George Floyd’s death in May 2020 was a wake-up call for the country, sparking new conversations – and widespread protests – about racism and the police.
At the time, many religious leaders praised this work. Some even took to the streets with “Black Lives Matter” signs.
However, 18 months later, faith-based support for this activism appears to be waning.
A growing group of pastors believe the necessary revival against racism has turned into a rejection of the Christian faith.
“Today’s critical theories and ideologies are deeply atheistic. They deny the soul, the spiritual, transcendent dimension of human nature; or they think it has nothing to do with human happiness, ”Archbishop José Gomez, who heads the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and is president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said at a speech on November 4.
Despite their secular nature, these social justice movements “claim to offer what religion offers” and are therefore dangerous, he said. The participants become more and more dogmatic and ruthless; they have no Bibles urging them to love their enemies.
“These strictly secular movements are at the origin of new forms of social division, discrimination, intolerance and injustice”, declared Mgr Gomez.
Others who criticize the same trend have called it the rise of “awakened religion”. They blame social justice movements like Black Lives Matter for everything from culture cancellation to political unrest.
“Awakening offers no other possibility of atonement than human sacrifice. Maybe we don’t have to put people to death, but getting them fired and throwing them out of society is enough, “Tripp Parker wrote for The Federalist in 2020 in a column criticizing what he called” the new religion of the awakened left ”.
This setback against race-related political activism is now large enough to warrant a backlash. People of faith who support or participate in the work of social justice movements say that religious leaders like Archbishop Gomez are unjust.
“As a faithful Catholic, I pray that Archbishop Gomez will see how his hurtful remarks undermine the wisdom that the black Catholic community and the racial justice organizers have to offer us all,” said Kyle de Beausset , a Catholic organizer, in a statement released Monday by Faith in Public Life and Faithful America.
De Beausset was one of more than 12,000 Catholics to sign a petition calling on Archbishop Gomez to apologize for his recent speech. He says that, at this political moment, religious leaders should offer their help to social justice movements, not sit on the sidelines and criticize them.
“Catholic bishops and other religious leaders should be in the streets with these movement organizers, without demeaning them with language that only emboldens opponents of racial equity,” the petition said.
According to a recent Pew Research Center poll, many Americans see anti-racist work as essential to their faith, rather than as something separate.
More than two-thirds of American adults (68%) – including 77% of black Catholics – say opposing racism is an “essential” part of being a loyal or moral person, Pew found. That’s 10 percentage points higher than the share of Americans (58%) who say believing in God is an essential part.