Article ID: JAVP0920AT | By: Aaron Turner
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“Black lives matter!” rings out at protests across the U.S.1 The mantra has become an effective rhetorical tool to protest suspected police brutality against black Americans. While thoughtful Christians should disagree with the Black Lives Matter organization on many points,2 the simple statement that “black lives matter” should be non-controversial for Christians, for it is theologically certain. God’s Word tells us that “black lives matter” when it reveals to us that all human beings are made in the image and likeness of God (see Gen. 1:26–27, 9:6, Jas. 3:9). If a person or group is made in the image of God, their lives matter — they matter to God and, therefore, ought to matter to everyone else. Again, the concept that “black lives matter” should be non-controversial. However, in a country that has historically despised black skin and in certain areas of our national life appears still to treat black people unequally,3 it does make sense to affirm explicitly that “black lives matter.”
Where Black Lives Don’t Matter
The Black Lives Matter movement has largely focused the nation’s attention on the killing of black people by police. And while some of the examples cited are clearly unjust (such as in the cases of Laquan McDonald, Walter Scott, and George Floyd), the argument for overwhelming racism in the killing of black men and women by the police is debatable, and is being debated.4 While it is good for our culture to wrestle with the question regarding the use of deadly force by police against black citizens, a far greater danger against black lives is going largely unnoticed and unprotested by the black community. I am speaking of the danger posed to black lives by abortion. When all is said and done, I fear that my community, the black community, may end up being guilty of “straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!” (Matt 23:24 ESV). If black lives truly matter in this country, they must matter where they are most at risk. The most dangerous place to be black in America is not in a car pulled over by a police officer; nor is it in the “hood” of some major American city. The most dangerous place to be black in America is inside a mother’s womb. Until black lives matter in the womb, they don’t truly matter in America.
The Facts of the Matter
It would be hard to exaggerate the extent to which abortion is decimating the black population in America. Approximately 14 percent of women in the U.S. are black,5 but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 38 percent6 of the nation’s abortions are performed on black women.7 For comparison, “non-Hispanic white women make up 60 percent of the population but account for only 35–39 percent of all abortions.”8 So, though white women greatly outnumber black women in our country, both groups account for approximately the same total number of abortions. This means that black babies are killed at a much greater rate than white babies.
One horrifying example of the destruction wrought by abortion on the black community is the effect on the black population in New York City. In 2013, black women were the recipients of 42 percent of New York City’s abortions, and tragically, more black babies were aborted that year in New York City than were born.9 In a July 2018 Wall Street Journal opinion column, Jason Riley wrote about New York City: “According to a city Health Department report released in May, between 2012 and 2016 black mothers terminated 136,426 pregnancies and gave birth to 118,127 babies. By contrast, births far surpassed abortions among whites, Asians and Hispanics.”10 To put the matter succinctly: abortion is the number one cause of death among black Americans today, by far.11 In fact, if we consider three of the top leading causes of death for black Americans in 2015, namely heart disease, diabetes mellitus, and homicide, we find that more black babies die from abortion than from all three of those leading causes combined. And not only a little bit more, but at least twice over, and likely three times over.12
These statistics should shock us — horrify us — for all “black lives matter.” These are not just statistics. This is a holocaust of precious brown and black babies, created in the image of God, who have been snuffed out as if they were merely biological matter. They are not merely matter — they matter! Not even the Ku Klux Klan of the early to middle 1900s could have likely dreamed up a more diabolical system and practice to bring about the decimation and devaluation of the black community, as has the present-day system and practice of abortion. The American abortion enterprise is an intolerable injustice for the unborn of all ethnicities, but disproportionately so, as we have seen, for black unborn babies. The significant and evil effect of this system on black babies demands a response from anyone who truly believes that black lives matter.
Since Black Lives Really Do Matter
How should the church of Jesus Christ respond? The first thing that we ought to do is pray often against the abortion holocaust that is killing off the weakest and most vulnerable among us, disproportionately so in the black community. Christians should not doubt the importance of prayer, for we recognize that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12 ESV). Prayer is a more important weapon in this battle than any of us imagine.
After we pray, or better yet even while we are praying, there are some practical things we can do to help turn back the tide on this crisis. Let’s start with a few recommendations for black Christians and churches.13 First, black churches need to speak up on this issue. From my own personal experience, and from my conversations with fellow black clergy, the black church, it seems, is largely silent on the abortion crisis taking place within its community.14 This may be because pastors are not aware of how serious the crisis is; it may be that they fear sounding too politically conservative; it may even be that they desire to address root systemic issues, and so forth. But whatever the hindrances may be, black churches need to speak up on this issue out of faithfulness to God and love for their unborn neighbor and kin.
Another thing that black Christians and churches can do to help with this crisis is to come alongside black women, and especially black single mothers, assuring them that if they decide to keep their baby, the body of Christ will be there to support them along the way. We should anticipate that Satan and the world will frequently point to poverty and the uncertainty of a good support network as reasons to justify a black mother killing her unborn child. By supporting black mothers, this tactic can be defanged. Along these lines, it would be powerful to see a movement of black Christians, heartbroken over this crisis, eager to adopt black children from moms who out of great courage carried their child to term, even though they concluded that they could not adequately care for their child given life’s circumstances.
Besides being prayerful, non-black Christians can help, too. While we have looked at the issue of abortion through a racial lens, it is helpful also to see it through an economic lens. As of 2016, close to “half of abortion patients in the United States are poor and another 26 percent are low income.”15 As implied above, oftentimes what hinders black women from keeping their child is the fear that they will not be able to support them financially. This means that non-black Christians who are more well-off can come alongside black families or moms with whom they are in a relationship and offer them financial support. Non-black Christians can also donate to organizations such as crisis pregnancy centers, which provide for the physical needs of women who decide to carry their babies to term. At a political level, they can advocate for policies that promote economic justice for the black community. At a societal level, they can push back against the idea that black babies are not valuable. And non-black Christians can open their homes to both foster and adopt a black child who is in need of a home.16
One thing both black and non-black Christians should be ready to do for every guilt-stricken black mom who has aborted her child, and for every guilt-stricken black dad who has encouraged his partner to abort his child, is to tell them that though abortion is a great sin, it is not an unpardonable sin. We must explain that Jesus died for all sin — including the sin of abortion — and if they will but come to Him, God Himself will forgive them all their sins and increasingly transform them into the person He wants them to be. We can confidently point guilt-stricken black women and men to Christ, because to Him all black lives and souls matter.
Aaron Turner Jr. earned his bachelor’s degree in Christian Ministries from Geneva College in 2005 and his MDiv from Covenant Theological Seminary in 2009. He currently serves as Director of Outreach at Midtown Church in St. Louis, Missouri.
- Larry Buchanan argues that the black lives matter movement could be the largest movement in American history. Larry Buchanan, “Black Lives Matter May Be the Largest Movement in U.S. History,” The New York Times, July 3, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/07/03/us/george-floyd-protests-crowd-size.html.
- Albert Mohler does a good job highlighting some of the areas of concern with the Black Lives Matter organization: Albert Mohler, “The Briefing: Thursday, June 18th, 2020,” Albert Mohler, June 18, 2020, https://albertmohler.com/2020/06/18/briefing-6-18-20. Editor’s Note: Listen also to Hank Hanegraaff, “Evolutionary Racism Undergirds the Marxist Anti-Racism Movement,” Bible Answer Man broadcast, July 2, 2020, Christian Research Institute, https://www.equip.org/broadcast/evolutionary-racism-undergirds-the-marxist-anti-racism-movement/.
- Here are three examples: 1) Evidence seems to indicate that black male offenders seem to get longer sentences than similarly situated white male offenders. See “Demographic Differences in Sentencing,” United States Sentencing Commission, November 14, 2017, https://www.ussc.gov/research/research-reports/demographic-differences-sentencing?fbclid=IwAR2FVrDDxaH7tLi5KqByV-oGBIvAHbrhj9i8Nw8Pl3CIzfS7ex_lPMkGGS8. 2) Evidence seems to indicate that black Americans, when compared with white Americans, are discriminated against in how often their cars are searched during traffic stops. See “Findings,” The Stanford Open Policing Project 2020, https://openpolicing.stanford.edu/findings/, and Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow (New York: The New Press, 2012), 133–134. 3) Evidence seems to indicate that individuals are far more likely to get the death penalty if they kill a white person than if they kill a black person, and even though few are actually executed, the execution is more likely to be carried out if the victim was white, not black. See Adam Liptak, “A Vast Racial Gap in Death Penalty Cases, New Study Finds,” New York Times, August 3, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/03/us/racial-gap-death-penalty.html?auth=login-facebook.
- For an argument that that the police in the U.S. are not disproportionately killing unarmed black Americans, see Coleman Hughes, “Stories and Data: Reflections on Race, Riots, and Police,” City Journal, June 14, 2020, https://www.city-journal.org/reflections-on-race-riots-and-police. For a rebuttal to one of the key arguments put forth in Coleman Hughes’ article, see Aubrey Clayton, “The Statistical Paradox of Police Killings,” The Boston Globe, June 11, 2020, https://www.bostonglobe.com/2020/06/11/opinion/statistical-paradox-police-killings/.
- “Women of Color in the United States: Quick Take,” Catalyst, March 19, 2020. https://www.catalyst.org/research/women-of-color-in-the-united-states/.
- Kimberly Leonard, “CDC: Two Percent Fewer Women Getting Abortions,” Washington Examiner, November 27, 2019, https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/policy/healthcare/cdc-two-percent-fewer-women-getting-abortions.
- In this article whenever I speak of abortion, and as far as I can tell whenever I use information from other sources about abortions, the reference is to “surgical abortions,” not to the widespread and tragic phenomena of “medical abortions” (in which medications, e.g., “Abortion Pill,” are used instead of surgery to end the preborn child’s life). One can only imagine how much worse the picture would be if our discussion included medical abortions.
- “Abortion and Race: For Decades, Abortion Has Disproportionately Eliminated Minority Babies,” Abort73.com, July 9, 2020, https://abort73.com/abortion/abortion_and_race/.
- Lauren Caruba, “Cynthia Meyer Says More Black Babies are Aborted in New York City than Born,” Politifact, The Poynter Institute, December 1, 2015, http://www.politifact.com/texas/statements/2015/nov/25/cynthia-meyer/cynthia-meyer-says-more-black-babies-are-aborted-n/.
- Jason L. Riley, “Let’s Talk About the Black Abortion Rate,” The Wall Street Journal, July 10, 2018, https://www.wsj.com/articles/lets-talk-about-the-black-abortion-rate-1531263697.
- W. Gardner Selby, “Jason Isaac Makes Mostly False Claim that Abortion is the Leading Killer of Black Americans,” Politifact, The Poynter Institute, March 2, 2018, https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2018/mar/02/jason-isaac/jason-isaac-makes-mostly-false-claim-abortion-lead/. The irony of this article is that though it seeks to debunk Jason Issac’s assertion that abortion is the leading cause of death for black Americans, it actually proves that he is right, for the article simply labels Issac’s claim as “mostly false” because the CDC happens not to consider abortion as a cause of death. The problem here, however, is not with Issac’s assertion but with the CDC’s not labeling abortion as a real cause of death. See “CDC’s Abortion Surveillance System FAQs: How Does CDC Define Abortion?” CDC, November 25, 2019, https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/data_stats/abortion.htm.
- My reasoning is as follows: 1) A table posted on the CDC website (likely created by another government agency) estimated that 98,291 black people died from the three mentioned causes in 2015 (see “Table 19: Leading Causes of Death and Numbers of Deaths, by Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin: United States, 1980 and 2015,” CDC, 2016, https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hus/2016/019.pdf). 2) The Guttmacher Institute estimated that in the U.S. in 2017 there were 862,320 abortions (Rachel K. Jones, Elizabeth Witwer, and Jenna Jerman, “Abortion Incidence and Service Availability in the United States, 2017,” Report, September 2019, https://www.guttmacher.org/report/abortion-incidence-service-availability-us-2017). 3) If 38 percent (see note 6) of these 862,320 abortions in 2017 were black babies, then 327,680 black babies were aborted in 2017, which is more than three times the amount of black people who died in 2015 from the aforementioned three leading causes of death for black people.
- Of course, ideally it would be great if there was no need to speak of a “black church” or a “white church,” but given our nation’s history these are nevertheless sociological realities.
- Of course, there are plenty of notable exceptions, such as the largely African American Church of God in Christ (COGIC) denomination, which in 2019 formally expressed their opposition to elective abortions in their “Resolution on the Sanctity of Life” (see Alexandra DeSanctis, ”The Pro-Life Movement You’ve Never Heard Of,” National Review, March 19, 2020, https://www.nationalreview.com/magazine/2020/04/06/the-pro-life-movement-youve-never-heard-of/).
- “Abortion Patients are Disproportionately Poor and Low Income,” Guttmacher Institute, May 9, 2016, https://www.guttmacher.org/infographic/2016/abortion-patients-are-disproportionately-poor-and-low-income.
- Given especially our historical and present challenges around the issue of race, there are significant obstacles that come with non-black families adopting black children, and this may be exacerbated if the adopting family is white. Black children may struggle if they are always the only black person in a predominately white cultural context. White families who adopt black children should give thoughtful consideration as to how it is they can provide both a loving home for a black child, as well as to give the child plenty of points of contact with people who look like them.