Book Review – Do All Lives Matter by Wayne Gordon & John M. Perkins
All true Christians will affirm the idea that black lives matter. To deny this is to deny the unique place that human beings have as the only image-bearers in his creation. To affirm that someone’s life matters less than another’s is to affirm a belief that is foreign to the teachings of scripture. Setting aside the movement for a moment, if we simply assess the statement that black lives matter from a biblical perspective I don’t believe that you can hold a contrary view while having the Spirit of god within you. Those who are truly born of God will absolutely affirm that people of all color have equal worth before the face of God. So why is it then, when a people who have been oppressed in our nation want to declare a truth that we all agree upon, that many conservative Christian retort with “all lives matter”? This is a question that has been haunting me since the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement took root in our nation. Wayne Gordon and John Perkins explore these issues from a biblical perspective and the result is a book that touches on real life issues and answers them responsibly from a biblical framework.
I would agree with the authors when they say that “All lives can’t matter until black lives matter”. After all, to negate the latter is to, out of necessity, negate the former. To understand the rise of the BLM movement we need to go beyond Ferguson and even beyond Trayvon Martin. The message that black lives don’t matter goes back many years. The message, whether intentional or not, is deeply ingrained in the history of our nation. Despite the tremendous steps that we have taken in overcoming racism, the ripple effects are felt in every facet of American culture. Sometimes these ripples are barely noticeable and at other times they appear as a giant tidal wave. The truth is, no matter how imperceivable the message may seem to us, it is a message that is ever present and always before the eyes of those affected by it.
Do All Lives Matter is a book that has caused me to think deeply about these issues all over again. This journey started for me when I was in high school. One of my best friends was biracial and despite being equal parts black and white his entire life was spent being identified as a black man. I clearly remember the day that him and his older brother got into an argument over his choice to date a white girl. His brother called him out by telling him that he needs to date “his own kind” to which my friend responded, “which one is my own kind? We’re just as much white as we are black”. The point that my friend was making was that he was both black and white and yet the expectations that society (even his own brother) put on him was that he was expected to “act black”. Why? Well the only thing that I can think of is that the color of his skin predetermined what people expected of him. I didn’t fully grasp the significance of this vignette until recently when I heard Voddie Baucham point out the inherent racism in calling President Obama black rather than biracial. The thing that struck me many years ago was that I didn’t even bat an eye when my friend’s brother referred to him as black. If someone were to ask me what color he was I would have said he was black. Is this fair? Probably not. How many times prior to that encounter had I projected an entire set of expectations and assumptions upon someone simply due to their skin color? How many times since then have I continued to do so? By doing this, are we sending an unintentional message that the color of someone’s skin determines the extent of which they matter?
Fast forward about 12 years and my journey to figure out my role in reconciliation continues.I remember sitting in my car with a friend. He was a guy that from all appearances was comfortable in his own skin. But that day when we were having lunch and talking about what God was doing in our lives that week, he made a shocking revelation to me. Fighting back tears, he said that sometimes he just looks down at his skin and wishes he could wash it off. That statement hit me hard. Everyone loved him and I couldn’t imagine someone ever making him feel as if his life didn’t matter simply because of his skin. And yet, here he was confessing to me that despite many years of God working in his heart to love the way God created him, he was constantly aware of is skin color. For some reason, despite being accepted and loved by so many white people, he saw his skin color as a deficiency and felt the sting of his life not mattering as much as other lives.
So how does this relate back to the book? After all, this is a book review and not an account of my own history of struggling through these issues. This would be a fair observation. However, I don’t want to simply say a few good things about Do All Lives Matter, I want to give an example of how the book has helped me to resolve some issues that I have been thinking through personally. This book is absolutely worth buying and absolutely worth reading. The chapters written by Perkins lend particular weight to the discussion as he recounts his own experiences with racism and feeling as if his life doesn’t matter as much as others. What this book has helped me to realize is that there are ways in which we all contribute to the lie that some lives don’t matter as much as others. Whether intentionally or not, our behavior when interacting with others communicates a message of value. Should I have to go out of my way to ensure that the person I’m speaking with knows that I value and cherish them as a human being and member of the human race? Well… no. Nobody should be put in a position to do something against their will. But then again, why wouldn’t I want to do all that I can to let a person know that he matters in my eyes and in the eyes of his creator? Especially someone who has been told his entire life that his life doesn’t matter. Love dictates that this is the best way to live life and it doesn’t cost a dime to treat someone with dignity and respect.
Where to purchase
About the Authors
Wayne Gordon is cofounder of the Christian Community Development Association and lead pastor of Lawndale Community Church in inner-city Chicago where he has ministered for thirty years. He is cofounder of the Lawndale Christian Health Center and teaches at several colleges and seminaries. He and his wife, Anne, have three adult children.
John M. Perkins is cofounder of the Christian Community Development Association and director of the John M. Perkins Foundation for Reconciliation and Development in Jackson, Mississippi. He is the author of many books, including Let Justice Roll Down, named by Christianity Today as one of the top fifty books that have shaped evangelicals.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Baker Books in exchange for an online review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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