Happy New Year, Everyone! Urbana 2015 ended on January 1, 2016. Urbana is a triennial major Christian (mostly Evangelical) student missions conference in St. Louis, Missouri, sponsored by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (“InterVarsity”), primarily for college and graduate students. In recent years, tracks have been added for adults, such as “Business as Mission,” for those who wish to put their passion, education, and skills to work for furthering the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Since 1946, nearly 300,000 people have attended, many of whom have gone on to serve as Christian missionaries and clergy, serving refugees and orphans, feeding the hungry, translating the Holy Scriptures, planting churches, and starting businesses that have transformed lives and communities. I have had the privilege to attend in 2006, 2009, and 2012, where I have met fabulous people from all over the world, most of whom were young persons who were passionate in their love and devotion to Christ and His people. This year, I was unable to attend in person, but did watch many of the sessions, which were livestreamed. This year, of the more than 16,000 who attended, almost 700 chose to follow Christ for the first time, over 9,000 committed to pray for the global Church, and the prayer rooms were filled to overflowing throughout the conference.

michelle higgins 300x204 Dorothy, This Is Not Your Parents’ InterVarsity AnymoreBut there were some unusual developments this year as compared to past years. Given that Urbana took place in St. Louis, a few miles away from Ferguson, Missouri, we could expect that the events from Ferguson in August 2014 would get a nod from conference organizers. On the first night, Tom Lin, Vice President of Missions and Director of Urbana, spoke about the death of the unarmed teen, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. (He did not, however, mention that Mr. Brown tried to wrestle the service revolver from Officer Wilson, nor did he condemn the rioting and destruction that followed. He also failed to mention that even Eric Holder’s politicized Department of Justice determined that there was no basis to bring criminal charges against Officer Wilson.) Then, I saw that many of the worship band and singers wore “Black Lives Matter” shirts. And one of the speakers prominently featured at Urbana was the “Rev.” Michelle Higgins. “Rev.” Higgins is the director of Faith for Justice, an advocacy group in St. Louis (she also serves as worship director at South City Church). Ms. Higgins is active in the #BlackLivesMatter movement in the St. Louis area. In her remarks, Ms. Higgins did more than promote a message that racism is sinful. Rather, she placed support of #BlackLivesMatter squarely in the mission of God. She said:

Black Lives Matter is not a mission of hate. It is a not a mission to bring about incredible anti-Christian values and reforms to the world. Black Lives Matter is a movement on mission in the truth of God.

(I find few of the guiding principles of Black Lives Matter as compatible with the Christian faith, but you can decide for yourself here.) Ms. Higgins concluded by leading the students with the #BlackLivesMatter chant, “I believe that we will win!” Joe Ho, director of InterVarsity’s Asian American ministries, wrote in October that Christians should support #BlackLivesMatter despite Evangelicals’ resistance to support political causes, particularly those with liberal politics. InterVarsity tweeted a portion of Mr. Ho’s statement after Ms. Higgins’ talk:

I know that our tradition is suspicious of “liberal” political organizations. I also know that #blacklivesmatter is a political organization as well as a hashtag. I can’t name all their various constituents, activities, and positions. I’m sure I’d feel compatible with some and not others. But our theological tradition failed to support the civil rights movement for that very reason. I don’t believe our neutrality in those years honored God, and it continues to impede our ability to bring the gospel to large swaths of our nation. I don’t want that to happen again.

Yes, if you read the guiding principles of Black Lives Matter above, it was obvious that Mr. Ho chose not to do his homework on such an important topic. But there was much more. “Rev.” Higgins also described the pro-life movement as merely “a big spectacle.” In her remarks, she said:

We could end the adoption crisis tomorrow. But we’re too busy arguing to have abortion banned. We’re too busy arguing to defund Planned Parenthood. We are too busy withholding mercy from the living so that we might display a big spectacle of how much we want mercy to be shown to the unborn. Where is your mercy? What is your goal and only doing activism that is comfortable?

On these pages, I have often written about the origins of Planned Parenthood, which “Rev.” Higgins neglected to mention to her hearers. Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, was a vile racist eugenicist who started her abortion mill to regulate the births of minorities, or what Ms. Sanger called “benign imbeciles, who encourage the defective and diseased elements of humanity in their reckless and irresponsible swarming and spawning.” And today, Ms. Sanger’s racist motivations continue on as 79 percent of Planned Parenthood’s abortion mills are located within walking distance of African-American or Hispanic/Latino neighborhoods.” (I bet that “Rev.” Higgins and her followers have never exercised their activism at a Planned Parenthood abortion mill.) Government statistics estimate that more than 16 million black babies have been murdered in the womb since the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision of 1973, a number quite a bit larger than the number of unarmed black men killed by police.

In response to “Rev.” Higgins, Chelsen Vicari published an article in Life Site News, in which she wrote:

Planned Parenthood’s illegal harvesting and trafficking of baby parts is a social justice issue for the Church, if ever one existed. Pro-lifers seek to end this dehumanizing of the unborn and exploitation of expectant mothers. The sacredness of human life is something every follower of Christ is instructed to protect. Yes, Pro-lifers are busy working to ban abortion. We are busy working to defund Planned Parenthood. We will stay busy because we believe every life matters.

What InterVarsity did at this year’s Urbana was far more than a nod to current events or to stating the obvious that the Church needs to oppose racism. It was a full-throated, unapologetic call to support #BlackLivesMatter.

TRIGGER WARNING: The following statements may be uncomfortable for some readers: Ever since the events in Ferguson, Americans have been bombarded with assertions that black men face a unique and dangerous threat — not from members of their own community, but from law enforcement officers who are sworn to serve and protect them. There is a narrative that black Americans risk being gunned down by police simply because of their skin color. Using the now-discredited “hands up, don’t shoot” rallying cry, Black Lives Matter has sought to build a case that American police are completely out of control. Having lived for many years in Chicago, I certainly don’t believe that the police are perfect, and frankly, I try to avoid all contact with police. But, on the whole, despite a few rogue officers, the overwhelmingly majority of police tend to use force appropriately to protect their own lives and the lives of others. Moreover, racial disparities in the use of force by police are largely explained by racial disparities in criminality because, yes, different American demographic groups commit crimes at different rates. So it should stand to reason that those who commit more crimes will confront the police more often. As a simple man who seeks to follow Christ in his life, I will renounce all the works of Satan, who as the Lord Jesus taught us, only seeks to steal, kill, and destroy. This also includes Black Lives Matter and those who support this evil movement. After all, how is it Christ-like justice when you harm one person to purportedly “help” another? Having consulted on crisis management issues for corporations all over the world, churches, and for non-for-profit entities for many years, InterVarsity has a big problem, and now its leadership has to seriously reconsider how they honor the Lord Jesus Christ, or they seriously risk making their movement much less consequential for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I suspect one will see some senior heads roll and contributions drop significantly in the coming months.