got rid of apartheid. Throughout the world, people saw that that system of government was not appropriate. It was unjust and it hurt and killed in unjust ways. That change came from protests and actions. It came about because eventually the idea that #BlackLivesMatter took hold and removed an evil system.
The Lawlessness and Injustice of #BlackLivesMatter
Buice now turns his focus to the riots that have raged in the streets of many American cities. He complains about businesses being burned, the looting, the destruction of police cars, the police officers who have been verbally abused and attacked. He pulls on the heartstrings of the read to have compassion for men and women who put their lives on the line to serve and protect the citizens of our communities.
He claims that the mobs are unjust for taking out their frustrations on innocent officers and he decries a lack of denouncement from the Black Lives Matter organization.
He has some valid concerns here. Not all police officers are evil. There is little logical sense in burning of businesses and homes of white and black business owners. It is true that Black Lives Matter has not release any convincing statement against the violence.
But that’s not the movement. #BlackLivesMatter, shared by thousands and thousands of people who are not a part of the organization. To blame the movement for the organization would be akin to blaming all Christians for the sins of Jimmy Swaggart’s or Jim Bakker’s ministries. It is an easy way to avoid what is the true issue behind the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter
Buice points to the Gospel of Matthew portrayal of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus says:
You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.Matthew 5:38-39
I have no argument against this lesson given us by the Lord. But I wonder what Josh thinks of another lesson from the Lord, one where he describes what He came to do. In the very same Gospel Jesus says:
Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come not to bring peace but the sword. For I have come to set a man “against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s enemies will be those of his household.”Matthew 10:34-36
Jesus is not afraid to cause division in order to make improvements here. He’s not opposed to causing division in order to establish his Kingdom here. People protesting against a problem and calling for change will cause division. Jesus came down to Earth to provide salvation to those who believe in Him and his teachings. That caused division within the Jewish community and in the Roman Empire.
Additionally, in all of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John we have the narrative of Jesus violently expelling the merchants and money changers from the Temple (see Matthew 21:12-17; Mark 11:15-19; Luke 19:45-48; John 2:13-16):
And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”John 2:13-16
Our Savior witnessed something evil in the Temple and he made a weapon to stop it. There was evil in His Father’s house and he dealt with it. Some will suggest that “Well, because he did that he was killed shortly after! See violence leads to the death of our Lord. Violence leads nowhere good.” I urge those who are tempted with this response to consider that this event very well may have led to His death, but also His resurrection.
As leaders in America and in the Church, it is important for Pastors to share the entire story and follow the events to their eventual conclusion. That God worked through violence to bring salvation to all men.
In the end, #BlackLivesMatter has no connection to violence but it can use the violence to highlight a bad situation that has been brewing in this nation for years. The movement is not the organization and while some will decry the organization, no good Christian will decry that #BlackLivesMatter too.
There’s no reason that a Christian should oppose that.
The Religion of #BlackLivesMatter
Buice claims “Black Lives Matter is more than a movement, it’s a religion.” Pointing to incidents where people are kneeling and apologizing for their white privilege, he stresses that social justice is nothing more than a perverted version of the Gospels. He claims that people who do not believe that Black Lives Matter will not be considered Christian by those who do.
Let’s take a moment to see what the definition of religion is. According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of religion is:
1a: the state of a religious (i.e. a nun in her 20th year of religion)
1b(1): the service and worship of God or the supernatural.
1b(2): commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance
2: a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices
3 archaic: scrupulous conformity/conscientiousness
4: a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held with ardor and faith
To my knowledge, nothing in any of the calls behind #BlackLivesMatter ask for a new religion. Nothing calls for a replacement of God, nothing calls for a replacement of the Church. The calls within #BlackLivesMatter are simply that black people matter too, just as much as white people. It has to be said because for so long black Americans have not been treated in ways that suggest we matter.
To my knowledge, there’s no separate Bible used by #BlackLivesMatter. To my knowledge, there is no deity that has been put to death. George Floyd is not lifted up as a god. He’s not lifted up as someone who was perfect. He’s not being worshipped by anyone.
Seems like a pretty big jump, Josh.
Buice then goes on to use the standard line used by many who don’t want to be reminded that Black lives do indeed matter, “ … all lives matter and we see this clearly articulated in the pages of the Scripture.” And he wraps it all up with this:
Dear Christian – follow Jesus, do justice, and walk humbly with our God.
Justice. That’s what you said, Josh. Do Justice.
Isn’t that what #BlackLivesMatter the movement is calling for? We want to apply justice equally and fairly to both black and white Americans in every part of the country? There’s going to be plenty of debates on how that is accomplished but none of those debates, hopefully, will fight against the idea that #BlackLivesMatter too.
Why would a Christian want to oppose that?