All Lives Matter

All lives matter.

Or don’t they?

You get the impression in Coronatide America that maybe the answer to this unremarkable -- so we might have thought -- question is, bleakly: No. All lives don’t matter. 

Various folk who have affirmed the essentiality of “all” lives have been rebuked by those who control the microphones in today’s America. No, no, no! “All lives” don’t matter. Black lives matter. The counter assertion is seen as, I dunno, an insult, or an attempted dodge, from the factual identity-centered assertion that Black lives matter.” Various folk have lost their jobs for the offense of employing the counterassertion. Others have just been maligned or traduced.

We all know we are passing through a crazy moment -- I mean, nutty, unhinged, deranged -- in national and cultural affairs due less to the pandemic than to the antecedent social conditions in which we formed the crazy views we now feel licensed to express in public.

You could seat a “Black Lives Matter” apostle down on the sofa and grill him so patiently and searchingly that he would acknowledge the mattering-ness of non-black lives. He would resist for a long time on the assumption, basic in his eyes, that what’s more important than truth is the politics of the moment.

The politics of the moment demands, commands, insists on the moral victory of the movement demanding, commanding, societal recognition of black lives as important.

Well, yes: which partly explains the burgeoning of only black-lives-matter talk. This is how you do politics. You beat down, you shame, you overpower your adversaries, real or imagined, and never mind the comparative justice of their pleadings, such as “All lives matter.” 

Is that what we’re supposed to be doing as a society? What about Christians? Is that their obligation -- to distort and deny in the name of secular victory? You might suppose so from the way various Christians talk. They don’t want to hear that all lives matter. That crowds out the specific concern that Black (which we have latterly decided to capitalize) lives matter. Mustn’t distract from that cause. Mustn’t mess up this promising political moment with theology. Theology? Good grief. The study of God. What’s that got to do with anything?

Only everything. Here’s the deal. I expect many readers grew up as I did singing the Sunday School ditty: “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white -- excuse me, Black  --  they are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

You could consider this soggy Sunday School-ism, or you could consider its highly simplified meaning: To wit, God created the heavens and the earth. And earth’s  occupants: You, me, Cousin Bob; George Floyd; Nancy Pelosi;  Donald Trump; Congressman John Lewis; Sen. Tom Cotton;  Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez; Joe Biden; Al Sharpton;  Rush Limbaugh. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, as the King of Siam magisterially put it in that great musical.

Now. Do the lives of such like “matter”? Or don’t they? And of course I mean matter in much more than the political, hence inferior, sense. I mean matter in the theological sense -- the sense of all these --red and yellow, black and white -- as the creations of a just and loving God.

“Black lives matter” is theologically correct, so long as the theology doesn’t stop right there. All lives matter is the theological mantra deserving of respect and obedience: protecting not just the life of  George Floyd from Derek Chauvin but the life of Chauvin from anyone who might decide, arbitrarily, that he had thrown away any claim to be acknowledged as human -- a creation of Almighty God.

These theologically shriveled times don’t get that picture any more than they get a lot of other pictures showing the justice and mercy of God, who so loved the world that he gave His only-begotten Son to the end that all that believe in him should not perish but have everlasting life.

One doesn’t see society putting two and two together here, recognizing that all lives, by definition, matter! Such being the case, you wonder, at least I do, why the church doesn’t seize this moment for apostolic and evangelical witness, saying more or less: Here’s what it’s all about! Here’s why we right now have, as the great Methodist theologian Billy Abraham likes to put it, our underthings in a twist. It’s because we’re refracting all our views, our strategies, our hopes, our aspirations through the political moment. 

What the present moment -- like all moments requires -- isn’t bad politics.  It’s good theology, and as much of it as we can get.

All lives matter. You can go to the bank on it. Or to church.

William Murchison is an author and journalist. He lives in Dallas, Texas.

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