The Black Lives Matter Movement began in 2013 as #BlackLivesMatter on social media after George Zimmerman was acquitted of shooting an African-American teen, Trayvon Martin, in 2012 (Braxton 8-9). The movement kindled internet-driven international protest to confront what its originators, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi, termed as the indifference to the deaths of unarmed African-American youths at the hands of the White police (Braxton 8-9). The movement rose to prominence after another unarmed African-American youth was shot by the police. Soon, demonstrators in the country and all over the world were using the slogans “Don’t shoot!” and “Black Lives Matter!” to draw attention to what many perceived as a systemic bias and racial prejudice in the criminal justice system, especially in the acts of some law enforcement representatives.
The expression “Black Lives Matter” calls attention to the reality disregarded by the mainstream society that “the lives of young Men of Color matters just like of those of young White Men.” The purpose of the repetitive use of the phrase is to confront those who might react, “obviously Black lives matter because everyone’s lives matter.” For participants in the movements expressions such as “of course Black lives matter” ignore the reality of racial profiling, police brutality, and racial injustice against the Blacks (Braxton 7-9). Undeniably, it has been quite difficult for the Catholic Church in the U.S. to interact in a significant way with the movement. Notably, there are about 3,000,000 African-Americans that identify as Catholics out of approximately 70,000,000 Catholics in the country (Braxton 7-9). In the same line, many dioceses have few Black Catholics or none at all. Unmistakably, this means that many White Catholics have not experienced the Black Lives Matter Movement or have experienced it indirectly through the media. As a result, the movement is not part of the daily concern of the White Catholics. However, it does not mean that the church supports the racial profiling and injustice against African Americans. The church is not racist and stands for the unity of the human family.
The church has always opposed the principle of racism. According to Christians, racism is incompatible with the principles of their faith regarding unity. As Pope Pius XI proclaimed, racism perverts the premises of Christianity including faith, Revelation, the origin of sin, and Redemption (Congar 21). Pius claimed that if the mystery of blood exists in Christianity, it is that of the unity of all men in the heritage of sin and not of a race opposed to other races (Congar 21). Christians ascribe absolute unity to human nature from beginning to end. As stated in the story of creation, God created Eve from Adam’s rib. Christians value the creation story which they believe should not be taken as anatomy but as a religious statement that represents and reinforces the declaration of the unity of creation and the total likeness of human nature in man and woman and all their descendants. God stated in Genesis, “Let us make man in our image.” Christians believe that there are three Persons in God, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Likewise, they believe that man is one when nature is considered and many when individuals are considered.
Christians affirm this unity not only at the beginning but also at the end. Vladimir Soloviev as stated by Congar (14) posits that God made man in the beginning in the unity of solitude. His plan with Jesus Christ was to proceed man to a unity of plenitude, developing in their numerous and distinct forms. It is, therefore, universal and rational for humans to exist and progress in the form of multiple races and people of distinct cultures. As Congar (14) argues, Christianity’s program also wishes that humans exist according to God’s plan. In other words, Christianity affirms the unity of human nature and diversity of races and peoples. Sadly, human egotism and pride incessantly transform these differences into antagonism.
Indeed, Christianity affirms the unity of human nature and diversity of races and peoples. However, many question whether the Bible is racist. For instance, Israelites are pronounced to be a “chosen people.” Equally, we read of blessings reserved to them and curses directed against other races. However, as Congar argues, the election of Israelites was that of a “people.” Besides, there was no element of racism in God’s choice. As Congar (28) asserts, God selected Israelites with the aim of uniting humankind as one spiritual people under the Church, to redeem and get them into communion with Him as a community. Hence, Israel was chosen as a representative of all people. It is also evident that God did not choose Israel because of any superior quality. In all books of the Bible, God constantly reverses relative positions, selecting the perceived weak over the strong ones. Additionally, the Bible highlights the need for humankind to be one or live together in peace and harmony. Hence, conflict and impossibility of agreement brought about by diversity are unnatural.
The Bible and the principles of Christianity are not racist. As Congar argues, the principles of Christianity, from the outset, have denied racial prejudice. Christianity came into existence and first extended in the Graeco-Roman world and within the Roman Empire. Undeniably, the two had numerous races, yet no race doctrine was proclaimed by either. Latinos identified with the Stoic philosophy that decreed the unity of men and the principles of equality among men. During the period, the Church remained clear of race prejudice. However, churches soon acquired the means of influencing society. Christians disagreed with other groups and sometimes oppressed one another. However, no race sentiment entered into any of the struggles. As Congar argues, the sense of division was between true belief and false beliefs and not race.
Apart from asserting that the Bible is not racist, the church does not subscribe to the racist tenet from the standpoint of its missionary works. As stated by Congar, missionary work could mean the introduction of converts into the church, and the establishment of churches in places that were not previously known, by rendering the three elements that define it; the faith, sacraments, and the priesthood/episcopacy powers. However, the documented texts about the church’s missionary works do not reveal that it has never subscribed to the racist tenet. Wherever missionaries have traveled, they have carried the Gospel along, established education centers, and cared for the sick among other significant works. Precisely, these works prove that the church’s missionary works portray the unity and enrichment of the people that receive these services. The church has also received a lot from missionary works. People from different racial affiliations have joined the church in trying to help others. Therefore, it is logical to say that the church is not racist but stands for the unity of all people.
Additionally, Christians had no racial feelings in regards to bigoted nationalism. Even at the time when the signs of national feelings became apparent in Europe, the church embraced universality. However, at times universalism had adverse outcomes. For example, Roman universality insisted on equality, compliance, and disregard of appropriate national particularities argues, universalism was not always right.
For instance, Roman universality called for uniformity, submission, and disregard of proper national particularities (Congar 34). Similarly, divisions were encouraged by national, at times nearly racial sentiments that were too often neglected. An excellent illustration of racial sentiment that is overlooked is Luther’s reforming movement. The movement mirrored the German’s national sentiment in a revolt against the destruction of Rome and the despicable dominions of Italians (Congar 35). Hence, the Church has to acknowledge that national sentiments and possibly racial influence its ability to achieve a higher unity.
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