Black lives matter
Police lives matter
All lives matter
A person would have to have their head in the sand to not have heard these. Social media is full of one liners and thoughtful essays, expressing opinions, sharing painful stories, or expressing outrage relating to these statements.
I am particularly fascinated by those who are outraged by the idea anyone would dare to value one particular group over another. This critique is generally directed towards the Black Lives Matter movement. From what I can tell all the other “lives matter” statements are simply a reaction to Black Lives Matter.
If I am honest I have to admit that I have occasionally reacted. Doesn’t my life matter? I have been reflecting on this lately. Where is this coming from? At one level it is a simple gut reaction to anything that would appear to reduce my value, importance, or wisdom. Quite honestly this has been part of my DNA for as long as I can remember.
I was born into a world where men were men and women fell into two categories. The first were mothers whose primary responsibility was to look after the home front. The second were single women who, if they had to work only worked temporarily, were waiting for God’s chosen man to come and rescue them. Then they could fulfill their home front duties!
I must admit that my perspective on women changed slowly. Partly because admitting that women were my equal meant more competition in the work place and more importantly it disrupted my understanding of what it was to be a man. I liked the idea of being the stronger sex, the more intelligent partner, and the leader.
Part of my journey toward gender equality meant admitting that female lives mattered. They mattered in all the ways that my life mattered – in terms of calling, leadership ability, work life, parenting, education, ministry, and anything else I may have forgotten. This journey towards equality required changes in my behavior towards, beliefs about, and understanding of gender roles. Equality also meant mutuality and respect in all areas of life, from the domestic to the professional.
When we admit that a life matters, particularly a life that is different, whether that be race, culture, religion, gender, or orientation, we are saying the other is created in the very image and likeness of God. We are saying they have worth and value. We are saying that they are called to lead, even “us.” We are saying that they have all the rights, responsibilities, and value that I have.
The problem with moving from something particular, like Black lives, to something general (like all lives) or powerful (like police lives) is that we marginalize the truth. The world I grew up in restricted women to the home by denying and minimizing their created value. We have denied and minimized the value of Black lives. This is sin. As such it must be confronted, particularly by people of faith. It must be confronted at the individual level. More importantly it must be confronted at a structural level.
As we journey towards this new world of respect and mutuality the narrative will begin to change. The negative stereotype of color will begin to fade. Black lives will matter in ways that are real and measurable. When a young man gets stopped for speeding, he will know it was because he was speeding, not because of the color of his skin. We are not there yet, but with intentionality, honest reflection, and confession it is possible for us to get there.