Michelle Higgins speaks at Urbana

InterVarsity Seduced by Compartmentalized “Justice”

on December 31, 2015

Despite the incongruity between its activist agenda and what the name of the organization (and hashtag) superficially implies, the social current of #BlackLivesMatter has successfully swallowed a number of churches and Christian organizations in its supposed quest for racial and social “justice.” InterVarsity Christian Fellowship is the latest victim to be seduced by the cultural fad of “justice” — always compartmentalized — at the expense of biblical justice, which is supposed to permeate the totality of the Christian’s life.

During InterVarsity’s Urbana missions conference, Michelle Higgins, director of Faith for Justice, a Christian advocacy group — and herself a member of #BlackLivesMatter — lectured listening Christians about the need to be involved in the fight against racial injustice. Fighting against racial injustice, in addition to all forms of injustice, is a Christian obligation that’s firmly rooted in the mission of the church. The body of Christ is — and should be — the vessel of racial reconciliation, predicated on Christ having overcome all superficial forms of division and separation, including those based on racial and ethnic considerations.

But for Higgins, or any Christian, to conflate the fight against racial injustice with supporting the agenda, intent, and behavior of #BlackLivesMatter is “chasing after the wind” — a fool’s errand that leads many sincere Christians astray. Christian leaders have a tremendous responsibility to be voices and examples of reason. Christian credibility is at stake. So it’s a cause for concern when Christians engage in negligent and questionable behavior. Here it involves using racial guilt to manipulate Christians into supporting a movement that perpetuates a secular social and political narrative that consists of lies and racial paranoia under the guise of fighting racial inequality.

During her speech, Higgins sought to religiously justify support of #BlackLivesMatter in a manner similar to the Christians and theologians that used Christianity to justify the black power movement of the past.  Higgins said, “Black Lives Matter is not a mission of hate. It is not a mission to bring about incredible anti-Christian values and reforms to the world. Black Lives Matter is a movement on mission in the truth of God.”

That a Christian felt comfortable enough to say this with a straight face is disturbing. The fact that the audience was so embracing of her message, especially in light of the rhetoric and strategies used by #BlackLivesMatter activists is even more disturbing, reflecting poorly on Christians. The claim that #BlackLivesMatter is on ‘mission in the truth of God’ is about as true as the claim made at Michael Brown’s funeral — that he was “out spreading the word of Jesus Christ” before he was killed.

Brown was actually stealing a box of cigarillos from a liquor store shortly before he was killed.

Higgins continued, noting the presence of racism in various areas of life where she claimed the church is silent, including the racial disparities in education and the criminal justice system — obligatorily mentioning the cases of Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner and Michael Brown. She then clarified what she wants people to think #BlackLivesMatter means, saying,

“Now, I don’t want all people of color to go scot-free for wrongdoing – I don’t want to see people of color never arrested for anything. Black lives matter doesn’t mean all black folk can kill people and steal stuff…. that’s not what we want, that’s not what I want. What do we want? Justice. And what is justice? Justice means my baby boy, my baby girl will not be tried, condemned… executed on the street. That’s justice. Justice means the burden of supremacy…is not up on you, because God is pleased with you. Therefore, you can be pleased with everyone he has made.”

Higgins added,

“BlackLivesMatter demands that we face facts and tell the truth…it demands that I know myself and that I see you, it demands that [we see] those that have been in prison… and executed… because of their skin color, and that we free them. It demands that white and black and brown and Asian and Hispanic brothers and sisters be treated as one. Redefine justice the way that God defines justice; your God is not white, he’s not Japanese or Congolese — your God is God.”

Ok, let’s face facts and tell the truth.

Here’s a fact. There are racial disparities in education and the criminal justice system. And there is a case to be made, at least in education, that the disparities are partially the result of substandard education intentionally delivered to poor black and Hispanic children. Deliberately giving poor children less access to quality education is a partial predictor of future dependency, contributing to a growing underclass. Chicago, Detroit and New York are perfect examples. This cause should be taken up by Christians, but #BlackLivesMatter has nothing to do with it.

Further, if the goal is to reduce the racial disparities in education, people should not only advocate that poor children receive better quality education, they should also encourage the redemption and reconciliation of the black family. Not only would that contribute to the mitigation of academic disparities suffered by blacks, increasing the number of intact black families would also mitigate the racial disparities in the criminal justice system. Blacks aren’t locked up disproportionately simply and only because they’re black. Blacks are imprisoned disproportionately because of the disintegration of the family and the collapse of the Christian moral value system.

Speaking of criminals, here’s another fact: #BlackLivesMatter valorizes black criminality and sanctifies black criminals. The lives of everyday blacks don’t matter to this movement, including the lives of blacks tormented by black criminals. This is why #BlackLivesMatter is a misnomer. The only black lives that matter to these social agitators are the ones killed by (white) cops, largely the result of the actions of the criminals themselves. Defending and honoring the lives of black criminals over the lives of blacks that aren’t criminals, but in need of our attention, is despicable and unworthy of being called or legitimized by Christianity.

Moreover, with the exception of Tamir Rice — who was shot and killed because he was playing with a toy gun that police officers mistook for real — Michael Brown and Eric Garner were killed because they attacked police officers or resisted arrest when their criminal behavior was confronted. (Sandra Bland also refused to listen to an officer’s command, which resulted in a physical confrontation.) This isn’t to say that they deserved to die, but they also weren’t “innocent” nor were the merely “victims” because of their race. There are consequences when one confronts police officers, is insubordinate to police officers or resists arrest. For Higgins to conflate their deaths with the possibility of her “baby boy” and her “baby girl” being “tried, condemned… and executed on the street” — presumably because they’re black and nothing else — trivializes any real understanding of what justice entails.

Further, where specifically has anyone, in modern America, been “executed” in prison only because of his or her skin color? That’s a heavy charge that deserves to be supported by very firm evidence, particularly when said by someone who self-identifies with the name of Christ. Without supporting evidence, it’s a lie. Additionally, why exactly should we “free” anyone in prison, as a rule, merely because of his or her skin color?

Now the obvious but compulsory disclaimer: fighting against racial injustice and inequality is the Christian thing to do; there aren’t many Christians that would argue against doing so. Christianity’s influence was responsible for ending slavery and was the moral motivator and sustainer of the civil rights movement — the last great moral movement in our nation’s history. Supporting #BlackLivesMatter isn’t the proper or most effective and practical way for Christians to meet the challenge of fighting the vestiges of racial injustice. In many ways, supporting #BlackLivesMatter contributes to racial discord and perpetuates racial acrimony.

Additionally, part of fighting racial injustice is to resist the reflexive urge to label every socio-economic disparity a result of racial injustice — a characteristic of #BlackLivesMatter. Purposefully mislabeling every racial disparity between blacks and their racial counterparts, the result of “racism,” trivializes actual occurrences of racism, preventing these occurrences from being appropriately addressed. It also stifles constructive strategies (which have nothing to do with race) that can be implemented to diminish socio-economic gaps that continue to exist.

Trying to address racial discrimination is one thing. Trying to do so facilitated by the dishonest rhetoric and antagonistic behavior of the #BlackLivesMatter organization should be of no interest to Christians. Christians shouldn’t allow themselves to be influenced by the kind of overt deception that #BlackLivesMatter espouses, and they shouldn’t legitimize the tactics and secular agenda of such a duplicitous organization.

Sadly, InterVarsity undermined its religious credibility by granting unearned moral authority to #BlackLivesMatter. Shame on Michelle Higgins for conflating the fight against racial injustice — a worthy cause — with the questionable and unworthy cause of #BlackLivesMatter. And shame on InterVarsity for legitimizing this error by giving Higgins such a big platform to mislead so many Christians

  1. Comment by Eternity Matters on December 31, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    IV is such a mess. My daughter joined it as a freshman in college but got increasingly turned off by their squishy theology. At this rate they’ll be complete “Christian” Leftists within a few years.

  2. Comment by Jason Wert on December 31, 2015 at 12:43 pm

    IV is on the way down.

  3. Comment by Alan Noble on December 31, 2015 at 4:06 pm

    Well this is a shameful response.

  4. Comment by DJ916 on January 7, 2016 at 11:21 pm

    How so?

  5. Comment by Ray M on January 1, 2016 at 12:48 pm

    Thanks for your article. It actually gave me a more positive view of Higgins, #blacklivesmatter and IV and showed me how racist and jaded you really are. I feel sorry for you.

  6. Comment by wyclif on January 5, 2016 at 2:13 pm

    Um, Ray? You do know that Derryck is black, right? Right?

  7. Comment by Tom Boeger on January 4, 2016 at 10:22 am

    Combining #BlackLivesMatter with the imago dei was an important position for IV to champion. Check out the back of the #BlackLivesMatter t-shirts many were wearing at Urbana. http://bit.ly/22GTZII

    Also, Michelle Higgins, Greg Jao and Howie Meloch discussed some of this. If interested, check out their comments #katch #Periscope http://bit.ly/1Sn8tsZ

    At the 38 minute mark, while responding to people who think this is just “a liberal thing,” Greg Jao, the VP and Director of campus engagement said the following:

    “It grieves me that people perceive it as a political thing, when the scriptures are so clear that God desires to reconcile all people one to another and unto himself. Christians are called to be reconciled peacemakers. If it’s a liberal political thing, I so wish the Christian the church would say, No! This is our thing. Because the one unique thing that Christians have to offer in this conversation is that we actually believe forgiveness is possible. We believe transformation of hearts is possible. We believe transformations of communities is possible if the Holy Spirit begins to move.

    The political activists don’t have enough to offer the conversation. They can raise and make an issue, but I think only the gospel has the power to transform people. And so what I really want to say … Let’s make it a church issue. Let’s make it a Jesus issue and allow Jesus’ light to transform it. And it’s a hard conversation because it forces us to confront our own sin and our own brokenness and nobody likes that conversation…

    We’re doing this at a missions conference now because wherever the missionaries who leave whatever country they go to, they desperately need a gospel of Jesus transforming people, and systems, and structures, to be the kind of people, systems, and structures that would please God.”

  8. Comment by Whatever on January 4, 2016 at 11:29 am

    You do realize that the religion championed by Rachel Evans and her ilk is not Christianity, right? God does’t call us to be patsies for the secular left’s agenda.

    Also, every church that adheres to this religion is losing numbers hugely. When Evans abandoned Christianity to become an Episcopalian, she joined the losing side. The only churches in the world that are growing are those grounded in orthodox Christianity. The post-Christian churches are shutting themselves down.

  9. Comment by Tom Boeger on January 4, 2016 at 2:30 pm

    I really value Ed Stetzer’s response on this issue which was published in CT.

    The following is from Stetzer’s FB wall which links to his article:
    “New post: @INTERVARSITYusa, ‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬, Criticism, and Three Suggestions for the Future: http://bit.ly/1Pb2zG0

    I am glad that InterVarsity cares about issues of racial justice. I’m also glad they had the wisdom to clarify their comments.

    The Black Lives Matter movement is not one organization with a clear set of values, but a diverse group of activists—and InterVarsity needed to clarify what they were endorsing, and what they were not endorsing. And, they have.

    I also know that in these conversations about race, we’re all going to get it wrong or be misunderstood at times. Speaking up, by its very nature, invites criticism. But such criticism should not keep us from speaking up.

    Ironically, as I write this article, outside of the normal opposition whenever we say there might be systemic justice issues to address, by far the most frequent critics of my involvement in conversations around race, ethnicity, and justice have been individuals connected to InterVarsity.”

  10. Comment by Carlos M on January 4, 2016 at 6:44 pm

    You ought to provide Cliff Notes for your epics.

  11. Comment by Randy McAlister on March 1, 2016 at 9:01 pm

    Thanks for your article Derryck, as a law enforcement officer who donated his time (and vacation) to help Urbana 15 with security, and more importantly, a lifelong follower of Christ, I was greatly disheartened by the tone of Urbana 15. I could say lots more but I’ll end with a simple “thank you” for articulating some of the things I was thinking.

  12. Comment by ROSS M ALLEN on September 1, 2018 at 1:02 am

    I was really glad for Urbana 15. God used that as a turning point in my life. I saw the stories about Tamir Rice and realized my heart was hard: I wasn’t devastated in the way I would have been if it were my brother or a kid from my church back home. I was convicted of my indifference and prayed, “God, break my heart for what breaks your heart”. He did.

    God loves all people and I’ve come to see that our systems don’t reflect that. I’ve come to see that a full gospel won’t turn a blind eye to injustice. I’ve come to see that piety isn’t enough and that the cause of Christ demands more. #BlackLivesMatter

  13. Comment by Sam Rockstead on December 15, 2018 at 7:18 pm

    You should tell your brother or kid from your church not to take the orange tips off toy guns and run around their neighborhood with it. Cops don’t look at faces they look at hands and if you are holding something that looks like a weapon to them then they aren’t going to check your age before acting, period.

    The fact is there are plenty of statistics that discredit this idea that the system is racist or oppresses any group of people. Individual cases are not evidence but statistics that capture the data overall is. And contrary to your conspiracy theory, the data shows that the system shows no bias against any group of people.

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