Sin Cannot Justify Sin: A Response to the Charlotte Riots

Charlotte riots over Keith Lamont Scott

I am hesitant to write a critical word about the Charlotte protesters against a backdrop of centuries of sin against people who look like them by people who look like me. I am hesitant to mention a speck in the eye of black America when white America has not yet fully dislodged the log from our own. If I was merely writing as a white person addressing black people, I would be silent. But our Savior tells us, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28), so I write as a Christian addressing Christians.

We have all seen the now-familiar images of broken windows, looted stores, and angry rioters these last few days. They come with a sad sense of familiarity after Ferguson and Baltimore and the other protests-turned-riots of the past couple years. But I am actually less troubled by the violence and property damage of a few—often agitators arriving from out of town, causing damage that affects the black community more than anyone else—than by the permissive attitude taken by many others, both black and white.

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‘Black Lives Matter’ Undermines Its Own Cause

Black Lives Matter march

It is challenging to critique a movement which has little organization apart from a decentralized band of activists who have gathered beneath a slogan; especially when that slogan itself is true, important, and timely. But—precisely because “black lives matter” is true, important, and timely—we have an obligation to critically consider the movement which has adopted that mantra as its name. Black Lives Matter began as a hashtag following the 2013 Trayvon Martin shooting, and since then the movement has drawn significant media attention, featured in countless protests, and become an influential player in American politics. It has also adopted troubling tactics which undermine its own worthy cause.

With BLM back in the headlines this week, I think it is important to point out several reasons for concern about the movement and its tactics. I do so cautiously and, I hope, humbly; very aware that I observe and speak from the outside. However, it is possible to observe Black Lives Matter and evaluate the movement’s actions in light of universal standards of justice, just as Black Lives Matter asks us to evaluate the experience of African-Americans according to universal standards of justice. If I can judge the shooting of Philando Castile, I can also judge the protests it provoked.

With that in mind, here are three reasons why Black Lives Matter should be rejected or reformed by those who believe black lives matter.

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