Last month over 10,000 Evangelical Christian students and leaders gathered at the Urbana Missions conference hosted by InterVarsity once every three years.
I am proud to say that InterVarsity – an Evangelical campus ministry of which I am a minister – invited Ferguson activist Michelle Higgins along with several Black Lives Matter speakers to call out Evangelicalism’s adultery with white supremacy.
But that night, I lay in my hotel bed restless and wide awake. I tossed and turned, very tangibly sensing the Holy Spirit fan into flame a stirring rising from within my gut. I felt humbled, grateful, and hopeful about the dialogue, direct action, and holy interruptions at Urbana for Black Lives Matter thus far.
But I was, and still am, grieved by the invisibility of queer and trans Black lives and the lack of credit and honor to the Black queer women behind the Black Lives Matter movement throughout InterVarsity’s revelation about racial justice.
Let’s get this straight – Black Lives Matter was created by three queer Black women:
Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi. Here are a few excerpts from their website:
“Straight men, unintentionally or intentionally, have taken the work of queer Black women and erased our contributions. Perhaps if we were the charismatic Black men many are rallying around these days, it would have been a different story, but being Black queer women in this society (and apparently within these movements) tends to equal invisibility and non-relevancy.”
“In 2014, hetero-patriarchy and anti-Black racism within our movement is real and felt. It’s killing us and it’s killing our potential to build power for transformative social change. When you adopt the work of queer women of color, don’t name or recognize it, and promote it as if it has no history of its own such actions are problematic.”
“Black Lives Matter affirms the lives of Black queer and trans folks, disabled folks, Black-undocumented folks, folks with records, women and all Black lives along the gender spectrum. It centers those that have been marginalized within Black liberation movements.”
For InterVarsity to gain recognition and praise for being one of the first evangelical organizations to publicly support Black Lives Matter, yet remain silent on the role of hetero-patriarchy in anti-Black racism, is to co-opt and appropriate the hard and unseen work of Black queer women and perpetuate the invisibility of their leadership.
Yes, our Black Lives Matter leadership is queer, identifies as she, and is unapologetically and prophetically doing what Jesus did: bringing the margins to the center and overturning our social constructs and structures.
I don’t believe we can have a breakthrough about white supremacy without naming, repenting from, and working to abolish the heterosexist patriarchy that intersects with anti-Black racism.
These three interdependent strongholds enable Empire to marginalize while fetishizing and profiting off of queer and trans Black bodies, and Black Lives Matter leadership names this as state violence. What does this mean and why does it matter? Because…
Will we faithfully honor and engage the full complexity of Black life under attack, or will we only fight for the Black lives that subscribe to our definitions of gender and don’t complicate our theology? Will we disrupt our legacy of institutionalized homophobia and transphobia, which perhaps has gotten in the way of our spiritual mandate to love, humanize, and protect all Black lives?
My hope is that as we support Black Lives Matter and confront the legacy of anti-Black racism and white supremacy in Evangelicalism, we would see heterosexist patriarchy as a tool that upholds these systems.
Today, heterosexist patriarchy often manifests in our own faith communities through sexism, homophobia, transphobia, bisexual erasure, not allowing queer members to officially gather, invisibility, fear of affirming theology, denial of queer membership and leadership, microaggressions, among other ways.
Conversion therapy may not be used as frequently anymore, but its destructive legacy still problematically influences the way we pastor and counsel queer Christians. Furthermore, queer people of color in the Church experience these traumas in a uniquely toxic way because of the lived intersectionality of marginalized identities.
I wonder if this is more than just theological differences and dialogue, but a crisis of injustice and abuse that is deeply connected to and perpetuates anti-Black violence happening right now.
What if we are part of the problem in more ways than one? As the Evangelical Church, we have much to confess, repent, and pay reparations for.
I pray we center Black Lives Matter in its FULLNESS, which includes queer and trans Black lives, even/especially if that forces us to look in the mirror and see the tools of oppression in our own hands, homes, and churches. As we see, humanize, and honor all Black lives, may the Holy Spirit teach us how to recognize, lament, and repent from our own contradictions. Ultimately, may we be empowered by holy conviction to choose and make a different way for future generations.
Thank you, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi for being unapologetically queer Black powerful womyn.
Your movement is leading the Evangelical church into its own liberation from its adultery with white supremacy, and forcing us to face our own sinful utilization of hetero-patriarchal bias, exclusion, and violence.