Book Review – Do All Lives Matter by Wayne Gordon & John M. Perkins

Reading Time: 5 minutes
Do All Lives Matter? Book Cover Do All Lives Matter?
Wayne Gordon, John M. Perkins,
Religion
Baker Books
February 14, 2017
96

Something is wrong in our society. Deeply wrong. The belief that all lives matter is at the heart of our founding documents--but we must admit that this conviction has never truly reflected reality in America. Movements such as Black Lives Matter have arisen in response to recent displays of violence and mistreatment, and some of us defensively answer back, "All lives matter." But do they? Really? This book is an exploration of that question. It delves into history and current events, into Christian teaching and personal stories, in order to start a conversation about the way forward. Its raw but hopeful words will help move us from apathy to empathy and from empathy to action. We cannot do everything. But we can each do something.

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

Amazon | ChristianBook.com | Baker Publishing

About the Authors

Do All Lives Matter

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.

 

 

 

Do All Lives Matter

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.”

20 thoughts on “Book Review – Do All Lives Matter by Wayne Gordon & John M. Perkins

  1. Maddie Oliver

    Thank you for your honesty. I enjoyed your review because it was real and authentic. Nobody ever admits that they have work to do in this area of our life. It was refreshing to read. The book sounds wonderful!

    • Thank you for the kind words Maddie. I just want truth. The desire for truth is a strong motivator to the extent that I want it more than my comfort or my pride at times. If I have blind spots I have a crazy hunger for getting to the bottom of them so I can see the facts and truth more clearly. This book helped me to do that in many areas. I don’t believe that I am racist but I am just as guilty as some of the examples in this book of people who have caused hurt in others by simply not being aware of sensitive issues. If I can learn to love my brothers and sisters better by understanding what causes them to feel as if their lives don’t matter..and avoid making them feel unloved in subsequent interactions, then I have gained trust without really sacrificing anything but the time it takes for self evaluation and understanding the issues.

  2. Karl Bosch

    We quickly forget that God is concerned for the downtrodden and oppressed. We could all benefit from self examination here.

    • Yes! Time and time again he shows himself as a God who has a certain concern for those who are treated unjustly. The oppressed and the poor. Of course, the ultimate example would be the whole of mankind who are spiritually oppressed and spiritually impoverished. But this doesn’t negate his real love and real concern for real justice in the world. This doesn’t supplant our spiritual need but points to it.

  3. Aaron, one if the things I have always loved about you both in person and your blog is your willingness to look past the typical Evangelical talking points and discuss how current issues are talked about in the Bible. This is a book that will make me very uncomfortable. This topic always does but like you have told me before if it makes us uncomfortable just maybe it’s because God is “probing at our sin”. Im going to read this book. And I’m sure it will make me angry and make me want to hide and make me sad. But maybe that is God probing at my sin.

    • That’s always a good question to ask Michelle. If we have a blind spot , and go to Christ with it, He will help us in our weakness.

      “Search me, O God, and know my heart. Try me and know my thoughts. See if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

      If we truly desire truth we can pray this freely and honestly without fearing what might be exposed because we know we worship a good God who will not condemn us IF we are in Christ, but will cleanse us of our sins.

      A stanza from a great hymn comes to mind…

      “Search all my thoughts, the secret springs,the motives that control the chambers where polluted things hold empire o’er the soul.”

  4. Jeff Olson

    You are starting to turn into a social justice warrior and I’m not sure I like where you are going with it. First the feminist thread with Amy Byrd and now you’re a BLM supporter? How is this blog Christian again?

    • Hello Jeff. I’m glad you stuck around after the last post you didn’t like. I appreciate your efforts to hear opinions different than your own.

      I’m not sure what is meant by social justice warrior but as Lenette pointed out, God has a special concern for those who suffer injustice. Maybe we can start by defining your terms since some of us here are not familiar with it.

  5. Oh goody it’s Jeff again! I’m assuming your the same Jeff that was all like “your a feminist for saying women can study theology and oh your feminist for saying we shouldn’t submit to all men” if so than we’re in for a ride. Im getting this book for no other reason than Jeff opposes it Lol!

    • Hello Ruby. I always appreciate when you contribute. Let’s remember to keep it civil, seeking “first to understand and then to be understood”. We don’t have to agree with Jeff to allow him the courtesy of questioning us and of having his concerns taken seriously and addressed adequately. Keep contributing, I’m looking forward to your comments.

      • Your right. I get so frustrated though Lol!

  6. Lenette

    Jeff what is a “social justice warrior”? When I read the Psalms I get the idea that God is a warrior for justice. In that sense I would say a “social justice warrior” as you call it is in good company but you say it as if it’s a bad thing. I’m just an old lady and maybe don’t understand your code words but to these old ears I think you put him In good company.

    • Hello Lenette!! It’s good to hear from you! I’m not familiar with the term either although I have heard it used before. Never in a positively light so I suspect it wasn’t a complimemt.

  7. Jeff Olson

    All I really mean is focussing on liberal social issues instead of Bible issues. Jesus saves not social activism. Why focus on women in theology or racism? The Bible is all about sin and salvation. Find God. That’s the message pure and simple. None of this other garbage when the Bible doesn’t ever talk about it.

    • Lisa

      Jeff, two verses immediately came to mind when I read what you wrote.

      He has shown you, O man, what is good;
      And what does the Lord require of you
      But to do justly, to love mercy,
      And to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8

      Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. James 1:27

      Jesus himself, while here on earth, fed the hungry and cared for the sick. He cared for physical and social needs as well as spiritual.

  8. Jeff, I would agree with Lisa. She has given you two specific passages from scripture as well as an example which characterized the entire ministry of Christ. Consider II Timothy 3.16-17

    “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work”

    This familiar passage says that scripture is profitable for, among other things, training in righteousness so that we may be fully equipped for every good work. Not just some scripture but it says “All scripture…” which is an inclusive term. It is inclusive of the gospel and of the passages in which we are commanded to uphold justice for the oppressed.

    What does it mean to know God?

    God answers this in Jeremiah 22.16 when speaking of Josiah (I think it was josiah… you may want to look it up) he says,

    “He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?”

    Here, God equates defending the cause of the poor and needy to knowing him. I don’t believe that God is unconcerned about these things

  9. Charles

    What gets me is that we are always blamed for being racist when we aren’t. Hell I was called racist last week just because I’m white and for no other reason. I was told that just having white skin makes me a racist because I can’t have the same disadvantages. That’s hogwash! I’m not saying it isn’t out there but why try to blame me just because I’m white? That’s being racist. Also, I was never a slave owner. I’m not to blame for that. I think slavery was and is disgusting.Sometimes, I think the cops are justified. I don’t believe it is always a bad cop. Sometimes I think the cops were unjustified and I’m angered by them getting away with it. When I see videos on the news of people rioting unless it’s in Seattle or Portland it’s not white people who are doing it. When I see a news clip of someone being senselessly attacked it usually isn’t a white person who did it. This isn’t racist it’s just stating the facts as they are. So why do I get called a racist when I carry a gun when I’m at 2nd & Hatcher but not when I’m in Colleyville? In fact I can run into a minority in Colleyville and feel perfectly safe but not in other areas. I think it’s more complex than we make it out to be.

    • Hello Charles. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your stories. I think it is fair to say that there are frustrations on both sides and good points to be made by both as well. I don’t know your background and don’t want to presume that you have any religious beliefs and if so, that they are Christian. The perspective of this post and the blog in general is from a Christian point of view and in Christianity we have an obligation to consider the needs of others are greater than our own needs. In the same manner, we believe that love is patient and kind. We also believe that, among other things, l9ve does not seek to dishonor others, it isn’t self seeking, it doesn’t keep records of the wrong things others have done to us, and it always assumes the best about others. This is the Christian understanding of love as handed down to us by God through Paul the apostle.

      Granted, as Christians we don’t always do the best to live others in this way. We fail often and sometimes in very big ways and when we do we have an advocate in Christ Jesus who pleads for us before the throne of grace. Even though we fail, we still hold this vision of love in high regard and we strive to live this way. So my answer would be that yes, at times we are falsely accused, we are slandered and people say all sorts of evil things about us that are not true…and we are blessed for it. As a Christian I expect this to happen. It happens to those who are not Christian as well; but as a Christian I have an obligation to assume the best about the person who may be treating me unfairly and consider him or her as better than myself. I can demonstrate this to them by not getting offended but instead, listening to their hurt, their story…their experience. There will always be an opportunity to say , “yes, but what about…”. However, bridges are not built this way. Bridges are built when we choose to take what they are saying at face value, get to know their story, and seek to find ways that we can recognize when we are doing or saying something hurtful. The key here is focussing in what my responsibility is and not invalidating their hurt and their experience by finding something that they might have done that was wrong. We have to own up to our part in the division and not worry about anything else.

  10. Maddie Oliver

    I’m actually very sad at some of the responses. I get it that it cuts both ways but you miss the point when we start blaming the other person instead of asking what I can change.

  11. Out in this part of the state we don’t get many minorities per se. I think our town is something like 94% white. As a side note, we still have plenty of crime so the guy earlier who was saying that crime is a non-white activity, well think again. Let’s not forget about women and other lives that have had a less than stellar history of being told that their lives matter. It was less than 100 years ago when women were recognized as having a vote in this country. That means women still alive today were probably not aloud to vote at some point in their life.

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