As expected, yesterday’s post on Black Lives Matter, evoked some heated responses. It is essential that we differentiate between what extremists (on both sides) say and the problem itself; to identify the two, or to deny there is a problem, seems to me self-defeating. One way lies political opportunism masquerading as concern, the other way lies a continuation of the ills which caused the problem in the first place. Whilst it is true that extremists have sought (literally) to fan the flames, the idea that the emotions behind the protests is all manufactured by sinister agencies intent on overthrowing the system, risks precipitating the danger it dismisses. Scoop, yesterday in the comments, rightly listed all the legislation passed in the USA since the Civil War, and yet there are problems to this day. Law alone is not enough. As we know, we are not saved by the Law, were that the case, Jesus would never have had to suffer and die to redeem our sins, neither would He have needed to rise again as the first-fruits of His sacrifice for us.
There are those who see the attitude of the Churches on this issue as mealy-mouthed; these are, in the main, critics of whatever Church leaders do. None of that is to say that Church leaders get it right all the time, but it is to put the heated criticism in context. Church leaders have a wider responsibility than to the scribbling and commentating classes, and even as criticism is levelled (no doubt some of it deserved) it should be leavened with that caveat. To ignore the furore would be to condemn Church leaders as out of touch, to acknowledge it risks the accusation of being an appeaser. As statues of Saints fall, Church leaders have to respond whether they will or not. Nor should ot be forgotten that Churches are multi-racial organisations. Christianity, from the beginning, has been unusual in religions in this aspect of its teaching and practice.
The main problem with the slogan “Black Livers Matter” is that taken to extremes it implies that there is a united “Black” view of the world, and it can lead, and has led to, those BAME politicians who are conservatives or Republicans, being insulted, as though they are the “wrong sort” of BAME person. This, as yesterday’s post argued, is as pernicious as the attempt to deny there is any problem in our society for people of a different skin colour. I suppose extremists will, by nature, go to extremes, but that’s no reason for the rest of us to follow them. To deny that there are those in the Church who feel that their skin colour makes them a problem for others is to deny the obvious. The orthodoxy of men like Cardinal Sarah has occasionally drawn the ire of some Western Bishops in terms which suggest that the latter may not be free sin here.
We know from St Paul’s struggles on the matter, how hard it was for him to persuade his fellow Jews that Gentiles were not “unclean” and that it was in order to break bread and share wine with them. It is very easy for us, at thise distance, to forget how fierce an argument this was among early Christians. Even St Peter, under pressure from Jerusalem, recant from his position of sharing table fellowship with Gentiles, forcing St Paul intoa fierce condemnation of his position. For St Peter to agree with St James and the Jerusalem Church undermined, for St Paul, the whole thrust of the Gospel message that “For no one is put right with God by doing what the Law requires.”
The Church is a fellowship of believers or it is nothing. The first Christians found it as hard as we often do. Men from Corinth probably found men from Rome stand-offish and a bit inclined to assume superiority; men from Rome probably found the Corinthians a bit lively for their taste; and women, such as Phoebe, would have wrestled with male condescension as much as their modern contemporaries often do. But they were one on Christ, and the Spirit worked through them to make them one, as He does with us, if we let Him.