Well, it’s back.
The “Black Lives Matter” sign, that is. We first had a sign two years ago, and it stayed planted on church property for several months even though I caught a (non-local) fellow in the act of trying to remove it because he found it offensive. Our sign survived that incident, but then disappeared sometime in autumn of 2015, in spite of the fact that there wasn’t any indication that the need for the sign had disappeared. In the two years since then, we’ve talked about replacing the sign, but we never quite got around to it. But it’s back, placed on our lawn this month in the wake of evidence of growth within hate groups as seen in the White supremacists gathering with Nazi and Confederate flags and slogans in Charlottesville, Virginia.
I’m sure there are those within our village who find the sign offensive, or at least unnecessary. I understand that it pushes boundaries or buttons for some folks to have to see the sign, and they may feel scolded or judged. They may interpret the sign as being anti-White or anti-police, which is not the intent behind our use of the sign. If you, dear reader, are someone who is bothered by our sign, I hope that you’ll enter into meaningful dialogue with the leaders of the church trusting that we can grow to understand one another even if we never fully agree.
I’d like to be very clear about why I think the sign’s important, though, especially on church grounds. Throughout history, ever since the Christian church allowed itself to become wedded to the state through Roman Emperor Constantine I’s Edict of Milan in the early 300s, Christians have been tempted to worship political leaders rather than God. That’s a risky business, and tends to lead to the Church embracing non-faithful policies and doctrines in a bid for power and acceptance. This is why certain facets of the Church supported Nazi rule in Germany, and why so many White preachers found ways to support slavery in our own country. The Church, speaking broadly, has much to repent for, including the sin of White supremacy in which White folks remake God in our own image. In a world where people are still judged by the color of their skin, and where people of color continue to have poorer outcomes economically and face discrimination in housing, education, hiring and pay, it’s important for the Church to name the truth: that Jesus, our non-White, Jewish messiah, calls us to compassionate, loving, care for ALL of God’s children. Until our culture behaves as though Black lives matter as much as White lives do, White Christians must bear witness to the injustices we see (and benefit from), and must call racism out for the sin it is.
And so, we plan to keep our sign, in solidarity with workers for equality throughout the ages, including the factions of the Church that courageously opposed fascism (three cheers for the Confessing Church in Germany!) and slavery (let’s hear it for the Congregational Abolitionists!) among other truth-tellers throughout the ages. We will keep it to remind ourselves that Jesus is especially fond of those on the margins. And we will keep it because, as Saint Ignatius said, “Love will not permit us to remain silent.”
May our nation know peace, equality, compassion, and justice.