InterVarsity’s support for Black Lives Matter caused controversy—in part because some of the speaker’s comments were perceived as critical and dismissive of the pro-life movement.
Last week, InterVarsity’s interim president, Jim Lundgren responded in a statement. “Scripture is clear about the sanctity of life,” he said. “That is why I’m both pro-life and committed to the dignity of my Black brothers and sisters.”
In that statement, InterVarsity distanced themselves from the anti-police rhetoric. (As one who comes from a law enforcement family, I was thankful for the clarification.)
They also explained that #BlackLivesMatter isn’t just a slogan for its students. The issue of race is a day-to-day reality for InterVarsity students, according to the statement:
Many Black InterVarsity staff and students report that they are physically and emotionally at risk in their communities and on campus. About one-half of those at Urbana 15 are people of color, including more than 1,200 Black participants. InterVarsity chose to participate in this conversation because we believe that Christians have something distinctive to contribute in order to advance the gospel. … [W]e believe it is important to affirm that God created our Black brothers and sisters. They bear his image. They deserve safety, dignity and respect.
I agree with them. Black lives matter.
Speaking Up on Issues of Race
As such, I am glad that InterVarsity cares about issues of racial justice. I’m also glad they had the wisdom to clarify their comments.
The Black Lives Matter movement is not one organization with a clear set of values, but a diverse group of activists—and InterVarsity needed to clarify what they were endorsing, and what they were not endorsing. And, they have.
I also know that in these conversations about race, we’re all going to get it wrong or be misunderstood at times. Speaking up, by its very nature, invites criticism. But such criticism should not keep us from speaking up.
Ironically, as I write this article, outside of the normal opposition whenever we say there might be systemic justice issues to address, by far the most frequent critics of my involvement in conversations around race, ethnicity and justice have been individuals connected to InterVarsity.
When we received several comments from current and former InterVarsity staffers on the same day, after seeking to elevate persons of color, one of my team sent me a note, “We keep getting comments like this. This is why white people don’t do more to promote minorities. Whenever they try, they do it ‘wrong.’”
I understood the comment, but I think that’s the wrong response. Instead, we should expect criticism, clarify when we are unclear and move forward together.