This past week has been pretty much terrible. Almost every day, there was a new tragedy to lament over. Equally as tragic was some of the rhetoric (even among Christians) surrounding the events in Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights, and Dallas.
It seems like the same partisan spirit that keeps the rest of the country divided about racial and political issues is strong within the church!
I wonder what God must think looking at the earth and seeing these types of divisions even among his “Remnant” people. Proverbs 17:15 clearly calls out for justice to be administered impartially:
“He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous,
Both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord.”
The problem lies when finite human beings (who cannot see the heart) start to make judgement calls as if they know what true justice is. We’ve been blinded into seeing this issue as a simple two-sided matter: #BlackLivesMatter vs. #BlueLivesMatter
I feel like I could write about this topic for days, but I’ve struggled to keep my thoughts focused on a few key areas. If you miss everything else, know this:
God cares more about the way you’re treating your fellow man than your race, ethnicity, political allegiance, or nationality.
Keep this in mind as I share some rather straightforward talk about a few issues…
Black Lives Matter
What many people misunderstand about this group is that the saying “Black Lives Matter” is not said at the exclusion of everyone else. It is merely trying to draw attention to a reality that is often not seen in the treatment of Blacks in this country.
Specifically speaking, this group is trying to bring attention to a reality of injustice that many Black and other minorities face in the United States because of profiling on a daily basis. Let’s take only one issue that made headlines a few year ago: New York City’s “Stop and Frisk” policy.
In 2011, the New York Civil Liberties Union found a few shocking facts that showed a racial bias among officers in the NYPD and led them to reexamine their practices of this controversial policy. Among the most egregious were the following:
- There was a hugely disproportional number of Blacks and Latinos being stopped and frisked by the NYPD
- More young Black men were stopped by the NYPD in 2011 than there are young Black men in New York City
Racial bias is real. It can be empirically proven. You can take a test from Harvard University which proves my claim by clicking here (start by clicking through the disclaimer page and select the race test).
What the #BlackLivesMatter movement is trying to point out is that this racial bias makes it very hard for people of color to receive just and equal treatment when dealing with (and trusting) law enforcement. This is a burden that the Black community faces on a daily basis.
As Christians, the Bible commands us to:
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” Galatians 6:2.
When a Christian looks at their Black brothers and sisters carrying this burden on their shoulders and they minimize it or circumvent the issue by explaining it away as “Blacks not following the rules,” “the liberal media or President Obama trying to start a race war,” or searching for fault within the community though statements like, “Blacks have to take responsibility for their own problems; White people have nothing apologize about,” you are not helping to alleviate their burdens. You are justifying your position and adding to that weight on their shoulders.
Blue Lives Matter
I have friends and family members who serve in law enforcement. I know that many in the law enforcement community feel like they are stuck between a rock and a hard place because of the ongoing narrative that places implicit mistrust of the police. On one hand, many are trying to do a good job and serve their communities. On the other hand, they are scared that any action on their part might be perceived in an unfavorable light.
Not to mention that, while many professions carry certain risks to them, the men and women who serve in the line of duty literally walk out the door every day knowing that they may never return.
In my city of Greenville, SC, we had a heartbreaking incident earlier this year on March 18. Officer Allen Jacobs was in pursuit of a robbery suspect near a park where I live. The suspect opened fire on the police and Officer Jacobs was shot in the head. He was killed instantly.
He left behind a widow who was expecting their third child, due this month of July. The outpouring from the Upstate community was massive. People of all backgrounds came together to raise money for and support this grieving family. I myself went to the Greenville police station to pay my respects.
His widow took her maternity photos and, as you can see, had the full support of the the police department.
Sometimes good men and women are killed in the line of duty. This is a reality that law enforcement and their families live with and bear every day. When our brothers and sisters in uniform carry this burden on them and we minimize it or circumvent the issue by explaining it away as “part of what they get for signing up for a dangerous job” or negatively generalize the law enforcement community through statements like, “Police are gunning us down in the streets. These people are supposed to have our backs, and instead, they’re shoot us in the back,” we are not helping to alleviate their burdens. We are justifying our position and adding to that weight on their shoulders.
All Lives Matter
All of us tend to have a very short memory of history. We tend to think, “Racism is something that happened in the days of the Civil War. Didn’t Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement put an end to the problems Black people faced in America? Isn’t the election of President Barack Obama proof that we live in a post-racial society?”
Some of our great-great-grandparents fought and died either to free or to own other people as property. Some of our great-grandparents campaigned to deny Black people the right to vote. Some of our grandparents were alive when Blacks and Whites used different water fountains. Some of our parents couldn’t even freely date people outside of their own race.
Black women (and all women for that matter) weren’t even allowed to vote 100 years ago! We’re not talking about ancient history. Martin Luther King, Jr. would have been 87 this year! This is recent history. The biases and prejudices that enabled injustices of the past still exist with the human heart today! Time does not change it or diminish it, it only makes us forget that it was ever there to begin with.
However, if we are going to say “All Lives Matter”, let’s remember the Muslims whom we mistrust, let’s remember the refugees that we reject, let’s remember the illegals that we resent, let’s remember the poor that we ignore, let’s remember the sweatshop workers that make our phones, let’s remember those who are forgotten by our society. Let’s not make #alllivesmatter a counter saying for #blacklivesmatter when, in reality, we don’t live as though all lives matter. Don’t make this a veiled slogan for conservative political posturing.
No Lives Matter
There’s one part that really sticks with me a lot when I read and hear the rhetoric about Black life, blue life, or really all life. Why do these lives matter? This isn’t a nihilistic question; I really have to wonder:
Why do Black lives matter?
Why do Blue lives matter?
Why do all lives matter?
What makes any human worth preserving for any reason? Here’s where I’ve found a glaring hole in our national narrative of the rightness or wrongness of an act:
Our society wants to hold absolute moral values while, at the same time, holding a relative stance on where moral values originate.
Today, where is the starting point for justifying intrinsic human value in a larger secular society that rejects absolutes? Is the starting point whatever the majority decides? Is the starting point whatever is most useful? Is the starting point what makes you happy? Like airplanes that take off from the same place but with different bearings, after 3000 miles, these views find themselves miles apart.
A society that rejects moral absolutes will have a hard time universally justifying the intrinsic worth of any living creature, let alone a human beings.
I mentioned Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. earlier. You can’t take people’s historical context away from them. Dr. King did not fight for equal rights because he was a nice guy with a good idea of people of all colors living together. He was a minister who saw the intrinsic value of each human life rooted in the Judeo-Christian belief that human beings are made in the image of God; men and women were created to have internal and external attributes that, in some way, connect all of us to each other and the Divine. We were meant to be in loving community with those around us and be stewards of the environment which God created.
This doesn’t mean that there aren’t ways that we can come together as a society. We must first believe that change is possible only by embracing one another and having open and honest discussions with each other about the issues that plague us all. We must be willing to give each other the benefit of the doubt in matters of uncertainty, but still remember that we live in a world where injustice is prevalent.
We must bear one another’s burdens.
When we see injustice happening, we must acknowledged it, not minimize it or rationalize it, and take steps to correct wrongdoing from rearing its head again. This change needs to begin in the church. However, based on our current rhetoric, I tend to agree with what my friend, Jason O’Rourke shared with me in regards to the events this week:
In the past year, after being angry, frustrated, hurt, and sad about what is happening in the nation as it relates to race and biblical equality, and after reflecting on the entire biblical narrative again, I have to be up front: I do not believe that intercultural multiculturalism, as this nation presents it, is God’s plan. I do not believe it is God’s plan for mutuality within political entities, because it is not possible. There is no evidence in the Bible that suggests such a union can exist anywhere—except in the New Testament church.
The NT church is the only entity on this planet where mutual appreciation of the ethnic, racial, social, economic, and cultural differentiation of the saved is not only possible but expected. Politics will never get us there. It cannot; the church is the only place where such unity is possible. The division that exists within and among us as God’s people is evidence that we are actively failing in this regard. The Seventh-day Adventist Church has either not really accepted or not internalized the three angels’ messages, and because of that, we find ourselves more divided and Babylonian than Babylon itself.
How will you respond? The ball is in our court. Share your thoughts.