On November 24 last year, I got a call from my dear friend Lis. “Chrissy, I’m calling so we can pray. They’re announcing the verdict for the Mike Brown case tonight, and I think we should pray race riots don’t break out. We should pray because of our covenant.”
As a white woman growing up in a predominately Anglo-Saxon town, Lis hadn’t focused much on Black issues. As she’s told me before, “I care about the black community now, because I care about you. You’ve helped me to have a heart for them.” That’s the beauty of our covenant friendship: my battles and burdens become hers. We’ve chosen to be honest with each other about our prejudices, judgments and perceptions related to race.
Photo Courtesy of Christina Marie Bennett
“Oh God, awaken the Black community,” we prayed together. “Oh, Lord, give us a culture of life. Unite the races and make us one under the banner of Christ.” We uttered those words standing in front of an abortion clinic in Atlanta, Georgia. Those were the petitions in my heart as I walked the nearby campuses of Morehouse, Spelman College and Clark.
Years ago I lived outside of Atlanta, lead Bound4LIFE ATL and had Lis Marshall faithfully by my side. I earnestly believed God would revive the Black community and use us to end abortion. After the Mike Brown verdict was announced, I watched anger released on the streets and fires consume buildings in Ferguson. Lis texted me.
Thoughts? she asked. We gotta pray, I replied back. It won’t change overnight. Lots of hurt, we have to keep praying.
“Black Lives Matter.” I saw it once, twice, and then a hundred more times. It flooded hashtags on social media. Even now 468,684 Instagram posts carry that statement. Many of those posts are attached to images of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the man whose life we remember today. He was the man who started a movement so transformative, that forty years later we still look to him for direction.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (L) marches for civil rights (Photo: Athena LeTrelle / Flickr)
What would Dr. King say about this movement? Would he see it as a result of injustices Blacks faced at the hands of police officers? Would he recognize racial fires being stoked by politicians and proclaimers to our people? Or would he view it as a myriad of things: a hurting and weary people, triggered by pain, and wanting change no matter the cost?
Aside from a few thoughts on social media, I’ve stayed a quiet observer. I felt listening was more important. I chose to hear, rather than to speak; to watch, rather than publicly react. I saw my Facebook feed fill up with a variety of posts. An activist I once met at Morehouse College was organizing events in Atlanta. A worship leader friend attended a peaceful march. A stranger on Instagram rallied people to a protest in Missouri. I sat behind my computer screen, wondering what to make of it all.
I sympathize with my people. As a Black woman I’m aware of my collective identity. I felt the shared pain, and tried not to judge it. The pain was real, regardless if it was based on perceptions of reality or reality itself. Yet I clearly knew I wouldn’t join a march or buy a t-shirt. I couldn’t join in, because this wasn’t my movement.
Photo: Cynthia Lawson / Flickr
I’d prayed a decade for a movement of justice in the Black community. I wanted something more, something deeper. I wanted to go to the root. Abortion kills more blacks annually than police brutality or Black on Black crime. I wanted what all of us in the pro-life movement dream of: to see Black Americans rallying in the streets, crying out for the ending of abortion.
Some want it so bad, in fact, that when #BlackLivesMatter became popular, they saw it as our opportunity. If anyone knows Black Lives Matter, we do. After all, we’ve been the ones saying it for years. This movement was like a wild horse that we could jump on, pulling its reins towards us. If the nation wanted to talk about black lives mattering, we would remind them of their hypocrisy. We would let them know the real issue at hand.
I’ve seen so many posts that insinuate, “If you really cared about black lives, you wouldn’t abort your children.” In many ways, the statement is true. If the black community seeks to value lives, the best place to start is with the unborn. How can we love any, if we can’t love the least?
Image: The Radiance Foundation
Yet the way in which we communicate this message, and the motives in our heart while doing it, must be checked. Are we saying it to prove a point? Or are we communicating it because we care? Are we hearing the heart of the wounded before we rush in with our cause?
If we don’t have time to hear their pain over dead Black children, then they won’t have time to hear our pain over dead Black children.
As pro-life advocates, we wanted a movement declaring life in the black community and we got one. Problem is, it’s not the one we wanted. We wanted Black Lives Matter to be on their lips as they stood around abortion clinics. We wanted Black Lives Matter to be echoed on MSNBC, ABC and NBC as influential black leaders renounced the evil procedure that is the #1 cause of our race’s death.
Instead we got “Hands up, Don’t shoot.” Now what do we do with that? Do we try with all our might to turn the attention to our cause? Do we attempt to redirect the passion to what we believe is more important? Or do we let it pass, hoping it loses steam and fizzles out before anyone else gets hurt.
I don’t have the answers. Yet as someone who’s been in the pro-life movement for a decade, I have some thoughts. I believe we must listen as an act of love. Like my friend Lis, we must be a friend to Black America, which will look like being a friend to a black person.
My friend Jonathan Tremaine Thomas spent months in Ferguson praying for reconciliation and healing. Jonathan is a Black man, married to a white woman. He wasn’t taking sides in a race war, he was extending his hand to lift up the hurting. He grew in such love for the people of that city that his family decided to move to Missouri.
I’m not against any non-violent method we use to express our convictions. We can ride the Black Lives Matter train as long as we want. Let’s just make sure we operate in a spirit of compassion, sensitivity and love. As a black Christian and pro-life conservative, I’ve found the times of racial tension especially hard. I want to find those voices of comfort and truth in our movement, leaders attempting to understand the frustrations of our people.
Jonathan Tremaine Thomas moved to Ferguson to help the healing (Photo: Ferguson Response)
We all know that this is not the movement we want it to be; yet do we believe God works all things together for His good? Black lives do matter and the world is proclaiming that truth every day. What happens in an atmosphere when that truth is circulated, meditated on and accepted? Could it lead to deeper thought and reflection? Could it lead to change? Can we ask God how He plans to use this to further draw the black community into a love for life?
Our labor is never in vain. Planned Parenthood had the audacity to tweet #BlackLivesMatter. It’s a mockery that stings to the core. Yet we know who wins in the end.
Righteousness and justice will triumph over lies and deceit. One day abortion giants will be exposed as the enemy of Black America, and we, the accused “anti-choicers” will be seen as defenders of dignity. It’s coming, faithful ones. Wait for it.
Planned Parenthood’s #BlackLivesMatter tweet was a mockery (Image: Daily Caller)
In my kitchen I have a plaque that I bought on my honeymoon. It reads, “And a promise is a promise.” It symbolizes the covenant I’ve made with my husband. If we can honor our covenant to each other, how much more will God honor His covenant to us?
If God said He will end abortion, He will do it. If God said He will heal, restore and revive the Black community, then we will wait. Patience will have it’s perfect work in us.
Dr. King is dead. Yet Jesus is alive now and forevermore. The Black community is scattered like sheep without a shepherd. As we look to Christ, He will lead us out of the shackles of death and into the glorious liberty of life.