On Wednesday, October 26th, Mercy Hill held its “Living Room Conversations: A Gospel-centered Conversation on Race” between a panel of pastors, staff, and church members of varied backgrounds. This post is a part of our Continuing the Conversation blog series that seeks to keep Mercy Hill thinking and talking about issues of race.
Recently our nation’s ears have been filled with the cries of its people, cries pleading for a place among its land, cries simply stating that their very existence matters. This sentiment has dominated media by the Black Lives Matter Movement that brought us #BlackLivesMatter.
Shortly after this phrase was coined, a new awareness for preserving the African American community was given birth, and many, independently from the movement, began to rekindle the embers that were all too warm from a fire storm movement of civil rights. As society scurried to find a way to sweep the ashes under the rug, the phrase All Lives Matter rose from the dust. This harmonious ground breaking idea began to flood our screens and our streets, attempting to sweetly appease us, yet somehow leaving a very bitter taste that was sickening to the stomach.
It quickly appeared that the phrase All Lives Matter was the solution—the “mature” approach that afforded us all the opportunity to be mature adults on this earth. But in our fallen world this billboard-ready headline appeared to have a nasty fine print, one that seemed to say, “Be quiet already.” But if you dug any deeper, you’d most likely have found an explanation that read: “Black lives matter, blue lives matter, and all lives matter, so suck it up and move on.”
All Lives Matter Is the Ideal
The truth is, All Lives Matter should be the prevailing chant. That is the ideal; yet, our society has created multiple chants because they feel in some way that the ideal has not been realized. My own stance comes not because the efforts of many bringing awareness to lives who have been historically seen as lesser should be diminished, but because of the effort of one who made himself lesser on behalf of many should be magnified.
The gospel is what really matters and the only real solution to the struggle for self-worth. We can attempt to understand our differences and how to relate to each other all day, but it is in understanding our likeness that we can truly come together. Now, this commonality is not one of greatness, but one of brokenness, one that takes us back to how we were so low that we had no peak from which to look down upon anyone else.
So, we start at the gospel, the good news, the story that reminds us that we are so messed up that someone had to actually die to fix us. Yet, we think so highly of ourselves. Racism and prejudices are sin which drive a person to take a position of privilege and count themselves as having earned that position. But the gospel is conceived from a place of love, which shows us we deserved death, but someone of privilege sacrificed so the lesser could have life.
As an African American police officer, the Lord has given me a unique perspective that many will never get to see. I grew up trying my hardest to avoid the stereotypes given to me just because of the color of my skin. There have been times when I felt that the badge that I wear elevated my personhood, not higher than anyone else’s, but maybe finally on the same level. But more recently, I’ve found myself faced with being judged because of the color projected, not from my skin, but from the fabric that covers it. But there is hope.
I have hope, not because I’m the better person, but because I am loved by Christ. Because of Christ’s love I have been given a new identity in Him. So, by his grace, the color of my skin is a reflection of his creativity and not my character, and my job is not who I am, but simply what I do. Why does this matter? Because in the life of a Christian we are not bound and separated by the categories of this world, but we are one in Christ. So, if we as individuals are unified in Christ whose death gave us meaning in life, do we as individuals not have purpose in life, a purpose that matters?
What do we do with these resounding chants? I believe that in order to say All Lives Matter, we must not use the phrase as an excuse to discredit any of the other lives or their struggle. And whether we agree with the Black Lives Matter movement as an organization or not, we must agree with the message that Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter not because they are a rare endangered species, or because you must own up or take responsibility for events that you may not even have been alive for, but simply for the same reason that your life matters.
Jesus Christ took on hate and death so that each life could matter.
-Tony Watson (Mercy Hill Member)