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Why Black Lives Matter
Black lives really do matter. While they have never publicly mattered to this country, they have always mattered to black people. Recent protests in the aftermath of the public execution of George Floyd have brought both positive and negative results. On the one hand, Floyd’s legal lynching has elicited a Macedonian call answered by outraged blacks and sympathetic whites to end racial profiling and police brutality now! But on the other hand, the racial mood of the country still lends the impression that this was an isolated incident and that systemic racism does not extend to other major facets of national life. This thinking, however, does more to assuage white guilt than free black people.
The black community understands that these recent protests are but the latest round of a history of prophetic responses to white hegemony — the latest outcry of justified rage from the trenches of black oppression. For in that physical and psychical trauma has been borne the black liberation tradition most notably recognized in Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman,
Ida B. Wells Barnett, W. E. B. DuBois, Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Fannie Lou Hamer — a tradition that has incessantly made the public statement, black lives matter! They matter as an infusion of hope to a black community that needs a sense of somebody-ness, and they matter as a formidable challenge to a white community that has long rendered black humanity an aberration.
Black lives matter also to God.
The veracity of the position lies in the contention that God created all human beings, including black human beings, in freedom. Thus, to deprive a group of human beings’ freedom in any way is antithetical to divine will and has no place in a responsible Christian theology. That to theologically sanction the desecration of black humanity while confessing love for the God of Jesus Christ is the pinnacle of sin. In such a milieu, God is an idol, not a liberator!
This is why for all religious institutions the salvation of the world lies in their response to the challenge put forth by a liberating hermeneutic regarding true reformation – seeing God in people of color! If America’s gruesome racial history has not done anything else it has taught us that true reformation has less to do with altering a particular doctrine or liturgy, not in the true apostolic authority (Catholic) or in the elimination of indulgences (Protestant), but more to do with the radical altering of religious meaning itself. This means a new focus, not on ecclesiastical dogma, but on repairing the tattered and torn Imago Dei in people of color in a world continually committed to their debasement. Only through an abandonment of the seminal value of racism will the church and all other religious institutions be a part of a liberation reformation. Only in the prophetic transformation of human value will black lives matter in a way that reflects the true nature of divine will.