If you don’t want to be racist, don’t misrepresent what black people are saying

Since George Floyd’s death, I have been fascinated to see the number of tweets, Facebook posts and articles by Christians responding to the call to “take the knee.”  Some Christians have chosen to do so, others have not and that’s the way it should be. We should not force people to take particular actions, these should be voluntary responses.

What has concerned me however has been the tone of a number of responses where the response has been “I will not bow the knee to anyone.”  Such responses usually interpret “taking the knee” as an order to bow before black people and before particular ideologies.

Now, I can understand a level of misunderstanding. We can so easily discover that what we thought we heard someone say isn’t what they meant to tell us. There is a fantastic example of this in the Old Testament where the people of Israel cross the Jordan but some tribes choose to settle on the east bank. The east bankers build a monument in order to remind the whole of Israel of their unity together lest this be forgotten. However, the rest of Israel interpret this as an act of aggression. There is a little warning there to the problem of communicating via statues and monuments as well!

So, people may have misheard the point of saying that Black Lives Matter and the call to take a knee. Therefore, the right thing to do has been to try and explain some of these things.  You will see that I have tried to do this in previous articles.  The image of bowing down on one knee was not intended as something that white people should do in order to submit as a race to black people. Rather, it was something that black people started doing in response to their national anthem and flag in America, a way of both protesting and showing respect at the same time. We have been asked not to bow to others but to kneel with them. I personally believe that this gives us a fantastic opportunity to say that we kneel in prayer with one another.

However, at this stage, I think we do need to ask the question, why is it that when the misunderstanding is corrected, that there is still an air of defiance from some. It is as though the explanation is just ignored. This is concerning for three reasons. 

First of all, because there is a persistence in ignoring what Scripture teaches. The claim that we only bow to Jesus misses the point that total submission to Christ commands of us a different attitude to one another. On the night he was betrayed, whilst his disciples argued about who was most important in the Kingdom, Jesus took off his outer garment, got a bowl of water, took the knee and washed his disciples’ feet.

Jesus said:

“ If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant[c] is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.”[1]

In Romans 12, Paul talks about our submission to Christ as not just taking the knee but of laying our lives down on the altar as living sacrifices. This act of submission is enacted as follows:

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”[2]

In Ephesians 5:21, Paul goes on to identify the act of submitting to one another as a mark of being filled with the Spirit and 1 Peter shows that we can submit to others in Christ, even when they do not reciprocate. 

Therefore, the request to kneel with people, does not even go as far as Scripture does. How do we get to the stage where we are so desperate to make a political point that we ignore some of the best known parts of Scripture.

Secondly, I am wary of those who say “I only submit to King Jesus” especially church leaders.  We can piously declare that we have only one boss (true for all of us) but in fact this can become a way of avoiding scrutiny and accountability to one another. It shuts down the possibility of plural eldership and congregational church government.

Thirdly, there has been a default assumption at times that white reformed Christians are Biblically sound whilst black Christians are likely to be dodgy. We hear what is said through the prosperity Gospel filter. We need to guard against that knee jerk reaction that we must be being asked to do something wrong, something against Scripture, especially when we are shown that we are in fact the ones who had a blind spot to Scripture.  So, if we genuinely don’t want to be racist, one way to make progress is to listen more carefully to what our black brothers and sisters are saying so that we neither through negligence nor through our own deliberate fault misrepresent them.

[1] John 13:14-16.

[2] Romans 12:3

2 thoughts on “If you don’t want to be racist, don’t misrepresent what black people are saying

  1. How do you respond to christian concern who have highlighted the fact that BLM.com states on its website that it seeks to destroy white supremacy and dismantle the nuclear family and replace it with queer families living in village communities ? How do we distinguish between the political BLM.com and the need to agree that aside from these political ideologies that BLM


    1. Hi David … that is one of the central points. We know that a phrase or even a symbol cannot be owned or controlled by one org. We make distinctions every day. So to assume that people saying BLM are signed up to a specific org is to fail to credit them with the same distinctions we make all the time.e.g I know that LGBTQ use rainbows.. I also know that people putting up rainbows in their windows are not supporting LGBTQ …


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