“The Great Thanksgiving (Black Lives Matter)” is a liturgy published by Reverend Michael C. Johnson on June 11th, and re-posted to The United Methodist Church’s General Commission on Religion & Race’s website.
The liturgy opens with a common call-and-response stanza (“The Lord be with you. And Also with you…”) before launching into 15 lines of “Black lives matter” statements:
“Black lives matter to You, and always have.
Black lives matter.
Black male lives matter.
Black female lives matter.
Black female trans lives matter.
Black female trafficked lives matter.
Black gay lives matter.
Black uneducated as well as educated lives matter.
Black poor as well as rich lives matter.
Black homeless lives matter.
Black Christians and non-Christians matter.
Black lives with disabilities matter.
Black immigrants and refugees matter.
Black children matter.
Black teens matter.”
The liturgy then goes on to make politically correct statements about Jesus:
“Jesus was not white.
Jesus did not speak English.
Jesus was not a Christian.
Jesus lived as the citizen of an occupied nation.
Jesus was part of an oppressed people.
Jesus was a refugee who found protection on the Continent of Africa.
Jesus experienced mob violence.
Jesus experienced police brutality.
Jesus was lynched.”
Radio personality and New York Times bestselling author Eric Metaxas shared the liturgy on his Facebook page, calling it “a racial view of the world that is not a biblical view”.
In his book “Bonhoeffer”, Metaxas tells the story of German churches in the 1930s bowing to the politically correct, state-approved agenda over and above the Gospel. It was the silence and compliance of the churches that ultimately paved the way for Hitler to rise in power without great challenge.
Is this liturgy correct in declaring the inherent worth of black lives? Of course! Biblical Christians understand from Genesis that God created man and woman in His image and that all – each and every race – are created equal.
So what is it about this liturgy that has some Christians squirming in their seats?
First of all, some point to the fact that a Eucharistic liturgy (or a liturgy that is performed specifically in the preparation of communion) is meant to be vertical. In other words, it is intended to focus the worshipper directly on God Himself and the sacrifice of His Son.
To add a horizontal element – or a theological (much less political) statement on our relation to other human beings – to this piece of the service specifically is inappropriate in the view of some ministers. A more appropriate placement, some would say, would have been within the sermon.
Second is the concern raised by Metaxas: Should churches be opening a door to the agendas wrapped up with the Black Lives Matter movement? Agendas which go much further than acknowledging the dignity of black lives?
Black Lives Matter (the organization) openly declares their support for policies in favor of transgenderism as well as their agenda to “disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure”.
The Christian Church believes that God laid the boundaries of gender when He made man and woman, and that the family is a beautiful, God-ordained establishment that should be supported rather than dismantled.
Further, the founders of Black Lives Matter are self-described Marxists – a political philosophy at irreconcilable odds with Christianity. Karl Marx himself is quoted as saying, “The first requisite of the happiness of the people is the abolition of religion.”
The question is: Should Churches be throwing their support behind an organization wrapped up in agendas that are directly antithetical to not only historical Christian doctrine, but Christianity itself?
Metaxas writes in “Bonhoeffer”:
“Especially early in his career, Hitler wished to appear as a typical German, so he praised the churches as bastions of morality and traditional values. But he also felt that, in time, the churches would adapt to the National Socialist way of thinking. They would eventually be made into vessels for Nazi ideology…”
Third, some Christians would argue that this is a “politicization” of Jesus Himself. In a culture where Republicans are roundly lambasted for appropriating Jesus and His Gospel for their own agendas, should not attempts to pull Jesus into the left lane of politics also be criticized?
It is true that Jesus was not white. He was a Middle Eastern, Mediterranean man. It is true that Jesus’ family fled to Egypt when Herod ordered the killing of children under the age of 2. It is true that Jesus was part of a people oppressed by the reigning government and that He experienced great violence in His death.
But when we remove Jesus from His first-century Jewish experience, we are appropriating the very time and place He chose to appear for our own political ends.
That is what is wrong with a liturgy such as this – not that it declares the inherent value of every black life, or the relevancy of Jesus in our time, but that it politicizes a moment of worship that should be sacred. It politicizes Jesus Himself.
The American Church should take a lesson from the German Church of the 1930s: It is our duty to declare the inherent value of every life – no matter their race, creed, philosophy, or status. But it cannot align itself with worldly agendas that would have it preach a different gospel, one that denies reality as defined by God and the saving power of Christ from broken lifestyles.
In other words, the American Church should boldly and unapologetically stand for truth in this time lest it becomes a vessel for dangerous ideologies.