Do we really believe all lives matter?

I can’t say that I’ve invested a lot of time researching the imbalanced treatment of minorities by US law enforcement. In the few articles I’ve read it seems as though police killings are relatively balanced by race but other things like getting pulled over aren’t. I have a local friend whose parents came from Sri Lanka (south of India). He is just brown enough that in the dark he was accosted three times by local police in one night. It was immensely frustrating for my friend. It seemed very dehumanizing. I’ve never experienced anything like that.

I don’t think “black lives matter” precludes the notion that “all lives matter” or “blue lives matter.” Deep down we believe in conditional humanity. We value you if you meet certain conditions and if you don’t meet them you are lesser. The most obvious condition is incarceration. As soon as you are in jail in most places you are less than human and should be treated as such. The problem with this approach is that if you treat people like animals they are more likely to act like them when you let them out of their cage. They are much more likely to victimize someone else. I don’t know that we’ve fully grasped the reality that there is a direct connection between how we treat offenders and continuing crime. If we treat people in a way that makes them much more likely to reoffend do we not share responsibility for that crime?

At least with the dehumanizing of criminals we have an understandable reason for doing so. We want retribution. We need a deterrent. We have much less reason to dehumanize people because they are too young, too old, too poor, the wrong race, the wrong colour, the wrong religion, from the wrong town or live in the wrong part of town, or had the wrong parents. As soon we believe in conditional humanity we open ourselves to all sorts of prejudice.

I believe in something even more profound than all lives matter. I believe in grace. Grace is the English rendering of the greek word charis, which means unmerited favour. You’ll find it over 100 times in the New Testament. “The law came through Moses; but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17 NIV). The very definition of this word changed my faith forever. Not only do all lives matter, all lives are favoured by God. In fact, God deemed all lives so valuable that he would suffer to heal and restore all of them.

How does this translate in everyday life? We treat people with dignity, respect and compassion regardless of whether they can do anything for us. I think it also means we take difficult measures to ensure people are safe from those who would exploit or victimize them. In some cases people are victimized by criminal activity, and sometimes it is unfair treatment from people in power in society.

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