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"Black Lives Matter" is a Theological Statement

from Rev. Elijah Zehyoue, pastoral resident at Calvary Baptist Church, Washington, DC

[At the beginning of April] after many months of conversation and planning, we put up a banner on the church lawn that said Black Lives Matter. This banner was supposed to convey to our community that we pay attention to the injustices that literally happen in our neighborhood. We put the sign up so that everyone would know that Calvary Baptist Church is a church where Black Lives Matter.

For some reason, that statement which affirms the dignity of Black folks feels extremely confrontational. Ever since organizers began to use this slogan, many in the majority community have tried to associate it with violence, terrorism, and hate. For some reason when folks with power read the words Black Lives Matter, they are offended. Can we just pause and consider that for a moment? People who claim to love God and country, do not like seeing that the lives of the historically marginalized should matter or be recognized in a particular way.

Over the weekend and last night, our sign was taken down by people who are opposed to the church of Jesus Christ proclaiming that Black Lives Matter. We put the sign up again on Monday and will put it back up today, and I hope we will keep putting it up (and move it higher) each time someone tries to strike it down. But what matters more to me than how often we have to put it up after hateful people strike it down, is how committed will we be to working to ensure that Black lives matter in a very real sense in our neighborhood. What is our commitment to racial justice in this realm? What is our openness to Black theology and womanism? What is our openness to Black liturgy? What is our relationship to historic Black institutions? How do we welcome Black people and re-align our space to ensure that they too can be comforted? How do we treat the Black people that work for the church? How are we willing to examine our privileges and biases that often make it very hard for people to actually see that Black Lives really Matter to us at this church?

Black Lives Matter is a theological statement. Like blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness and the Samaritan is Good, it is a statement that at once provokes anger and reveals what is on the heart of God. Our role as the Church is to ask, “What is God saying to the world today? And then share that truth with the world. I pray that in everything we do, we will have to courage to remain faithful to this truth that God is saying Black Lives Matter.

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