I have a two year old child that lives in our house (I don’t know how he got there). Part of having a toddler means that not only do I have a deeply profound appreciation for Daniel Tiger,1 but I’ve had the chance to observe the antics of small children. In so doing, I quickly noticed a number of things that were very familiar from my own childhood.
One of these oddities is how children will often use something that is genuinely good to drown out other things. For example, imagine this scenario:
Little Timmy leads little Kimmy into their mother’s flower garden, where they both know they’re not supposed to go. Kimmy isn’t sure, but it’s Timmy’s idea and he convinces his sister to join him. While in the garden, Kimmy falls, hurts herself, and begins to cry. “Crap!” thinks Timmy. “We’re gonna get in so much trouble for this. How do I get my sister to shut up?” And that’s when Timmy starts pointing out all of the wonderful things around them. “Look at these flowers, Kimmy. They’re your favorite color.”
Then, when mom shows up to find out why one of her kids is crying in the forbidden flower garden, Timmy pipes up, “Wow, mommy! You’re really good at growing beautiful flowers! They’re so pretty, just like you.” But, in all likelihood, what will follow is some sort of discipline, the very thing that Timmy was hoping to avoid.
I’m sure this sort of thing sounds all too familiar to anyone who has children, or ever was a child. But, what happened? Is Timmy wrong? Are the flowers not beautiful? Were some of them not Kimmy’s favorite color? Does their mother not like receiving compliments?
To be fair, all of the wonderful things that Timmy said after his sister got hurt were very true, and they are certainly the sort of things that are nice of him to say. The problem, however, is when, where, and why he chose to say those things. He wasn’t saying them because he wanted his sister to experience the beauty of flowers whose colors she was inclined to appreciate. He wasn’t saying them because he wanted his mother to feel valued and affirmed in her gardening efforts. He said those things because he was hoping to drown out the ugliness of his situation with an overwhelming deluge of other, more beautiful, things.
Essentially, Timmy was trying to gloss over his sister’s pain and his poor choices, to distract his mother from acknowledging and dealing with the problem at hand. In the world of rhetoric, we call this a red herring tactic. Now, I’m no child psychologist, so I don’t know if children actually have the self-awareness to realize they are doing this when they do.
But, either way, it’s childish, correct? It’s the sort of thing that only little kids and the incredibly self-serving would do. Right?
Well… I think you know where this is going. We do this all the time. In fact, from time to time, we do this on a large scale. Moreover, many people are doing this right now, as you read this. And one example of such a thing finds itself in the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. Or, rather, how many have responded to it.
It should be no secret by now that our country is becoming more and more aware of the prevalence of police brutality, particularly toward the black community.2 As part of the social media outcry, claims of “black lives matter” have shown up all over the internet in protest of the seemingly inferior value placed on the lives of blacks by the American judicial system. And this is good. I fully support these efforts.
What I found particularly troubling, however, is how some responded. Shortly after #BlackLivesMatter went viral, the hashtag #AllLivesMatter started showing up. And, you know what? It’s true. All lives do matter. This is a good and beautiful statement, and it warrants being said. And yet, just like little Timmy’s compliments, the flaw in this claim is that it serves to silence the issue by drowning it out with other good truths.
One activist on Twitter put it perfectly:
— Izaha Akins (@AkinsIzaha) July 26, 2015
Beautiful in its portrayal, sad in its significance.
All lives do matter. I wholeheartedly agree with that. But, right now in our country, it seems like some lives, particularly black lives, don’t. And the way to deal with this is not to couch it in some grander, universal, but not-the-point truth. The way to deal with it is to genuinely stare the ugliness of racial prejudice in the face and say, “This is wrong.”
And you know what I find especially wrong? This:
A friend of mine shared this with me the other day. She found it in a parking lot in Wisconsin… or Michigan… or one of those suburbs of Canada. Anyhow, I don’t know about you, but this irritates me. Not in the sense that I turn into a raging green monster, but the sort of irritated you get when there’s a rock in your shoe, or someone trashes your favorite movie without knowing it’s your fave, or someone insults a family member without knowing you’re related to them. Because that is my shoe, that is my favorite movie, that is my family member, and so I have a special indignation for that sort of thing.
Now, my deeply held hope is that this bumpersticker is meant to highlight the violent atrocities and religious persecution committed against Christians across the globe (I dunno, there’s no context to it). I’m just going to give this person the benefit of the doubt here, and assume that they are trying to say that Christian lives matter also and not that they matter more than non-Christian lives. And it is true Christian lives matter.
But…. quite honestly, I find this claim to be doubly troubl
First of all, it commits the same crime as the “all lives matter” statement. It serves to drown out the systemic ills that “black lives matter” seeks to highlight. Second, and perhaps more troubling, I happen to think it misses the whole “lay down your life” thing that Jesus taught (Mt 10:38; 16:24; Lk 14:27; Jn 10:11; 15:13; 1 Jn 3:16). There is something peculiar about Christians trying to preserve their lives. I mean, I preserve Christian lives (mostly that of my family), and I think it is a good thing to preserve the lives of other Christians. We even see this sort of thing in the Bible when the early church would provide funds to care for the poor among them.
And yet…. I dunno. I just sort of wonder if we’ve lost the art of dying. You know, there was a time when Christians were known not for how we vote, or who we picket against, but for how well we died loving others. In fact, some of the greatest saints in church history converted to Christianity precisely because they saw a follower of Jesus die for their faith. Paradoxical as it may be, it is when Christians are being killed that our faith spreads like wildfire. The greatest evangelism tool we ever had was our own deaths.
Anyhow, I’ll get off my soapbox now.
So, yeah. Christian lives matter (and so do our deaths). And all lives matter. But, right now. Right now in our country, let’s not drown out something that is very true in principle, but not so much in practice – that Black Lives Matter.
Thanks for reading.
1: Who is objectively the best thing to happen to children's television since the O.G. first did his thing.
2: For example, check out this list of Unarmed People of Color Killed by Police, 1999-2014 (also see the comments for other names that didn't make the official list).