June 8, 2020 § Leave a comment
The truth is, #BlackLivesMatter. The truth is also that #AllLivesMatter. In fact, black lives matter because all lives matter. But often these two short but trenchant declarations represent clashing ideals because something gets lost in translation. If we’re just using 3-word slogans, we’re not going to learn or communicate the whole truth.
Most of the time, truth is helpful, but sometimes truths that speak to an issue are not helpful in a particular time and place and form. We know this from funeral eulogies, especially if we find ourselves standing over the casket of a person who has spent most of his life making other lives miserable. There is a lot of truth we can proclaim about that person that would not be particularly helpful, and in fact would be downright insensitive if it were announced at a funeral. We opt for what’s comforting and helpful for the grieving.
Using #AllLivesMatter in a tweet or on a poster has a similar effect, especially during heightened racial tensions. It’s ill-timed and preaching to the choir.
Most people intuitively understand, and Biblically-minded Christians can account for the fact, that all lives matter. All people equally bear God’s image (Genesis 1:27). “Every human life is a reflection of divinity, and … every act of injustice mars and defaces the image of God in man.” (Dr. Martin Luther King). God created us, loves us, and sent His Son to die and free us from sin, a bondage we also equally share—so we all matter (Galatians 3:26-28).
But for people who face a unique problem of often being treated as if they don’t matter due to a higher percentage of melanin in their skin, #AllLivesMatter comes across as tone-deaf and dismissive of their pain. As this Instagrammed analogy tried to show, in a neighborhood of identical houses, the house that matters is the one that’s burning. If everyone believed that all lives matter, we would have never had to get to #BlackLivesMatter. But not everyone believes that all lives matter, so here we are.
Using #BlackLivesMatter in a tweet or on a poster can be problematic too, and in the very least begs careful discernment by Christians supporting our African American neighbors. Christians should acknowledge that racism is an ever-present evil, that racial injustice is everyone’s problem, and affirm that black lives do matter. However, certain objectives as they’re spelled out in the Black Lives Matter Global Network’s mission can’t be—and I’m guessing were never intended to be— squared with Scripture.
Goals detailed on the BLM’s official web site include the promotion of marxist sociology, the dismantling of “cisgender” and “heteronormative” thinking, the disruption of traditional family structures, and an allegiance to the abortion industry. These immoral, self-destructive and extraneous aims make it difficult for the Biblically-minded to tag #BlackLivesMatter onto pro-equality or anti-racist messaging or really get behind the movement at all. [BLM has subsequently removed their mission statement from their web site, but it is archived at this link.]
This highlights the importance of dialog. Not tweets or posters or chants or memes, but actual conversation where both sides are listening and speaking and asking and answering the critical question, “What do you mean by that?” The truth is, black lives matter and all lives matter, but because all words matter, neither is very helpful without taking time to learn context and experiences and to actually talk with each other.
If you’re a Christian who is white, sit down with a black brother or sister and let them go first. Listen, then speak, and be energized by clarity as you both realize there is a lot more behind your hashtags. You will almost certainly discover their deep pain, and your humble willingness to listen will make more of a difference that you know. Help affirm their identity and worth in God and move together toward the salve and solution to racism that is the Gospel. That’s something pretty hard to reach by throwing slogans at each other.
[Related post: Why Racism Shouldn’t Exist]