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5 Lessons From the Urbana, #BlackLivesMatter, Students for Life Controversy

4. Don't Conflate Politics With the Gospel.

If there's one lesson the evangelical church has learned the hard way, it's that conflating politics with the gospel perverts the message.

In large part, this lesson has come from Millenials, who criticize their parents for tying the gospel to Republican causes. Some of those causes, like the pro-life cause, are clearly righteous. Yet others, like immigration and gun control, are a little more gray.

I'm not saying that the Bible is silent on these issues. I'm simply saying that biblical arguments can be made on both sides of the issue, so Christians should refrain from communicating that anyone who embraces the gospel should also support one particular side.

Though it is clear that Scripture supports the premise that black lives matter, it is also clear that some of the premises of the Black Lives Matter movement run contrary to Scripture. For example, two of the 13 "guiding principles" listed on the Black Lives Matter (BLM) website are "transgender affirming" and "queer affirming." Also, the website describes its support for "black villages" as a commitment to "disrupting the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement."

Christian organizations should reserve their unqualified support for only those political movements that are clearly in line with Christian ideals. Unfortunately, Black Lives Matter does not meet that qualification.

Yet, not only did Urbana 15 give Higgins its platform to promote the movement, the entire worship team took the stage at the conference wearing Black Lives Matter t-shirts. Imagine the outrage if the team had taken the stage with t-shirts promoting the GOP or gun rights!

I think hosting a panel discussion featuring people with diverse views about Black Lives Matter would have been appropriate, but blatant promotion crossed a line. I truly hope InterVarsity will think twice before doing something similar again.

5. Don't Cede Theological Orthodoxy for Cultural Relevance.

Last spring, I interviewed Dr. Anthony Bradley, a conservative black author and scholar, about the Justice Conference's decision to invite Dr. Cornel West to keynote its conference. West is a proponent of black liberation theology, which many evangelicals view as a perversion of the gospel. He's also a radical Leftist and chairman of the Democratic Socialists of America. Given that pedigree, I was surprised that World Relief, an evangelical organization, invited West to headline its event.

But, Dr. Bradley said he wasn't surprised at all. Increasingly, he said, when evangelical organizations "want to bring credibility to their conference, they find an African-American outside of the evangelical space . . . so that it doesn't seem like a right-wing, conservative conference. . . . It's the best way to give (a conference) the appearance that it's progressive, and isn't going to just be a conference of pasty, white men."

The problem in doing this, though, is that it communicates that theological distinctions are unimportant. Higgins, for example, reduced concerns about Black Lives Matter being liberal, and associated with pro-choice and transgender advocacy, by asserting, "You're not in control. . . . You can freely release yourself from judging because you're not God."

In a post-modern climate where truth and orthodoxy are under constant assault, this is not a positive message to send to college students. Truth matters. And, it's not in the interest of any lives to diminish it.

Fortunately, the evangelical community has a plethora of great black scholars and activists like Bradley, who are thoroughly orthodox and evangelical, yet also decry the same injustices as Higgins. We need to start inviting them to speak at our conferences, instead of sacrificing theology to appear more culturally relevant.

So, by all means, let's address issues of racism and injustice. But, let's do it in a way that doesn't denigrate other Christians and worthy causes, and preserves the integrity of the gospel.

Julie Roys is a speaker, freelance journalist and blogger at www.julieroys.com. She also is the host of a national radio program on the Moody Radio Network called, Up For Debate. Julie and her husband live in the Chicago suburbs and have three children

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