After another officer-involved shooting of a black man in Kenosha, Wisc., Black Lives Matter rioters ravaged the streets, setting off fireworks at police, looting businesses, and burning down buildings. The wanton arson also spread to a church — and not just any church.
Bradford Community Church, a Unitarian Universalist congregation, had a “Black Lives Matter” sign out front and a viral video shows the fire lapping at the sign as it spread toward the church.
BLM arson attacks overnight in Kenosha, Wisc. spread to the Bradford Community Church, a far-left universalist religious organization. The church’s sign in support of #BlackLivesMatter was consumed in flames. pic.twitter.com/u02CIwsnIm
— Andy Ngô (@MrAndyNgo) August 24, 2020
The church’s pastor addressed the fire in a statement published on its home page. The pastor said the members of his church are “outraged” — but not because their church got caught up in the arson.
“We, the members and clergy of Bradford Community Church Unitarian Universalist, are outraged at the violence perpetuated in the name of law enforcement on our people of color throughout our nation’s history and yesterday in Kenosha in the case of Jacob Blake for whose life we now pray,” Rev. Erik David Carlson said.
“Despite the fact that we cannot condone [the] violent response to injustice, we understand and appreciate the anger and frustration that fueled the events of last night. While we are relieved that our church home mostly survived the inferno in the lot next door, we affirm that we would rather lose 100 buildings than one more life to police violence,” the pastor added.
“Some folks have already commented that our decision to display ‘Black Lives Matter’ on our road sign in some way contributed to the fire or that our support of the BLM movement is hypocritical or ‘un-Christian.’ Indeed, all lives do matter to us (that’s what ‘Universalist’ means), but given the overwhelming and disproportionate injustice suffered by Americans of color we are compelled by our faith to speak up and affirm that Black Lives Matter too,” Carlson insisted.
The Black Lives Matter sign is controversial in Christian circles not because conservative Christians think black lives do not matter but because the leaders of the official Black Lives Matter movement have described themselves as “trained Marxists” and the movement’s platform has called for the abolition of the nuclear family. The organization also advocates for LGBT activism, which has conflicted with religious freedom for conservative Christians.
Some horrific cases of police abuse — as in the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Talyor — do indeed call for reforms. Yet the Black Lives Matter movement also rushes to condemn police with a broad brush, suggesting law enforcement, in general, is racist and rushing to judge police in situations where a shooting may have been justified. The shooting of Jacob Blake, which inspired the Kenosha riots, is one such case. While the video of the shooting seems horrific, Blake appears to have been resisting arrest, and it seems he was reaching into his car when police opened fire. The cops likely suspected he was reaching for a gun.
Black lives certainly do matter and some of the cases the Black Lives Matter movement highlights really are concerning. But the movement has not unearthed widespread racism in police departments and it has not proven that the police need to be defunded or abolished.
This Unitarian Universalist church is right to condemn racism, but it is arguably wrong to endorse the movement — and that explains why the church has faced backlash.
It is horrifying to see churches damaged in dangerous riots, whatever their religious and political stances.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.