Whose life matters?

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By Ken Laue

It was a hot day in North Carolina when I headed for the water fountain at the amusement park.

“No, you must use this fountain over here,” my parents gently directed me.

I was just a little guy then, 5 or 6 years old. I didn’t realize I was a white child trying to get a drink from the black folks’ water fountain.

When you’re in a foreign country, you try to observe the customs and laws of that culture. To my parents, a couple of European immigrants, the segregated South in that post-war era was a very foreign land. 

Slavery was pronounced dead way back in 1863 by President Lincoln, but as the victorious North grew lax in enforcing its values, the South found ways to skirt this obstacle, passing the Jim Crow laws which gave free rein to the continued segregation, persecution, and discrimination against black folks.

Discrimination was still very much alive and well in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where we were stationed in the late 1950s – almost a decade before Dr. Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement came on the forefront. My parents were WWII survivors who, after all they had been through, were more than willing to shelter us from the evils of this world.

The war was over, and white America gladly settled into new suburbias of the mind during a growth spurt of peace and prosperity. My parents never taught me to hate or despise people of a different color, because they never did.

The picture in our photo album of my dad and his fellow soldiers, all smiles, posing arm in arm with several black New Caledonians liberated from the Japanese, seemed perfectly normal to me.

I was just a little kid totally naïve to racism, leading a sheltered life in the segregated South – riding around in Dad’s white Plymouth station wagon with the fin taillights and watching Annette Funicello of The Mickey Mouse Club on the neighbor kid’s black-and-white TV.

I was in high school by the time Dad finally retired from the Army and moved us to Tucson, Arizona.

Those were turbulent times and, as I grew more interested in the news, I learned of the race riots in Detroit, the police dogs set to attack black civil rights marchers, the bombings of black churches, and the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King.

It was like hearing news from a far-away land.

The Tucson suburbs seemed like an outpost back then, so far away from that tumultuous world.

Even today, Tucson is a multinational, multicultural melting pot of races and nations. I’m not saying it’s had no history of racial tensions or injustice, but it remains a very integrated, cosmopolitan town. So, as I follow the news lately, I have become more and more concerned with the deluded, twisted thinking that I see arising in America, my home, birthed by a lying spirit of bigotry. Take, for example, the Black Lives Matter movement.

The title itself seems a rational enough statement. As most of us heartily acknowledge, of course, black lives do indeed matter. What seems irrational are their hateful chants about killing cops: Pigs in a blanket, fry ’em like bacon, or the lying chant, Hands up, Don’t shoot! That chant aims to exonerate a black felon, seeking to make his attack on the cop who shot and killed him in self-defense into the innocent surrender of a martyr. Investigation proved this assertion erroneous.

Whether white supremacists who commit atrocities, or Muslim extremists who commit mass murder in the name of their god, racists of every variety prove again and again the human propensity for self-deception, as they embrace bigoted lies and reject the truth of the one and only true God of the Bible.

In 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 we read, "And for this cause God shall send them a strong delusion, that they should believe a lie. That they might be condemned who believe not the truth, but have pleasure in unrighteousness."

Embracing unrighteousness is the root of bigotry. Christianity teaches that all lives matter to God. In perhaps the best-known verse in the Bible (John 3:16) Jesus said that whosoever believes in Him has eternal life.

Not just members of a particular racial group. Not just His Jewish followers, but anybody.

Romans 10:13 says that whoever calls upon Him will be saved. Not just the privileged ones. All people matter to God. Nowhere in the Bible will you find any evidence that God approves of racism. That would be absurd, since it was He who created all the different people groups.

Instead, both Old and New Testaments record the spread God’s message of love to people everywhere, far beyond the Israelites, and encompassing both Gentile and Jewish believers. God Himself taught Peter that discrimination is not of Him.

Peter passes this truth on to the household of Cornelius in Acts 10:34-35, telling them: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation, whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.”

All rational members of the human community, regardless of ethnicity or culture, recognize that unfortunately, bigots and racists do exist.

All rational members of any ethnic group also recognize that they have friends and supporters among the other ethnic groups who should not be thrown under the bus along with the extremists.

As a white American male, I often wonder why, in all my 67 years, I can’t recall ever hearing a black speaker – whether politician, preacher, or public personality – who mentioned the hundreds of thousands of white Union soldiers who were killed or maimed in a war fought specifically to end black slavery.

Did I just not hear? Was I just not listening? Is it just my imagination, or is there a real silence?

Consider the 20th Regiment from Maine, whose exploits were documented in the excellent movie, Gettysburg. They were a volunteer white Union regiment (not draftees) from a distant Northern state. They were renowned for holding the critical piece of real estate called Little Round Top at Gettysburg.

This was the turning point of the battle, which was the turning point of the war. After this, the Union states were slowly able to turn the tide on the South’s domination in battles.  And the men of the 20th were not alone. Many valiant white men gave their lives in the fight to free our black brethren.

And we must never forget or disregard the many black Union soldiers who fought alongside them – that is another topic that deserves its own separate article.

These are those who have truly earned the right to declare that black lives matter. They proved it with their blood. 

I also wonder why there is so much pressure on folks like me to feel guilty for being born white.  I am not the perpetrator of any injustice done to my fellow Americans of different ethnic groups.

I understand that many historical instances exist of injustices perpetrated upon black people and Native Americans by white society. That even after Lincoln outlawed slavery with the Emancipation Proclamation, Jim Crow racism persisted until the sacrifices of Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and a host of others rose up (including young white college students and other sympathizers) and continued the battle forward a century later. That infamous cruelties and massacres were practiced upon Native Americans, who ultimately were forced to live in squalor on reservations.

That pockets of racism in this country persist even to this day.

White American society, as a whole, is ashamed of their ancestors’ cruel and bigoted historical acts of racism, and rightly so.

But it is also true that no one alive today in the United States is responsible for enslaving innocent black people or perpetrating injustices upon Native Americans during the Indian wars. Even my ancestors were not involved in these unfortunate events. They were dealing with their own considerable problems and injustices in Czechoslovakia and Germany.

How, then, should I feel guilty, unless it is my white skin alone that makes me culpable?

Is this not also a form of racism?

The struggle for the equality and rights of all citizens – whether they be black, Native American, brown, white, or members of any other ethnic group – will never be over so long as people regard racism in their hearts, rejecting God’s truth that all lives matter.

We cannot allow this evil to thrive. In the name of the loving and righteous God – the God of all truth, Jesus the Christ – let brotherhood and charity prevail as He has commanded, and don’t be deluded into believing the lie of racism. 

The immutable truth of the unchanging God is that His love for all humanity is a never-ending, steadfast love.

All lives matter to God. He created them all. He paid for them with the precious blood of Jesus Christ because they are His beloved children. There is no higher value than that.

“And they sang a new song, saying: You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals,
for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood
out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9).