Black Lives Matter TOO!

I’ve been reluctant to dip my toe into this pond. Many people with greater experience and education than I have written great articles on this topic. However, perhaps some people who haven’t read those articles will take a few minutes to read this post.

We’ve all heard, and maybe said, the response to #BlackLivesMatter: All Lives Matter. Most people I’ve seen commenting on social media don’t seem to realise that everyone places an additional word at the end of that phrase.

Many white people hear “Black Lives Matter” as “Black Lives Matter More” or “Black Lives Matter Most”. So they respond with a phrase (that also contains a silent word) to correct the imbalance they perceive: “All Lives Matter Equally”.

This retort is a true statement.

What these people seem to miss is that the vast majority of people using the phrase “Black Lives Matter” do so while using a silent “Too”: Black Lives Matter Too!

Black Lives Matter 01

Why do they need to make this statement? Are they seeking to be inflammatory or to make trouble?

Those using the phrase “Black Lives Matter” do so because they’re expressing their impression that many in society don’t think they matter. They feel neglected, so they remind each other and the world that they do matter. They do have value. Of course all lives matter, but there are many people made to feel as though they’re insignificant. Sometimes it’s individuals who feel as though no one notices them. Sometimes it’s whole communities.

Did you notice that little feeling of indignation you feel when you see #BlackLivesMatter and think that you’re being overlooked or devalued? That’s a sensation these people experience as a way of life.

Just telling them that “All Lives Matter” doesn’t remove the negative messages these people have heard for so long.

Why would a large portion of the African-Americans community feel a need to remind the world that Black Lives Matter?

  • Because they feel targeted by law enforcement and have seen a disproportionate number of African-Americans killed by police shootings.
  • Because in 2010 blacks accounted for only 13% of the US population they made up 40% of the incarcerated population.
  • Because drug laws are enforced more stringently against blacks than whites.
  • Because the best schools are in white neighbourhoods.
  • Because they have higher rates of unemployment.
  • Because they experience prejudice in their interactions with white Americans.
  • Because ‘white flight’ tells them they’re distasteful.
  • Because of history that, yes, goes all the way back to slavery, and more recently to Jim Crow.
  • Because they have limited opportunities as a result of Jim Crow policies that ensured limited inter-generational wealth transfer within much of the black community.
  • Because no one tells them they matter or are valuable.

These issues are complex. There is no single simple solution. But all these factors and more contribute to why so many in the black community feel a need to remind the world¬†#BlackLivesMatter…Too.


If you’ve read this far, you might also appreciate this article by Michael Hanegan, 9 Reasons Why My Faith Compels Me To Say #BlackLivesMatter.

You may also be encouraged by this short video from Rick Atchley who preaches for The Hills Church in Fort Worth. This was filmed in the days after the shooting of 5 Dallas law enforcement officers.

And I’m sharing this video below because sometimes we just need to be slapped.

Most Christians Don’t Speak English

Myopia is a medical term for nearsightedness. Sadly, many Christians suffer from social and spiritual myopia.

We can see the things and people that are close to us very clearly. The people that are further from us culturally or ethnically, or by wealth or education we don’t see as clearly. Sometimes we walk right past them and don’t see them. Sometimes we look around our community and only see people like ourselves.

In this short but excellent video Russell Moore encourages mono-cultural churches to ask why they’re monocultural. But don’t look around a room and ask people like yourself. You need to go outside the church building, into the community and have those conversations with people of other races. Is there a reason that a Black, Hispanic, or Chinese family wouldn’t come to this church?

Is it possible that churches filled with white Americans have come to view ourselves as the definition of a Christian? That our standards should be universal standards? That our beliefs should be universal beliefs? That our “way” of doing church is the “right way”?

This mindset decreases the likelihood that a church will make changes in order to accommodate others. We’re more likely that even when we acknowledge different perspectives of time flexibility between cultures we’ll still demand that African or Latin-Americans keep a schedule that we’re comfortable with, rather than adopting looser start and finish times. Because the way we do things is the right way.

We might convince ourselves that four-part harmony is the “reverent” way to worship God, oblivious to the roots this style of music has in European culture. Because this is the right way to worship, we expect others to become like us, rather than us learn to appreciate Japanese or Indian musical worship genres.

The way we define “normal” is crucial for churches wrestling with the challenges of multiculturalism. Life in a multi-ethnic church must challenge our myopia. We also need to acknowledge our tendency toward myopia and be alert for its symptoms.

I’ll leave my commentary there and I hope you enjoy this video.

Is My Church Multiracial?

As I get this blog up and running, it’s important to establish some consensus of terminology. In my reading I have generally found broad disagreement on whether multiracial, multiethnic, multicultural, or something else are the most appropriate descriptors for churches with¬† members from a variety of racial or ethnic backgrounds.

At this point, I use multiracial and multiethnic interchangeable, although I recognise that some people may give the words distinct technical meanings. Multicultural seems to deserve its own definition as people of the same race or ethnicity can still have different cultures based upon characteristics such as social class or geography. I expect I’ll write more on this topic before too long.

Today, I specifically want to define the term “multiracial church”. Anytime I have a conversation with other ministers and mention that my church is multiracial, I invariably hear back something like, “Yeah, our church isn’t 50-50 or anything, but we do have a few [insert minority group here] that attend.” It’s as though 10 minority members in a church of 250 proves the church isn’t prejudiced and in fact is almost racially integrated.

The definition that I now use and I think is generally accepted is one I stumbled across in Yancey’s book One Body, One Spirit.

“I will define a multiracial church as a church in which no one racial group makes up more than 80 percent of the attendees of at least one of the major worship services.”

Notice that this definition focuses on the size of the majority race within the church rather than whether a particular minority group reaches a certain threshold. A congregation with 12 percent black and 10 percent Chinese would be classified as multiracial because the majority group is only 78 percent of the congregation.

The second aspect of this definition relates to the way racial groups integrate in worship. A historically white church that sponsors a Spanish language service in the gym would not meet this criteria as a multiracial church even if under the oversight of the same congregational leaders. A multiracial church must have a basic commitment to building relationships between races. While simply attending worship services together doesn’t guarantee relationship building, it’s a lot more likely to happen than if the two groups worship separately.

The 80 percent figure may seem like an arbitrary definition. Yancey addresses this in his book and states that “there is sociological evidence that such churches [meeting the definition] differ from monoracial churches.” Of course, that’s not saying there’s a huge difference between 81 and 79 percent, but simply that the church culture is significantly impacted when no single racial group makes up more than 80 percent of the church membership.

I appreciate this definition because it provides a firm benchmark in a sphere of thought that is often ambiguous. It’s not the only definition, and some would argue it’s not the best definition, but it’s a whole lot better than just using words and terms that have different meanings to each person.

Having a racially diverse congregation that meets this basic numerical definition of a multiracial church does not make any statement about the intentionality or racial health of the church. Such a church may not have racial diversity in its leadership or may maintain its traditional worship forms. However, defining a church as multiracial based upon its membership or attendance provides a fundamental starting point for churches to explore the numerous challenges that this diverse population presents to congregational life.