I recently posted a tweet that resonated with some and frustrated others:
Them: As a Christian, how can you support Black Lives Matter, knowing some of the things they represent?!
Also them: Just because I voted for President Trump doesn’t mean I support everything he represents.
That tweet gained much more traction than I expected. I think it’s because it exposes an inconsistency in how many evangelical Christians approach racial issues, one that is often used to dismiss or even demonize Christians who advocate for racial justice. So, to set my intentions out front, my aim in that tweet and this article is to challenge Christians to charitably engage brothers and sisters in Christ with whom they disagree and expose a double standard that hinders this charity.
Many Christians are genuinely and rightfully concerned about the organization Black Lives Matter (BLM) given their beliefs regarding sexuality, gender, and the family, as articulated on the official BLM website. These beliefs clearly contradict God’s Word, and this is a significant factor for Christians to consider in determining the degree to which we align ourselves with the BLM movement. But the premise my tweet challenged is that support of BLM (in any way) necessarily implies endorsement of everything they represent. And yet not a few politically-conservative Christians exempt their political rationale from this simplistic standard.
For instance, a number of Christians acknowledge and lament troubling aspects of President Trump: his flagrantly-sinful pattern of life, deplorable treatment of women, and degrading comments about certain countries and ethnic groups. And yet, you have likely heard, or you may even personally embrace, the following political rationale: “I have serious concerns about President Trump, but I voted for him because of ____________” (e.g. supreme court justices, his pro-life promises, commitment to protecting religious liberty, etc.). Every person I know who voted for President Trump has explained their choice by using some form of the rationale above. Apparently, their support does not necessarily mean total endorsement. And this is the inconsistency that frustrates me: granting oneself a nuanced strategy for civic engagement while denying it to other brothers and sisters in Christ.
This denial is symptomatic of a deeper inconsistency that manifests in other ways. For example, many Christians object, “Stay away from politics and just preach the Gospel” when it comes to issues of racial justice, while at the same time calling for and corporately mobilizing in political action on behalf of the unborn. Again, the trouble is not seeking to protect the unborn—praise God we do!—but looking down on other faithful (even pro-life) Christians who had the audacity to use a hashtag.
This is what hypocrisy does. It often produces a self-righteousness that expresses itself in condescending, uncharitable accusations. Sometimes, these accusations are direct: “You’re choosing race over Scripture.” Other times, they are embedded in passive-aggressive FYI’s about the dangers of BLM’s beliefs. But faithful Black Christians have been fighting for Black dignity and equality throughout American history, almost always in coalition with a host of non-Christian allies, while at the same time unashamedly standing firm on “the faith once and for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3).
Some might push back and argue that voting for the President and participating in BLM are notably different because, while there are lots of organizations that advocate for racial justice, there were only two options in the presidential election. And yet, none of that changes the fundamental fact that it is possible to support a cause, political party, or presidential candidate without endorsing everything they represent. In fact, that kind of calculated, tentative partnership is inevitable if we’re going to advance common good initiatives in the public square.
It is possible to support Black Lives Matter as a needed message and worthy cause, and yet denounce certain tenets of its official, organizational platform.
It is possible to vote for President Trump for specific political reasons and yet denounce some of his rhetoric, lifestyle choices, and even policies.
Brothers and sisters, we are spiritual exiles in an increasingly hostile political climate. We are all faced with complex choices that require godly wisdom, prayerful discernment, and moral courage. As Christians, God calls us to be reasonable (Philippians 4:5), charitable (1 Corinthians 13:7), humble (Philippians 2:3), and consistent (Matthew 7:1-5) as we engage one another on issues where we disagree. Let’s do so for the sanctification of Christ’s church, the spread of God’s glory, and the welfare of our neighbors in the world around us.
- Pray for humility as you engage people with whom you disagree.
- Pray for this upcoming election, that God would work through our President in order to advance good and punish evil.
- Pray for peace in the midst of racial tension and justice in the midst of ongoing inequalities in our country.