A church in Chicago is now paying the price for other peoples’ collective vitriol and threats.
Beverly Unitarian Church, located in the Beverly neighborhood on the city’s South Side, changed the electronic sign in front of the church to say "Black Lives Matter" earlier this month as part of what they described in a Facebook post as "a series of different statements meant to engage the world and invite thoughtful, considered and compassionate conversation."
Ultimately, despite the Church’s defense of the action, they faced criticism and threats on social media from people who thought they were endorsing a vengeful or harmful ideology. Jet compiled a number of the criticisms, which can be read below:
Reimundus Bartlet: “Black lives matter is a terrorist movement, what church supports not only terrorists, but the criminals who they use as an excuse to riot and attack cops. You guys are supposed to be a church?”
Crystal King Baker: “Ignorance must be bliss. What you want the BLM movement to be standing for and what it actually is, are two totally different things. All lives matter!”
Katie Spivey: “#AllLivesMatter Nice that a church plays into the race card crap perpetuated by society and the media! Thank you for doing your part to support what is quickly becoming a terrorist movement and further segregating the American people!
Some of this criticism, which included threats against the church that they reported to police, seemed to stick to the church, as they later released the following statement on Facebook:
Jet also reported yesterday that the Church made a statement, which now appears to be deleted from social meda, that backtracks on the original message and acknowledges the criticisms:
“Since this posting we have been made aware that there is a movement associated with these words that has been accused of being anti-white, anti-police, and a terrorist group. We are being educated and are looking at this other side of this. It seems that many in our neighborhood believe these accusations, and have been offended and personally hurt by our posted words: message have been left; people have approached us on the street; Facebook is brimming with many contradicting thoughts and feelings. A message left on our answering machine, asking us to think about how these words make a police officer feel, gave us the most pause.
We had no intention of aligning ourselves to a specific organization that is maligning people who offer us security—AND we still believe the premise of this statement.”
In the aftermath of the attacks, the church has removed "Black Lives Matter" from the sign. While Beverly Unitarian Church doesn’t have a predominantly black congregation (in fact, several Facebook photos indicate that it has a prominently white membership), this chilling effect on the church’s original attention suggests what we already know: Intense criticism towards Black Lives Matter is shutting down the potential for valuable conversations, even in supposedly tolerant religious spaces.