Why #AllLivesMatter isn’t enough for the Church

Photo Credit: Delta57 via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Delta57 via Compfight cc

Not too long after Michael Brown was shot in Ferguson the #BlackLivesMatter movement started. Since then there’s been a lot of push back from different sides. One of those sides is from people who say we should be saying #AllLivesMatter and not just #BlackLivesMatter. To a certain extent I agree that we should say that all lives matter. It’s Biblical. Christian theology argues that all people are made in the image of God. It doesn’t matter what color your skin is, what language you speak, or what country you were born in, you were made in the image of God. We are all equally made in the image of God and we all matter in God’s eyes. I believe, however, that because of what has happened since Genesis 1 & 2, it’s important to emphasize which lives matter.

Whether we want to recognize it or not, we (meaning Americans) live in a country that has a deeply embedded racist history. The most visible of part of our history is slavery, but there have also been points when our country has been blatantly racist toward Chinese, Japanese, Germans, Mexicans, and others of Hispanic descent. I’m sure that list is hardly exhaustive either. Racism is not just an American problem either. I’m sure you could go to any country and pinpoint a time in history and a people that they have been against simply because of their skin, language, or heritage.

On top of our history, we continue to live in a country where there is racial prejudice. It may not be as obvious as the days of segregation and Jim Crow, but it’s still there. I know that I am hardly one to speak out about it. I grew up on privileged side of prejudice, which I have written about on a friend’s blog. But I have worked for 2 years now on a multi-ethnic staff at multi-ethnic church and through this experience it has become clear to me that there is still prejudice in our world.

So why do we need to cry out that specific lives matter and not just that all lives matter? Because I believe that this is just as Biblical as saying that all lives matter. If we look at the life of Paul I believe that we can see a pretty clear example of how we can cry out specifically for one group of people while still saying all lives matter. Paul writes in many of his letters that there is no difference between us and that we are all one in Christ. He writes that there is no difference between Jew or Gentile, Slave or free. [1] It would seem that Paul would argue that All Lives Matter, but Paul also makes a pretty surprising move in Acts 15 to stand up for the Gentile believers. As a former Pharisees, it’s surprising to see Paul argue against the Law and for the Gentiles. Paul also stands up for his Gentile brothers against Peter who was refusing to eat with Gentiles. [2] If this were happening today, I believe that Paul would be arguing that Gentile Lives Matter. The early church had a problem recognizing that you didn’t have to be Jewish or follow the Law of Moses to be a follower of Christ. That does lead Paul to say that there is no difference between Jew or Gentile in Christ, but he also had to say to the Jewish believers that Gentiles mattered to God.

The history of our country, and sadly at times the history of the American Church, is similar. There have been times when we say everyone is equal (it’s even in our Declaration of Independence), but we choose not to act like it. Instead of looking like the church were there is no hierarchy of races, we look like the Pigs of Animal Farm saying, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” Within the walls of the church we are all equal and we all matter equally to God, but outside the walls of the church it’s our place to cry out for those who are not being treated that way. Right now in our country it means that we need to join in with our black brothers and sisters to cry out that Black Lives Matter. We need to join in with our Hispanic brothers and sisters and cry out that Immigrant Lives Matter. We need give a voice to the unborn and cry out that unborn lives matter. Yes all lives matter, but until our world lives like all lives matter, we need to join in crying out with those who are being overlooked.

[1] Rom 10:12, 1 Cor 7:19, 1 Cor 12:13, Gal 3:28, Eph 1:23, and Col 3:11.
[2] Gal 2:11-16

2 thoughts on “Why #AllLivesMatter isn’t enough for the Church

  1. Tara Samples 09/21/2015 / 2:02 pm

    Peter, Yes! Yes! Until we learn to proclaim #BlackLivesMatter #BrownlivesMatter we can’t say #AlllivesMatter

  2. Jana Jenkins 10/06/2015 / 3:14 pm

    Great article! Thanks for sharing your thoughts! We as the church need to be out there and present in the struggles with others!

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