Every generation has its civil rights struggle; one troubling commonality between them all is the use of distorted Biblical principles to support division, separation, and oppression.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” is one of Dr. King’s most famous quotes, and over the past few weeks, it has become a war cry. It has been plastered on social media newsfeeds and yelled at rallies. However, the true meaning of that statement has not settled in the hearts of Americans, particularly those identifying as African American, Christian, or both. The fight for equality extends beyond racism; homophobia, transphobia, and sexism greatly contribute to continued oppression in America.
A recent article falsely claimed that Chick-fil-A had sided against the Black Lives Matter movement, and self-proclaimed activists everywhere were prepared to boycott waffle fries and chicken sandwiches. However, those “advocates for social change” completely ignored the restaurant’s openly anti-gay stance in 2012.
It is paradoxical to fight against the oppression of one group, while hindering the progress of another marginalized minority, especially when the suffering of both groups is a result of the same system. Every generation has its civil rights struggle; one troubling commonality between them all is the use of distorted Biblical principles to support division, separation, and oppression. The same Bible that is being used to rebuke the LGBT community was once used as a defense for slavery and segregation.
Separation of races was ordained by God?
Many racial segregationists of the early to mid twentieth century justified racial bigotry with language similar to today’s anti-LGBT rhetoric, with bills being thrown around legalizing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Senator Theodore Bilbo published a book in 1947 arguing that separation of races was ordained by God. While radical, Bilbo was not alone in his beliefs.
During the Reformation, both the Catholic and Protestant churches debated on whether blacks had souls and could be considered human. In fact, one of the first uses of ethnic lineage was to determine who was pure and could be deemed a true Christian convert.
Race was, and continues to be, an extremely ambiguous categorization system used to justify societal inequalities. Genetically, every human is nearly identical, yet tiny biological differences have become a driving force in how the world works. Everyone’s ancestry is ethnically mixed, but it is required to fit into one of three boxes: black, white, or other.
White women were seen as the epitome of purity, and lynchings were the method through which impurity was eradicated. Although it is now understood how grotesque and vulgar the act was, at the time, the believers genuinely thought that they were aligning themselves with the will of God. A message of love is constantly morphed and distorted into one of hatred by personal bias, and eisegesis has caused fatal separations among humankind.
Pride and Prejudice
On June 12, 2016, 49 innocent lives were taken and 53 others were injured when a shooting range was made of an Orlando nightclub. The response to the Pulse mass murder was outrageous, but not shocking. Prejudiced Americans, claiming Christian beliefs, took to social media defending the assailant because of the assumed sexual orientation of those killed.
According to the FBI’s 2013 report, race motivated almost half of hate crimes committed, but LGBT Americans are twice as likely to fall prey to violent hate crimes than African Americans. Transgender women of color face the highest risk of homicide; because of violence, the average life expectancy for a trans woman of color is only 35. Furthermore, nearly 90 percent of LGBT homicide victims in 2013 were people of color.
Approximately fifty percent of LGBT Americans identify as Christian. However, the church as a whole has been less than accepting of those who do not identify as heterosexual and cisgender. In fact, the Bible belt has been seen as a battlefield; intolerance and vocalized hatred are common. Phrases such as “pray the gay away” and “hate the sin, love the sinner” have been adopted as gospel, as the sayers forget that sexual and gender identity are at the heart of self perception. It is vital that the church recognizes that personal conviction does not always require public condemnation, especially against a group whose only desire is to promote love and unity.
All Lives Matter?
The goal of Black Lives Matter is to make “All Lives Matter” a true statement.
From Bayard Rustin to the women who founded the Black Lives Matter movement, members of the LGBT community have been on the frontlines of the black liberation struggle. They recognize that their blackness and their queerness are both under attack; they see their likeness crushing under the pressure of oppression. Regardless of religious views or ideologies, no one should become so hardened in their heart that they are desensitized to the battles being fought alongside their own.
The goal of social activism is to liberate everyone from unjustified and unreasonable bondage. In order for true freedom to be achieved, every shackle must be loosed, and every chain must be broken. If one abused group isolates themselves from others, they are only mimicking the segregation that caused this societal mess in the first place.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial ‘outside agitator’ idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.” — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail, 1963