Stories & Commentaries

Until All Lives Matter ...

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We all know all lives matter to God. This is reaffirmed by scriptures such as, "For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him (Rom. 10:12).

While all lives matter to God, He knows all lives don't matter to all people. We play favorites, and usually defer to the powerful. That's why biblical prophets repeatedly called for special protections for the “quartet of the vulnerable"[1] listed in Zechariah 7:9-10: “This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other’” (NIV).

Ellen G. White also emphasized ministering to and advocating for vulnerable people groups: “Every act of justice, mercy, and benevolence makes melody in heaven. . . . When you succor the poor, sympathize with the afflicted and oppressed, and befriend the orphan, you bring yourselves into a closer relationship to Jesus.”[2]

Early Adventists on All Lives Matter Hypocrisy

Many early Adventists were wide awake to the fact all lives don’t matter in the U.S. — it was part of their prophetic understanding of Revelation 13. 

Uriah Smith wrote, "Says the Declaration of Independence, 'We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness;' and yet the same government . . . will hold in abject servitude over 3,200,000 of human beings . . . and write out a base denial of all their fair professions in characters of blood. In the institution of slavery is more especially manifested . . . the dragon spirit that dwells in the heart of this hypocritical nation.”[3]

“If this nation would not be the most hypocritical nation on the face of the earth, it should amend this declaration thus: All white men are created free and equal. . . Has not this two-horned, lamb-like beast corrupted the commandment as well as the Roman dragon?” commented E. R. Seaman.[4]

Christians are called to promote the common good of the communities we reside in — while remembering that we are “resident aliens.”[5] And American Christians are also called to expose our nation’s track record of abuses just as Protestants have done regarding the Roman Church, and just as American History classes rehearse British tyranny.

Revelation 13 tells us beastly oppression will worsen before Jesus comes. It won’t be until the Lamb of Revelation 14 brings judgment upon the lamblike beast of Revelation 13 that there will truly be liberty and justice for all.

Say Their Names

What do we do until then? Take a page, the last page, out of the Book of Job:

“The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part. . . . And he also had seven sons and three daughters. The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch. Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers” (Job 42:12-15).

Job had seven sons and none of their names were recorded, yet his three daughters’ names are still with us today. Didn’t his sons matter? Of course they did and most everyone in his community would have readily agreed. It wasn’t a given, however, that his daughters’ lives mattered and so they were given special consideration.

Job’s experience with God’s justice and compassion compelled him to resist societal norms and insist that everyone say his daughters’ names, thus recognizing their personhood. He pushed boundaries further by giving them “an inheritance alongside their brothers.” In a society that valued male lives above female lives, Job leveraged his privilege to ensure his daughters’ autonomy. Never would they be economically entrapped by the whims of their brothers or future husbands. All would know Jemimah’s, Keziah’s, and Karen-Happuch’s lives mattered.

Are you and I willing to leverage our privilege — any advantage based on our race, gender, profession, or socioeconomic success — to empower others? Until all lives matter, we must. That’s what Job did for his daughters. That’s what Jesus did for all of us. That’s what several early Adventists did in response to slavery. That’s what Black lives need right now.

— Carl McRoy is Literature Ministries director for the North American Division; a shortened version of this article is scheduled to appear in the September 2020 Adventist Journey magazine.

 

 

[1] Coined by Nicholas Wolterstorff, Justice: Rights and Wrongs, p. 76.

[2] My Life Today, p. 242.

[3] "The Two-Horned Beast-Rev. XIII," Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Mar. 19, 1857.

[4] "The Days of Noah and the Sons of Man," Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, June 13, 1854.

[5] See Stanley Hauerwas and Will Willimon, Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony.