Note: Excerpt from Why Black Lives Matter (ed. Anthony Bradley, Wipf & Stock 2020).
The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement grew in response to a number of African Americans who were killed because of the actions of police. These men and women include Trayvon Martin, Renisha McBride, Eric Garner, John Crawford, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and others. According to the movement’s website,
Black Lives Matter began as a call to action in response to state-sanctioned violence and anti-black racism. Our intention from the very beginning was to connect black people from all over the world who have a shared desire for justice to act together in their communities. The impetus for that commitment was, and still is, the rampant and deliberate violence inflicted on us by the state.
Unlike the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, BLM has been intentional about keeping black churches on the far periphery of their advocacy for black flourishing. I believe this to be a profound error. Keeping God on the margins, and what God desires for the people he created, will not lead to long-term thriving. In fact, keeping what God desires for the human person on the margins is a predictor of social decline. The authors of this book would not only like to add some perspective on why black lives matter but also explain why the church matters to Black Lives Matter. The central thesis is this: black lives matter because African Americans are made in the image of God, and black thriving is, therefore, derivative of God’s desire for human flourishing as we address various issues of this generation….
The issues raised by the Black Lives Matter movement call for renewed attention to be paid to those principles and practices that have historically produced black thriving. We believe that we will not make progress until we hear from black religious leaders who hold the work and person Christ in high esteem. This is why we are repositioning this discussion with Why Black Lives Matter….
Historically, the black church has been a place of spiritual formation and cultural renewal in black communities. Because the church remains relevant today that tradition must continue, since people need help and hope. The election of Barack Obama to the presidency of the United States was a wonderful example of social progress but can only offer limited hope to address the deeply differentiated social and spiritual issues that have many black communities in America in a new kind of oppression. We need to hear from the Lord. We have assembled some of the most dynamic and progressive black pastors and theologians in America to move this conversation forward because we believe the church must lead in initiating the type of renewal needed to rightly answer the deep questions about solutions to the crisis and to provide insight on why black lives matter….
It is my hope that this book will be read critically and will create new questions for a national dialogue about the black church and her connection to the black community as we think about the telos for black lives and why they matter. We are all independent thinkers from multiple traditions and bring different perspectives to the table. The richness of this volume is a type of viewpoint diversity that keeps the resurrection of Jesus Christ at the center. While we do not agree on specific prescriptions for change in all areas we do share a central conviction that there needs to be a resurgence of black religious leadership to properly form the Black Lives Matter movement. Without the church, black lives cannot be truly liberated to be the persons that God created them to be. We hope for this book to serve as a first step in inspiring more black religious leaders to lock arms and provide the moral voice that our communities need as we pursue what it means to say, “black lives matter.”