You’ve seen the memes on facebook or watched the exchanges on television about the Black Lives Matter movement. You know its origin on Twitter and you know that a response sprang up just as quickly: #alllivesmatter. You know that somehow, a witness to the brutality of black bodies turned into yet another culture war moment with “sides” and “positions” and good people placing all of this into the boxes of “liberal” and “conservative”.
You’ve seen this play out and somewhere along the line, you’ve wondered when we’ll get passed it. When we don’t have to run around divided. But we can’t. We have to struggle with it. Because this, my friends, is the root of the gospel.Equality is not a meritocracy. Click To Tweet
Jesus begins the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) with the Beatitudes: “Blessed are…” It is his most famous invocation of love and togetherness–his manifesto of non-violence and standing up to injustice. It is the moment in which he calls the peacemakers blessed: the ones who stand in the void and confront the neverending war between the violent and shout “enough!”
It is also the time in which Jesus argues for a third way of looking at the world. That it isn’t all fight or flight. It isn’t all violence or rolling over and being abused. It isn’t all war and the absence of war. It is the presence of Shalom. It is the presence of justice. It is the presence of confronting those who would destroy the kindom come.
As much as it might pain us to confront, Jesus tells us to hold up a mirror to one another and to ourselves. To see the way we hurt our neighbors in our grievance and in our demand for security. But more importantly, how we do so at the expense of the already disempowered, those who are loved and given a special place by GOD.
In his famous speech after the March, Martin Luther King, Jr. speaks of a dream. In those famous words, “I have a dream!” and when we hear it, the hairs on our neck stand up in electrified agreement. A dream of radical equality and peace. A dream of hope and a new world.
A dream that is the Kindom of GOD.
Even as his words are quite literally “I have a dream,” it is not his dream exclusively. It is GOD’s dream. It is our dream as Christians. A dream rooted in the Jubilee of Hebrew Scriptures, so it is a dream shared, not only by all Christians, but by our cousins in the Abrahamic faiths. A dream of unity and Shalom.
In a recent meme, we see the very presentation of this notion: that King is speaking of his dream as he knows it. He speaks from a very personal place, but he is not speaking selfishly to the exclusion of all dreams or all persons. He is speaking of a shared dream. A dream we all share. A dream that is as much ours as it is one another’s. For it is a dream given to us by GOD.
Aside from the pejorative I clipped from the bottom, this is the most on target representation of why #alllivesmatter is not a rebuttal to division. It is division. It is reactionary and counter productive. It represents the very opposite language of unity. It is a direct attempt to divide us and silence those looking to address inequality.
The dream MLK describes, even though it is preached in the first person is not his alone, nor is it his view of the world, it is the gospel. He is preaching, not only for equality, but for the very equal quality of the kingdom.
He is describing what it is to look at all of creation as GOD does. Not in some pure, ideological equality (yes, indeed, all lives do matter) but in the specific, lived lives of those who receive very little evidence that their black lives matter at all. It is to make that equality known and experienced by all.
It is not that white lives don’t matter, or that police lives don’t matter, for these are a given. These are normative. These are the powerful. These are the way of the world as we know it. These are not servants of a realized kindom, but of our world as we have made it.
We seem to confuse the Kindom for a paradise and our unequal world as an orderly meritocracy. That the people who have wealth have shown themselves stronger. Or that to order the world so that the hungry are actually fed is denying one’s right to abundance–stealing from them what is rightfully theirs.
Equality is not a meritocracy.
Equality in GOD’s eyes is the embodiment of GOD’s kindom. With the oppressed given freedom and a special place reserved for them at the front of the line. A reordering which doesn’t favor the rich or the powerful or the wise or the gifted or the skilled or the tyrant or the one who has everything. Instead, it is for those of us who are given such power and authority because of our station and our heritage to thankfully wait our turn at the back of the line.
We are talking about a kindom come. We aren’t talking about a false meritocracy lived out as it already is.
Black Lives Matter is a calling for the Kindom. It only divides those who object to GOD’s vision of equality when equality isn’t one’s main interest. It only divides if division is what we want to see.