MLK vs. Malcolm X and the Year 2020
My fear is that Malcolm X may be winning the debate with Martin Luther King, Jr. right now, and that’s bad news for humanity. Even worse, I fear that the Church is a significant reason why.
It seems that almost daily for the past couple of weeks there have been more and more videos that leave me heartbroken and speechless. To call the murder of George Floyd a tragedy is an understatement, and to call it an isolated incident is simply dishonest- or at least ignorant.
While I certainly do not have the answers to every problem in the world today, I do know at least where to find the answers to most of them- at least most of the important ones. As a born-again Christian, I know that the answer to these issues comes from God’s Word, the Bible.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the tensions between Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. These two men both had a desire to improve the standard of living for African-Americans, but they had very different approaches about how to do it.
In short, Martin Luther King’s approach was a Christian approach to change. In accord with Romans 12:20, Romans 13, Proverbs 25 and others, King obeyed all applicable laws except those that were directly immoral. He led a movement of non-violent resistance that was designed to convict the conscience of the nation. King was able to point out the inconsistency in America’s morality. He was able to call upon the shared Christian morals of the nation, and point out that racism and segregation in particular is blatantly, objectively immoral. King advocated for an integrated society because he understood that God’s Word is clear that all men and women are of the same race- the human race.
He was able to demonstrate that racism and intolerance are contrary to the Christian life. As America’s television screens were filled with peaceful protestors being brutally attacked, sprayed with hoses, attacked by dogs, etc. it became impossible for any born-again Christian not to sympathize with the plight of our brothers and sisters in certain parts of the country.
A major reason why King’s nonviolent protests were able to change the country was because he was able to call on the Christian ideals shared by most of the nation. He was able use the nation’s recognition that all men and women have infinite value in God’s eyes. He was able to use the nation’s professed understanding that all men are indeed created equal and he appealed to the objective standard of God’s Word to prove this. Because of the shared moral understanding of the nation, his method prevailed and changed history.
His method of peaceful protest and nonviolent resistance prevailed over Malcolm X’s more direct and violent methodology.
At the core of King’s Biblical approach was the recognition that even the racists and oppressors are still God’s creatures. Violence of any kind is much less palatable when one truly understands the idea that truly ALL- even those you oppose, are of infinite value. King’s Biblical approach sought to change the racists’ heart and mind, to convict their conscience rather than to kill them.
Now we find ourselves in 2020 and the battle for racial justice is still being waged. It’s not that King failed. However, centuries of oppression often take more than two generations to completely fix. There is much work to be done still.
One key difference between our nation in the 1960’s and our nation today is that we are no longer a society with a shared morality. We do not all agree that every human matters, even the ones we disagree with. We do not all agree that there is an objective standard of right and wrong that is outside ourselves. We are no longer a “Christian” society. Sadly, once a society gives those things up, there is no longer a shared morality or societal conscience which can be called upon for change.
It is understandable; therefore, that the more violent Malcolm X approach is gaining more popularity. When the idea that discourse and dialogue won’t work, when the idea that morality is not absolute, when the idea that there is no God to whom we are all accountable- when those ideas take root, then violence is the obvious and logical option.
As Christians, we know that the Malcolm X approach is not only less effective than King’s non-violent resistance, but moreover we know that it’s detrimental to the overall cause of equality. In the words of King himself, “Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love.”
So if we understand that the Malcolm X approach is a problem, and if we understand that the degeneration of shared societal Christian values is the cause, then who is to blame and what is the solution?
It would be tempting to say that the atheists are to blame. After all the heart of the issue at hand is an increased secularization of the people, so shouldn’t we look at the secularists as the cause? No. When a dog barks, it is nonsensical to get angry at it for not meowing. The dog neither chooses the bark as its noise, nor can it do anything about it. We should always expect atheists to act as atheists and continue to operate at all times in enmity with God.
The Church in America is to blame. The solution to the problem is for the Church to repent and then get to work.
I posted an article a week or so ago that talked about George Floyd’s recent involvement in a local ministry. I received comments and DM’s galore telling me not to share that kind of thing because Floyd had a checkered past. Brothers and sisters are you so ignorant of your own checkered past? The reality is that only God knows Floyd’s relationship with Christ for certain, but to point out a criminal history as evidence against salvation is literally satanic. Never look at past failures as if they were present fruits.
A man struggled to live for nearly 9 minutes. He cried out for his mother as 4 other humans sat on top of him, and he lost that struggle. If you’re reaction to that is “well he had a checkered past”, then you are so far from loving your neighbor like you love yourself that I am worried for your soul.
If you think that the Floyd death is just an isolated incident, then you’re simply misinformed. The simple reality is that in the United States a black person is 3 times more likely to be killed by police than a white person despite the fact that a white person is actually more likely to be armed with a gun.* If you think that it’s because of higher crime rates, then you may be shocked to find out that average crime rate is not correlated with number of police shootings.* This means that some of our more peaceful cities are the ones that are the most likely to kill an unarmed black person. And if you think that the criminal justice system is the solution to this problem, then you may be shocked to learn that a police officer that kills an unarmed black person has a less than 1% chance of being convicted of a crime.*
Anecdotally, I was once on a ride along with a police officer. He noticed two young black men carrying a set of golf clubs while walking along the sidewalk in a predominantly white area. He questioned them. No arrest was made or anything, but thinking back on it… do you think he would’ve stopped if it was two young white men in polo shirts walking down the street carrying the same bag of golf clubs?
Now, does this mean that all cops are racist murderers? No- I come from a family of police officers and first responders, and I’m proud to say that I’ve never known my brothers to ever have a racist bone in their bodies. However, that is a straw man argument, and it’s a childish way of looking at the issue. It’s childish because it questions a claim that no one is making in order to ignore reality.
The reality is that we have a criminal justice system that is heavily prejudiced against minorities. A black person is more likely to be convicted of a crime than a white person, a black person is more likely to receive a harsher sentence than a white person and a black person is more likely to be stopped and searched by the police which leads to more charges than a white person.** And if the unthinkable happens, and the situation becomes violent, then the black person is far more likely to be killed than a white person despite being less likely to be armed.*
Last week, I posted a one minute video on our Instagram feed answering the question of whether or not a Christian can say something like “black lives matter”. The video was addressing a specific question, one I’ve received numerous times over the past few weeks. The question basically gets posed to me this way “the Bible says that all people matter, so is it ok for me to say that Black Lives Matter?” My answer was simple- yes! The Black Lives Matter movement does not mean that other lives don’t matter. Instead, it’s a way of highlighting the fact that our criminal justice system is treating black lives as if they don’t matter.
That Instagram post was met with a litany of comments and DM’s about everything from how the whole protest situation is a hoax to how the BLM organization is a Marxist organization, etc.
Should we be surprised that the Marxists are getting involved? Should our response as the Church be “Well, if some people are taking this cause to Marxism, then I’m not going to get involved at all”? No! I expect the far left to be there to spread their propaganda. I expect the Marxists to be there to spread the false gospel of Communism. Those things don’t surprise me at all.
What does surprise me is the silence of the Body of Christ. Where is the Church in all this? Sure, many organizations have done some virtue signaling on social media, but why is the Church not so involved at the core of this injustice that the Marxists are sending each other a DM warning “don’t get involved with BLM because there’s too many Christians”?
The Church must not devolve into a group of people that do little more than eat Chick-fil-a and watch Fox News. We should not sit around all day watching conspiracy theories on YouTube. We should not monitor social media ready to pounce on any infraction like some 21st century Pharisee.
As a Christian, you have an obligation to truly fight REAL injustice. As Proverbs 31:8-9 tells us “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.”
If the Church at large is going to continue to pretend that nothing is happening and no solution is needed, then we must not be surprised when the Church continues to lose credibility as the moral authority in our nation. If the Church does not help the needy and the oppressed, then we must not be surprised when the Marxists and revolutionaries fill the void that we’ve created.
Look at this issue honestly. I’m about 2 weeks late in posting this because I wanted to examine the issue and make sure that I had an understanding before I spoke. But after prayer and study, I have no intention of remaining silent.
“Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” -James 1:27