Black Lives Matter

It is with some trepidation I write this post as I know there will be those in the church better placed to comment on the events of the last few weeks. I refer to the horrendous footage of the murder of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis in America. It is difficult to watch and I know many people have tried and failed to see the footage to the end, as Christians I believe we should watch to the end for so much of scripture tells us to stand along side those who are oppressed. 

As we continue to experience the ramifications of George Floyd’s death across the world it is easy to dismiss this as not our problem – “it took place 4000 miles away”, “We are not racist like America”, “I work with coloured people and we get on fine”. This does not excuse the fact that racism is still happening in our country and society today and dare I say it even in our church. Don’t believe me? Then talk to a BAME teenager, talk to a minister with a Caribbean or African heritage. 

Within the protests of recent weeks there have been a number of phrases used in the discussions which I have found challenging. Firstly there is the phrase ‘white privilege’. Initially I reacted against this, I may be white but I am not privileged. I did not receive a large inheritance from my father, I do not benefit from a trust fund, I was not sent to a prestigious private school, but that is viewing privilege from my white english background. So in true biblical fashion I will tell you a parable.

You may have the same job, earn the same salary, live on the same street, and drive the same model car as your black neighbour, so you may not see yourself as privileged, but when you go out into the street you are not called derogatory names, no one will make monkey noises in your face or throw bananas at you, or tell you to go back to where you came from. As white person the Prime Minister would not make fun of your appearance or compare the way you dress as to looking like a letterbox – that’s white privilege. 

The second issue I have wrestled with is the ‘Black lives matter/All lives matter’ argument. We know that God cares for all his children irrespective of the colour of their skin, their gender, their sexuality. What is being said is that at this moment ‘Black lives Matter’. Look at the teaching of Jesus in Luke 15:3-7:- 

‘So he told them this parable: ‘Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbours, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.” Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance.’ 

The shepherd did not abandon the 99 but he knew they were safe and so focused on the one that was lost. At these times we need to focus on the black community who need our understanding and support, silence is not an option. 

My third and final issue was watching the toppling of the statue of the slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol. As some one who has been influenced by the non-violent campaigners in the world – Bonhoeffer, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, Oscar Romero – to see violence, even violence against property, makes me feel sick. Again I go to scripture to be reminded that in some circumstances people need to to take radical action. 

‘Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the benches of those who were selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them “My house will be called a house of prayer, but you have turned it in a den of robbers”.’

With all this taking place against the background of the Coronavirus lockdown we find we are challenged, it would be easy to simply hide away in the hope that this will pass along with the current pandemic, but don’t ignore what is being said or asked of us by our sisters and brothers of the BAME community. Take time to speak and listen to what our sisters and brothers are really saying and when needed stand with them in their hour of need. 

God bless and stay safe,

Alan. 

6 thoughts on “Black Lives Matter

  1. Ian Howarth

    Dear Alan,
    Good to be copied into this. I agree 100% with everything you have said, and am challenged to how we make that more evident in District life.

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    1. DIANA BOSMAN

      Agree completely with what you have written. Sadly I know there are many people who do not understand how those of us who are white, are privileged. A friend whose children in school near to me, who were nicknamed ‘Boot polish’. Another friends who felt very hurt by what a white ‘friend’ said to her and was just tole,: You’re too sensitive”. The embarassment to be told, “You wouldn’t steal because you are white”—said to me in sub Saharan Africa. A Caribbean friend stopped regualrly by the police when out driving. Sadly it’s all around us and not even noticed by many because it is so endemic. We pray, “Thy Kingdom come”—-so multiracial but all one in Christ and a people who love our neighbour; next door or worldwide, black or white, rich or poor. The problem is how do we stand up and non violently move forward. If it hadn’t been for Covid 19 I would have stood or knelt publicly in silence.

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  2. fouroaksman

    I feel uncomfortable about the destruction or removal of statues entirely from public places as they remind us all of the history of us in the UK. I believe that it is challenging to us in these times of trying to foster racial harmony and understanding and for me seeing a statue such as that in Bristol would have made me say to myself, “Yes, he might have done some good things like give a lot to the public but look at his record in relation to slaves” Now I am judging hm in the light of my understanding whereas when the statue was raised in the first place it was in the light of understanding in the minds of the people at that time which we now view as wrong.

    I have a friend, Afro-Caribbean, who wishes to move from a street near to me because she is judged in public every single day by her colour yet she is a very devout Christian and someone who I respect for she being what she stands for, I not seeing her by her colour. Anyone who knows me will not be surprised as I worked at two periods in my life in black African nations with the people, latterly non of whom were other than black. Some were Professors ad lecturers at a university, the others teachers and members of the congregation in the village where we worked and all of them taught my wife and I so much in terms of matching the Gospel to daily lives. This has made us who we are now.

    I am glad that this has been raised as we in the church must speak out.

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  3. pgrimwood

    Yes I very much agree. I particularly liked the way in which you cited actual instances of bad
    inter racial behaviour of the kind that black people endure.

    Indeed you have stimulated me to write something myself on this topic.

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  4. Benedict Adams

    A very thoughtful article Alan. As a middle aged white man I have tended to keep my opinion about Black Lives Matter to myself because i have never faced the challenges BAME people face on a daily basis from racism and discrimination so i am talking from a point of view where i have zero real life experience,

    It is a very sad state of affairs that in Britain, America, Australia etc in the 21st Century that we are having to see these protests because of the situations people have experienced especially when these issues were raised in the 1960s in the civil rights movement so as a society we have had 60 years to achieve a global community which is fair to all men and women no matter their creed or colour.

    Whether or not we will see a major shift in society in this generation is up for debate, personally I think unfortunately unless pressure is kept up on government and institutions that there will be very little difference in 20 years time, and as individuals and as churches we all need to be speaking out and trying to affect change.

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  5. chadchurch24

    Thank you Alan. The issue is not “Black lives matter” but “Black lives matter too”. We live in societies that continue to discriminate and disrespect people because of the colour of their skin. Racism should be challenged wherever and whenever it exists.

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