Because of the social unrest in many urban areas in the United States and the tragic killings of young and middle-aged black men by white police officers, a placard has emerged that states a moral truth, namely, “Black lives matter!” Indeed, they absolutely, unequivocally and categorically do! But with the killing of white police officers, I think that placards should also say, “All lives matter!”
The murder of a black person is absolutely unjust and the person or persons who commit the act should be brought to justice. However, it is equally true that the murder of a person of any color is unjust. The reason, theologically speaking, is that all human beings are equally human, having the same human nature. Therefore, no person can be more human than another human being (cf. Genesis 1:26-27).
Color, then, is secondary to being a human, a person. Let me state the same truth from two different perspectives. The first is negative and the second, positive. Negatively, a person’s humanity cannot be reduced to a color, because a human is, first or foremost, a person, not a color. Positively, a human being is much more than a color. That is to say, there is more to being a person than the color of his or her skin.
Therefore, if I only see a human’s being’s color, then I am not viewing him or her as a person, but a classification, category, and, thus, an object or thing. As I pointed out in other articles, a person has non-reducible value and his or her life cannot be “boiled down” to a single material thing or factor. A person is, then, infinitely more than all categories or classifications.
For Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the most prominent Baptist Ministers and Civil Rights leaders in American history, “Every man is somebody because he is a child of God.”1 Dr. King, by the phrase “child of God,” means human beings are “made in His image, and therefore must be respected as such.”2 Because all human beings are made in the “image of God,” King could say,
“God is not interested merely in freeing [from racial inequality] black men and brown men and yellow men, but God is interested in freeing the whole human race. We must work with determination to create a society … in which all men will live together as brothers and respect the dignity and worth of human personality.”3
My main point, then, is that all human lives matter, regardless of their color, gender, age, race, nationality and religion.
1. Martin Luther King, Jr., “A Christmas Sermon on Peace,” in The Trumpet of Conscience (Boston, MA.: Beacon Press, 1967), p. 74. Note: For King, the word “man” was an inclusive noun, referring to both men and women. Hence, during the time in which King lived, preached and wrote, “man” was not meant to exclude women. Today’s equivalent to “man” would be “humankind.”
3. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Give us the Ballot,” Delivered at the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom, Washington, D.C., 17 May 1957, in A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., eds. Clayborne Carson and Kris Shepard (New York, N.Y.: Warner Books, Inc., 2001), p. 53.