Why Lives “Matter”

JULY 31, 2016     |      PASTOR ZACHARY PUDLO
Black Lives Matter Photo
Over the past month it has become clear that our nation, and our world, is still a bit confused about why lives matter. Outbreaks of violence are becoming more and more frequent. Violence motivated by a disdain for people who are “different”. How do Christians address issues of violence, racism, and division? God gives us the the motivation and the resource. And it all starts with who you are.
“Black lives matter”. “All lives matter”. “Blue lives matter”. The slogans are out. Do they help heal our divided world, or do they cause more division? “Black”, “all”, “blue”… those aren’t the words we really should be dwelling on. “Matter”… there’s a word worth looking at. “Matter” has its origin all the way back to the Latin word “materia”. It means “the source from which something is made.” So whenever someone claims that a life matters they are pointing back to their origin or their source. They are pointing to the materials that make them. They are saying that the place from which a human being comes is what makes them important.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would agree with that. On July 4, 1965, he said this in his famous speech, The American Dream
You see, the founding fathers were really influenced by the Bible. The whole concept of the imago dei, as it is expressed in Latin, the “image of God,” is the idea that all men have something within them that God injected. Not that they have substantial unity with God, but that every man has a capacity to have fellowship with God. And this gives him a uniqueness, it gives him worth, it gives him dignity. And we must never forget this as a nation: there are no gradations in the image of God. Every man from a treble white to a bass black is significant on God’s keyboard, precisely because every man is made in the image of God. One day we will learn that. (Yes) We will know one day that God made us to live together as brothers and to respect the dignity and worth of every man.
Martin Luther King Jr. was alluding to the book of Genesis when he said that all mankind is made in the image of God. “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27) Seems simple, doesn’t it? Every human being has their origin in God. God loves and creates every human being, so every human being should have respect for every other human being. If God loves all, then why don’t we? Why is this so hard to keep in mind? What’s gone wrong?
A little understanding of history helps us answer these questions. The Enlightenment Period (1650-1850) was a period of time when things went bad. It steered the world away from religion and more and more toward secularism, humanism, individualism, rationalism, and nationalism. This age led people to focus more on the differences of people…different races and nations, rather than their similar “matter” or origin.
Any communication expert or psychologist will tell you that focusing on differences will not lead to resolution. When counselling couples through a conflict, relationship therapists will never say, “Focus on your differences…poke at them. Prod them. Bring them to the forefront of the conflict.” The exact opposite is true. They will encourage the couples to focus on common ground in order to get past the conflict. The Enlightenment Period did us no favors. It put a huge spotlight on the differences and then left people to poke and prod those differences until there was nothing but a festering wound of animosity for all that is “different”.
There is at least one more historical factor that pushed us to the point of gunning down each other because of our differences…the Theory of Evolution. If we all evolved from single celled organisms, the natural outcome would be a significant change in thinking on whether people really “matter”. One of those changes is seen in what is called Eugenics. Eugenics is defined as “the study of or belief in the possibility of improving the qualities of the human species or a human population, especially by such means as discouraging reproduction by persons having genetic defects or presumed to have inheritable undesirable traits (negative eugenics) or encouraging reproduction by persons presumed to have inheritable desirable traits (positive eugenics).” The Age of Enlightenment, the idea of humans evolving from single celled organisms rather than from God himself, and studies in Eugenics are all major influences in leading Hitler to create a “master race”. Another change that took place in our thinking is seen in the landmark decision of Roe v. Wade in 1973. In 1918, the United States passed what is commonly known as the Eagle Feather Law. It is illegal to collect feathers of certain eagles, and those in possession can be fined up to $25,000. And while it’s illegal to kill or hunt eagles, it’s still legal to put to death unborn babies and even to harvest and sell their organs at great profits! Something has gone very wrong over the past 2 centuries.
German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, wrote this, “Judgments, value judgments concerning life, for or against, can in the last resort never be true: they possess value only as symptoms, they come into consideration only as symptoms – in themselves such judgments are stupidities.” Here’s what Nietzsche is saying. If there is nothing outside of life…if there is no greater power, than we cannot say that some life is better and other lives are worse. It is completely arbitrary to say that you shouldn’t be racist. Nietzsche is basically saying you cannot value humans over animals because all life is equal. It is irrational to think any life is more valuable than another life if your foundation is based on the theory of there being no god. If there is no greater power or creator of life, then there is no logical ground to stand on when making the claim that one life matters more than another. Whether you are a bird, an unborn baby, black, blue or white, it makes no difference. You don’t matter. Russian philosopher, Vladimir Solovyov, who was not by the way orthodox, noted the illogical syllogism of the idea that God doesn’t exist and yet all lives matter. He joked, “…man is descended from the apes, therefore we must love one another.”
If you don’t believe in God, then it isn’t intellectually consistent to claim that lives matter. But if you believe in the God of the Bible, it is perfectly consistent to say that lives do matter. They matter because God says they matter. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. rightly explained exactly why human lives matter. It’s because humans were all created by God and in the image of God. And if that isn’t enough to show lives matter, God did even more to show why they matter. The Christian God is the only God who actually becomes a human, and suffers alongside and in place of his creation. The Christian God is the only God who died for his creation. God couldn’t possible say in a more clear way that his creation matters than by suffering and dying for it.
That’s why lives matter.