Do All Lives Matter?
The past three years have been the most challenging in our country as I experience the constant division between my community and the local police department. Historically, the relationship between law enforcement and the African American community has always been contentious. This though seems to have gotten a lot more intense in these past few years. The death of Michael Brown, the young unarmed African American male who was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri left the community I’m in filled with anger.
Soon after another young unarmed African American male was killed by a police officer in Baltimore Maryland which was followed the next month by another unarmed African American male in Los Angeles being killed by local law enforcement. It was at this moment that I began to notice the white conservative Evangelical church at large was completely silent on this particular issue. It appeared the church was indifferent when it came to the African American community and the way that law enforcement had been treating them. There were even some in the church that began to question whether or not the officers in these incidents were justified with using extreme force.
A few weeks later, riots and protests along with large demonstrations began to breakout all over the country in major metropolitan cities. There was a big growing movement of young African Americans across the country that began marching in the streets yelling out “Black Lives Matter!” No soon after we began to hear white Americans use the term “All Lives Matter.” This was to suggest that we shouldn’t just be worried about the black lives because black lives don’t matter anymore than any other ethnicity’s lives would. This made me ask the question to my brothers and sisters in the conservative white Evangelical church, do black lives really matter to you if they matter to God? This question was posed to those who would remain silent on this issue of race and injustice in our country when it came to law enforcement and the black community. If all lives matter, why do we have to get the world to pay attention to the black ones by singling them out with this slogan?
If we are created in the image of God as the Genesis account would suggest, then why isn’t the white evangelical church speaking up on my behalf? If as a human being, Jesus is the perfect image of God and we are in created in God’s image, why then would an unarmed African American male’s life not matter? If the image to which Genesis refers is Christ, it might seem appropriate to give a prospective meaning to the fact that the Genesis verses do not simply say humans are the image but created “in,” “after,” or “according to” it. Tanner would suggest that all human beings are created after God’s image. If this is so, that that would imply that even the black lives that are seemingly meaningless would have worth. Being a strong image of God would be the destiny that awaits us in Christ, rather than our original state.
The lives that I speak about are lives that should matter in our world but more especially in the church. The image that is portrayed of young African American males are not the divine image but an image of something less than human. Historically, images of African American males have been shown as aggressive or animal-like (monkeys). In the mind of many I would argue is the image of an overly aggressive individual that is not human but more like a monster. This image allows excessive force to be used against him without ever seeing his humanity or God bearing image. As rational or intelligent creatures both humans and angels are made to cling or cleave to God.
It’s not a new question that I pose here. In fact, the same argument for the black male’s humanity has always been the center of discussion in our country. It’s the same argument from more than 4 decades ago when the African American community being led by the late Dr. Martin L. King Jr. marched in the streets of Memphis Tennessee during the sanitation strike holding signs saying “I am a man.” Our lives are conformed to the image of Christ through the same power that conforms the humanity of Christ to the Word. Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. In Genesis when it says that we were created after God’s image, it is referring to the second person of the trinity which is Christ. Christ became human. His humanity was made and fashioned with the same material that the black man is. When I look at another person I am seeing the image of God. It’s why Paul could say, “But we all, with uncovered face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Detrick Bonhoeffer even asks the question who am I? It was a question he needed to ask as he dealt with the imprisonment by Nazi’s during WWII. He perceived himself as weak, restless, wrought and beset with doubt. As he pondered this question he take solace in knowing that whoever he is he belongs to God. Jesus represents all of humanity. Even in his own righteousness has to prove it through an authentic human life. His work serves as a redemptive counterpoint to humanity’s disobedience but also reveals man’s true humanity and what it is to be created in God’s likeness. In closing I have come to understand that my freedom in Christ gives me liberation in my dealing with the hard realities of what I experience as a black male in this society. Liberation is the expression of the image of God. This not only tells me who God is but it tells me who I am and who my people are.
 Tanner, Kathryn. Christ the Key. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 19-24.
 Honey, Michael K. Going down Jericho Road: The Memphis Strike, Martin Luther King's Last Campaign. (New York: W.W. Norton, 2008), 389.
 Plantinga, Richard J., Thomas R. Thompson, and Matthew D. Lundberg. An Introduction to Christian Theology. (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 4368.
 Cone, James H. God of the Oppressed. (New York: Seabury Press, 1975), 134-135.
1. Tanner, Kathryn. Christ the Key. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 19-24.
2. Plantinga, Richard J., Thomas R. Thompson, and Matthew D. Lundberg. An Introduction to Christian Theology. (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 4368.
3. Honey, Michael K. Going down Jericho Road: The Memphis Strike, Martin Luther King's Last Campaign. (New York: W.W. Norton, 2008), 389.
4. Cone, James H. God of the Oppressed. (New York: Seabury Press, 1975), 134-135.