New York had recently signed the Reproductive Health Act and thus ensued a flood of celebratory and mournful posts on social media. A fellow Christian who was on a mission trip with me when the news hit, read aloud one post that questioned why Christians didn’t spend as much time fighting against social injustice as much as abortion. They then turned to me—a black woman—and said “Well, I mean social justice is important but how could you put that above abortion?”
I wish I had voiced a coherent response to her question, but I mumbled something along the lines of “yeah abortion issues are important . . .” and trailed off.
I was immediately frustrated with myself because I had defaulted to a “safe” response. In a matter of seconds, I decided to say something that would make my questioner feel comfortable at the expense of my own discomfort—a defense mechanism I’ve been doing for most of my life.
I was frustrated at this individual too because once again a white person was unable to see the irony in their reasoning. They did not see the fault in asking someone that was impacted by social injustice why they would put one social injustice above another cause. In other words, I was being asked to answer why I thought my life was worth more than another, which only reinforced what American culture reminds black Americans every day—ethnic lives are less than those of white lives. And here this person was, in the middle of another country to serve people with dark complexions like mine, but they couldn’t see the need to fight for dark complexioned people in their own country.
This mindset is plaguing the white church. They will rally behind anyone that opposes abortion, but are silent where other areas of social injustice are concerned. I often hear Psalm 139:13–14 among those against abortion: “Certainly you made my mind and heart; you wove me together in my mother’s womb. I will give you thanks because your deeds are awesome and amazing. You knew me thoroughly.” And yet, I almost never see this same celebration of life being extended towards black lives. On the contrary, I’m grieved by the responses of Christians because of their lack of sympathy and compassion.
I began to understand the indifference and insensitivity white Christians could have towards black lives while studying and working at a Christian university. I was left out of group projects. I was told by one roommate that she was fearful for white women in relationships with black men because they might be getting abused. I was told by this same person that she couldn’t worship to the majority black praise band. I had received a derogatory note by a different roommate. I was assumed to live at the lowest priced housing on campus. I was told by a friend—who happened to be dating a black man—that I had lost my black card because I was expressing excitement over kittens someone had brought to class. I had listened to a supervisor say with disdain that (Baltimore) protestors should get jobs. I had a supervisor make a joke about the murder of Trayvon Martin. I had a coworker express that she loved the 60s because it was such a fun time. I had another coworker laughingly tell me I was hired because management didn’t want to get in trouble for not having any black people in the office. And while taking a phone call, I had a mother voice concerns about her daughter’s financial aid by saying that they weren’t minorities so they didn’t have money handed to them.
There are Christians that will bring up every reason why an individual lost their life in a police encounter instead of refusing to acknowledge patterns. They will exhibit more outrage at the Confederate flag being removed than towards the individual that murdered fellow members of the body of Christ. They will give thoughts and prayers towards mass shooting victims but rarely—if ever—name and denounce the racist attitudes behind the rampage. They’ll have callous responses towards God’s people losing their lives while in the same breath bemoan society for ignoring the sanctity of life. First Corinthians 12:12 says that “for just as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body—though many—are one body, so too is Christ.” If God grieves over unborn life, then surely he grieves over all his creation. He does not extend love towards one set of image bearers while neglecting to show the same attentiveness towards others.
More concerning than these arguments is the lack of response from the church. I often wonder why there wasn’t a denouncement of the march in Charlottesville. Why is there no response from the church when the president makes disparaging comments about specific ethnic groups and countries? Are people in the church purposely turning a blind eye to certain issues because the current administration is promising stricter abortion laws? Are they consciously focusing their attention on an aspect of the Christian faith that doesn’t force them to acknowledge and unlearn preconceived notions about their ethnic brothers and sisters in Christ? I wonder how much longer the church can be oblivious to the hypocrisy of their criticisms. I wonder how much longer the church can claim to be “the hands and feet of Jesus” while putting spiritual band-aids—mindless prayers and precariously placed Bible verses—on legs that are clearly broken.
Cover image by Kenzie Kraft.
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