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  • Writer's pictureRachael Twumasi-Corson

Do Black Lives Matter to God? Thoughts on Breonna Taylor, George Floyd & Christian Cooper

Updated: Jun 30, 2020

“Like a muddied spring or a polluted well are the righteous who give way to the wicked.”

Proverbs 25:26

On March 13, 2020, Breonna Taylor, a 26 year old emergency medical technician, was murdered by Louisville police officers who stormed her house looking for drugs. It was the wrong house. She was asleep. They shot her 8 times.

Breonna's boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, has been arrested for attempting to defend against the unannounced intruders. As I write this, no justice has been served.

On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a 46 year old truck driver and father of 5, was murdered by Minneapolis police officers, who beat him up then knelt on his neck and stopped him breathing over a counterfeit $20 bill.

The family had to pay for a private autopsy after the state funded autopsy claimed he died from underlying causes. After global protests, 4 officers were arrested. As I write this, no justice has been served.

That same day, Amy Cooper, a white woman was walking her dog unleashed in New York's Ramble Park. The rules state that all dogs must be leashed. Christian Cooper, an avid birdwatcher, asked her to leash her overexcited dog and she refused. Amy threatened to call the police and said, “I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life.” She then faked a distressed call which Christian's sister recorded in a video that later went viral. The shared name is a coincidence, but perhaps an indication that Amy's ancestors enslaved Christian's ancestors.

Amy Cooper is politically liberal. She donated to Obama's presidential campaign. So why the outcry?

Well people are recognising that Christian Cooper could easily have become a hashtag like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and many other Black people murdered whilst shopping, sleeping or jogging.

Most Black people living in predominately White countries, countries that generated wealth from Black labour, have encountered their own Amy Cooper. We know what it is to feel unsafe but be treated like we're crazy.

So many of us are exhausted. Three years ago when the world's leaders ignored the disturbing events in Charlottesville, I wrote about the ways that silence breeds racism. But this time feels different. There's a weary revolution in the air.

We're tired of talking about race. We're tired of people claiming racism is in the past. We're tired of dealing with racism in our daily lives.

Yet we keep talking. Because people are starting to understand. Because in many ways, this moment feels hopeful.

I became a disciple of Jesus 9 years ago. Before that I was anti religion and anti establishment. In many ways, I still am. When I studied the bible, it shocked me to see that Jesus was anti religion and anti establishment too.

I learnt that Jesus chased out people profiting from faith by selling sacrifices at the temple (Matthew 21:12-16.) I was shocked that Jesus called out religious leaders for setting impossible religious standards but not helping people (Matthew 23:1-12). I was inspired by Jesus preaching about God's love, justice & compassion and encouraged to read he started a faith community built not on performative good deeds (Matthew 23:25-28) but a recognition of ones capacity for evil (Matthew 5:20-30) and an active lifestyle of loving & respecting all others (Matthew 22:37-39).

So I'm processing these events after 9 years of learning to love God with my heart, soul, mind and strength; 9 years of learning to love others, and myself, in the way God intends; and 9 years of helping others to become disciples of Jesus and obey the bible. I'm also processing these events after 30 years of living in a nation where you get told to "go home" if you dare speak up against racist oppression and injustice. And no, racism isn't just a US problem. The UK was the birthplace of racism as we know it and the inequalities are rife in this green and pleasant land.

Living as an alien in your own home leaves a constant undercurrent of pain and discomfort. Over the past few weeks I've been bombarded with images, stories and videos of people, who look like me and my family, suffering because of how they look, triggering yet more intense pain and heightened discomfort.

I've carried the burden of racist incidents, structural racism & institutionalised racism all my life. Now there's hope that this could change, that it could be different for my children and grandchildren. But that hope is fickle.

People don't do good or evil because of the colour of their skin, they do it because of the content of their hearts. That truth has been battered into my consciousness over the past few months. I'm drained mentally & emotionally by conversations about race. I'm exhausted from seeing people claim they care about driving anti-racism, only to see their activism stop at virtual signalling captions on black squares. I'm exhausted. Yet I still keep talking.

Talking feels too much and too little all at once. So what to do? I'm signing petitions, I'm supporting Kwanda and I'm building Afrocenchix to create equality for Black people. But, most importantly, I'm praying.

With so much noise in the world, it's been immensely helpful to stop talking, to stop reading and scrolling, and to listen to God's voice.

Whilst we human's have warped ideas of justice and equality, I'm encouraged to read God's timeless heart of love.

Race as we know it hadn’t been invented as a concept until the 1800s, so there’s no mention of race in the bible (in the way we use it today.) Divisions, factions and tensions between ethnic groups have always existed though. In examining these stories we can see that God hates prejudice.

I've read of how Jesus opened his ministry with a dramatic pledge to bring good news to the poor, freedom for captives, sight to the blind and liberty to the oppressed (Luke 4:18-19.) When Jesus clarified that the message was also for the ethnic groups disposed by his listeners, the Baal worshiping people of Sidon and those pesky immigrants from Syria, his audience tried to kill him (Luke 4:28-30.) Throughout his ministry, Jesus kept speaking up. Despite an attempted murder Jesus spent time with Gentiles and humanised Samaritans.

The passage Jesus quotes when he starts his ministry is taken from Isaiah 61:1-2. Isaiah is a fascinating book as it was radical for it’s time and reads as almost a treatise on justice.

The book of Isaiah opens with a call to cease evil and learn good, to seek justice and correct oppression (Isaiah 1:12-17.) There has always been, and sadly maybe will always be, injustice and oppression in our world. God wants us to open our eyes to see it and to do something about it.

God is sickened when we carry on with religious songs and services, bringing him sacrifices with unclean hands (Isaiah 1:12-15). God doesn’t want noisy worship, he wants a flood of justice, an endless procession of righteous living (Amos 5:21-24.) And when God looked in the Israelite community for justice and mercy (misphat & tsēdaqah in the original Hebrew) instead he finds bloodshed and outcry (mispath and tsa’aqah.)

God calls for a radical stance on the injustice and oppression that’s normalised in the world around us. God calls us to loose bonds of wickedness, undo the straps of the yoke, let the oppressed go free, break every yoke, share bread with the hungry, bring homeless poor into our homes, cloth the naked and not turn away from our own flesh (Isaiah 58:6.) God tells us there is no peace without justice (Isaiah 59:8).

God condemns those who have hands defiled with blood in the same passage that He condemns lies, dishonesty, perversion of justice and empty pleas (Isaiah 59.) The bible sets an almost impossibly high ethical standard.

Complicity through privilege and apathy is hated by God. He detests it when people have pride, excess of food and prosperous ease in life but do not help the poor and needy (Ezeziel 16:49). God hates when people deal falsely with others, when people are greedy for gain from injustice and when people say ‘peace, peace’ when there is no peace (Jeremiah 6:13-15.)

The bible shows various empires rising and falling over thousands of years. The Assyrian & Babylonian kingdoms, the Egyptian dynasty, and the Roman Empire all rise and fall over the course of the bibles story. With every kingdom we see cycles of people being rescued and redeemed, and sadly we see the oppressed becoming oppressors.

Our world, like our history, is murky and complex. In the face of confusion and shifting social standards, God calls for justice and compassion.

True biblical justice means seeking out those being treated wrongly and helping them. The Hebrew word misphat is used 406 times in the bible to call for justice in the sense of setting and upholding fair, equal standards and advocating for the vulnerable.

God wants us to speak up and defend human rights (Proverbs 31:8-9) to rescue the oppressed (Jeremiah 22:3) and to know that He will advocate to the unjustly treated, the prisoners, the fatherless, the widows and the hungry (Psalm 146:7-9).

Today, like most days, hatred fills the news. But whilst conflict, confusion and chaos rage around me, I find true hope in God's message of love and redemption for a broken, hurting world.

“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

– Matthew 24:14

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 

– Revelation 7:9-10

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