Whose lives matter?

Right now we’re seeing and hearing a lot of “Black lives matter.” Absolutely!

There’s also a lot of pushback…”All lives matter.” Also, absolutely!

But right now, in our country, it’s clear that all lives don’t matter.

Those of us who are white have not yet been willing to come to grips with how institutional racism has impacted economic equality…housing possibilities…access to health care…relationships with police…and a myriad of other daily activities for people of color.

Saying “Black lives matter” doesn’t mean that others don’t. It simply means that we need to put a focus on the concerns and issues that black people face every day. When those issues are truly addressed, then we can move on to other issues…including other people whose lives are still seen as “less than”…

Many of you know that I am a follower of Jesus. Why am I saying that now? Because Jesus’ ministry made some very specific points. He often went out of his way to meet with and minister to the marginalized, the oppressed, those not generally accepted by the society he was part of.

  • When he met the Samaritan woman at the well, he told her that “Samaritan lives matter.”
  • When the disciples tried to tell parents not to bother Jesus with their children, he said, “Children’s lives matter.”
  • When a Roman officer asked Jesus for help for his servant, Jesus said, “Gentile lives matter.”
  • When he was confronted by a woman taken in adultery, Jesus said, “Women’s lives matter.”
  • When lepers asked him for healing, he said, “Lepers’ lives matter.”

Our world is complex and solutions are not going to be easy. But we have to face those challenges and not rely on easy platitudes.

It’s only when we recognize that the lives of specific groups of people who have been marginalized and oppressed matter that we can then legitimately and honestly say “All lives matter.”

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Good for what?

When I was growing up, if someone in our family said “I’m good”…or that something else was good, quite often the response was “Good for what?”

It was usually said in a humorous way–but with an edge of serious questioning about it as well.

I’ve been thinking about that recently, especially as we (as a country) have been struggling with protests.

There have been some harsh words said, and people have often responded with something to the effect of “Not me. I’m good.”

The question arises, though…good for what? Usually we hear it used in referring to someone as a “good for nothing.”

I think what my father was trying to get us to think about is that just being “good” isn’t enough. We needed to decide what we were taking a stand for…what we were “good for.”

Were we good for standing up to injustice? good for working to make change in our community? good for working to save the environment? good for finding ways to be peacemakers?

What are we good for?

Worth of all persons

My faith tradition does not have a formal creed. However, we do have what we refer to as Enduring Principles. Our website identifies them this way: “Our Enduring Principles define the essence, heart, and soul of our faith community. They describe the personality of our church as expressed throughout the world.”

These principles provide flexibility in how they are implemented in congregations in various countries throughout the world…but they are basic to who we are.

There are nine of them:

  • Grace and Generosity
  • Sacredness of Creation
  • Continuing Revelation
  • Worth of All Persons
  • All Are Called
  • Responsible Choices
  • Pursuit of Peace (Shalom)
  • Unity in Diversity
  • Blessings of Community

While I think all of them are important, one that has been standing out to me over the last few weeks is “Worth of All Persons.” ALL persons.

It doesn’t matter race…age…ethnicity…culture…sexual orientation…gender identity…political stance…vocation… ALL persons.

I have been deeply disappointed and shocked by comments I’ve seen from individuals as we have been struggling with the issues surrounding the relationships between police and their communities.

I’ve been deeply disappointed and shocked by some of the responses to this administration’s decision to rollback healthcare protections for transgender individuals.

ALL people are of worth. That means all. It doesn’t depend on whether we agree with someone or not.

You don’t have to be part of my faith tradition to believe in these principles. In many ways they are an expansion of what is often called the Golden Rule–a version of which is in every major religion.

We don’t have to agree on everything. We never will–and that’s okay. We need to hear a variety of voices and perspectives. But we cannot continue believing and acting as if a certain group of people is somehow “less than” everyone else.

We will never solve the issues that are tearing us apart until we are willing to truly believe that all people are of worth. ALL people.

All children of God…

I’ve been trying to figure out how to say what I am feeling. Yesterday I unfriended someone on Facebook. I was sorry to do that, but I did so because they posted a meme that was a slam at those who find God through Islam. I cannot and will not tolerate comments against another’s faith journey.

I am a follower of the Way–of the one known as Jesus. That is how I have found my path to the Divine.

But I am not arrogant enough to believe that this is the only path to the Divine. It is my path. But the Divine is bigger than I can comprehend…than any of us can comprehend. As the Apostle Paul (from my tradition) said:

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us.

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love. (I Corinthians 13:11-12 The Message)

All religions…all faith traditions…have adherents who allow that tradition to bring out the best in them. Likewise, all religions…all faith traditions…have adherents who use their beliefs to dominate, to attack those who are different.

But at the end of the day, we are all children of God. When we are willing to listen to each other with open minds and open hearts, we can learn more about who God is–and who we are.

The One I worship calls me to share what I have found to be true…but also to listen to what others have found to be true.

We cannot get tired…

There has been so much going on over the last couple of months…life changes coming at us in rapid succession.

We have also been overwhelmed with news reports…lots of news reports with conflicting information. Scientists and doctors say one thing; politicians say another.

And we have a president who–instead of trying to unite us to pull together to get through this pandemic–instead encourages division and eggs on those who want life to quickly go back to the way it was.

It’s exhausting! It wears us out…and we sometimes just want to dig a hole, jump in, and pull it in after us so we don’t have to deal with all this “stuff” any more.

But we can’t afford to do that.

We have to keep supporting science-based information. We have to keep listening to those who are dealing with this virus on the front lines–to what they are telling us to do in order to try to keep everyone safe.

We have to keep working to share what is true–not what someone wishes is true.

Living in an alternate fantasy universe where you can just snap your fingers and have things change is a nice dream, but it’s the stuff of science fiction, not reality. Reality is messy…difficult…and definitely doesn’t always go the way we hope it would.

This pandemic isn’t through with us yet–as much as we might like it to be.

We have to keep on keeping on. Take a rest when needed…and then get back up. We have to listen to those whose life experiences have taught them how to be resilient through continued trauma. We have to support each other in those things that are true and positive. We have to stand tall–and speak out against those things that put down others…that create a toxic environment.

We have to keep on keeping on.