On Feb 26, 2012, George Zimmerman gave birth to the #blacklivesmatter movement by shooting and killing an unarmed seventeen-year old black man named Trayvon Martin.
George Zimmerman, at the moment he pulled that trigger, chose to end the life of another human being. He used deadly force with racist intent to “serve and protect”. When he was found not guilty fifteen months later, our society validated his decision and declared that yes, black lives matter, but only when it is convenient and comfortable.
The black community had enough, and vocally called us on our bullshit. They told us, in no uncertain terms, that we needed to pay attention to their community and what we were doing to it. We, White America, ignored them.
Our church leaders stood up and declared that no, all lives matter, not just black ones. We invalidated the pain of an entire marginalized and oppressed community merely to salve our own conscience. We were uncomfortable, and we lashed out.
Slowly, more liberal white people saw what was happening and began to call each other out on our racist behaviour. We declared that yes, all lives matter, but black lives matter more, and they matter right fucking now.
Church leaders reacted otherwise, justifying the existence of the “all lives matter” response by doubling down on the racism with “policelivesmatter”, “communitylivesmatter”, and similar hashtags. All of which ignore the message of BLM, which is that black lives have value, and black lives deserve to be celebrated and protected alongside all the others already celebrated and protected.
Even among our liberal religious leaders, those who have tried to join BLM have faced uprisings in their own congregations. We, Religious White America, have forgotten that we are called to the service of all, called to radical action to defend the defenseless, and called to a life of discomfort. We must be uncomfortable if we are to live accordingly to the law we want others to live by.
But that’s the problem with privilege – it’s not easy to relinquish for the greater good. We, as a religious body (and including our non-religious “athiest” friends), would rather be comfortable than live to our truths. Worse still, we corrupt and twist those truths to justify the comfort, saying it is “what God wants for us”.
If God wants us to ignore the marginalized among us in favour of the powerful, then the Divine can go fuck itself.
Rev. Sean reminded me this morning that heresy comes from the Greek root word hierein, meaning “to choose”. In one way or another, we are all heretics, and we all make choices. All that matters is perspective – are we choosing to bear witness to our truths of equality and justice, or do we choose to be complacent in systemic injustice and genocide?
As my friends on the right might remember, Jesus did not call his disciples to be complacent. He called them to be heretical to the ruling Roman-Judaic government, to fight for equality, to demand justice and freedom. And yet… Church leaders preach a different gospel, one designed to maintain the status quo, to maintain comfort, to set the othodoxy in such a way as to preserve their comfort.
And we, White America, enable them to do it by following along like sheep. After all, who doesn’t want to be comfortable in the routine of kids-work-kids-home-church? It’s all so neat and controlled, so sterile and packaged, so… comfortably numb and orthodox.
I can no longer look on our hypocrisy and be quiet. I call each of us in White America to a different path, a heretical path. A path that verbally and physically affirms #blacklivesmatter, that finds and roots out the racism and injustice in our mix, that sets aside irrational fear in favor of being the hand and eye of the Christ we claim to follow.
I choose to be a heretic. The orthodoxy of hate has no place here, and if you do not choose to do so… ya’ll ain’t no better than the Pharisees and the Saducees.
I am a heretic, and I affirm that #blacklivesmatter .
Whose side are you on?