Black Lives Matter (BLM) began as a movement in 2013 by three female organizers concerned that societal systems, mores, and structures are biased against black citizens. The movement gained viral social media status the following year after George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer characterized by many as racist, was acquitted for fatally shooting a black teenager, Trayvon Martin, in Florida. The movement grew nationally after the deaths of Michael Brown in Missouri and Eric Gardner in New York. It became a worldwide movement after George Floyd was killed in Minnesota. The main purpose of the movement is to protest police brutality and systemic racism that unfairly implicates the black community.
Most people seem to agree that the BLM Movement has merit, calling all of us to be more attuned to societal imperfections and to correct them. Black Lives Matter as an organization, however, has proved itself to lack merit altogether with its indisputably corrupt leadership, scams, fraud, sketchy pay-outs, and misdirection of millions of dollars from charitable contributions for personal gain. The BLM Global Network Foundation, as it is called, gives the BLM Movement a bad name.
Because worthwhile causes and undertakings need structure, there is a pattern of good movements morphing into organizations that are less good—and often bad. Even the greatest movements suffer with necessary organizational structure. The American Revolution evolved into a tremendous government with a Constitution and Bill of Rights that organizes our United States powerfully and compassionately, even to this day. Yet political parties and the corrupt underbelly of ideological alliances lead to some unprincipled and unscrupulous constructs within our central government.
Jesus of Nazareth started a movement that became an organization. Christianity, like American values, is undoubtedly good; but its organized religions, including the Catholic Church, have flaws. Through history there have been popes that murdered and were murdered for nefarious behavior; there were holy wars and persecutions. In recent decades, Vatican waste, corruption, secrecy, and lack of oversight has been revealed in the form of fraudulent banking practices, numerous bureaucratic abuses in institutional dicasteries, and the clergy sex scandal with its tidal wave of predatory crimes, devastating sins, and horrendous cover-ups. Pope Francis is working to return the organizational church to its original movement activated by Christ.
When Jesus said, “I will build my church,” He was promoting a particular way of living and loving. He was not commissioning hierarchical or physical structures: cathedrals, chanceries, basilicas, dicastery or curial departments of government; and He certainly wasn’t seeking to recreate the abusive hierarchical structure of the Sanhedrin, Pharisees, scribes, and lawyers of His day, men clothed in ecclesial garb that denote their importance or rank. He wanted to build a church as a means of following His example to love others, regardless of race, creed, culture, color, gender, or other marks of separation. At times and in ways, the church is tone deaf to Jesus, much as Black Lives Matter veered from its initial intent. Organizations sometimes do that to movements.
This week, we recall that our church was born out of an act of forgiveness when, from the cross, Jesus said: “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” Let us reflect upon His willingness to die for us as He activated a movement of love and mercy.