A very friendly white guy spoke to me and the other pastors moments before worship this Sunday. In a manner clearly referencing the gun violence of the previous week, he said to us in a way that expected agreement, “You know pastor, ALL lives matter.” I’m not sure what his intentions were in saying that phrase in that moment, because we were literally processing into worship, so we had no time to respond. But I do know that whenever I hear a white person say, “All Lives Matter,” what I really hear is, “It’s not really about race.” The pastor proceeded to preach on the parable of the Good Samaritan, and we prayed for those affected by the deaths of Philando Castille, Alton Sterling, Michael Krol, Patrick Zamarripa, Lorne Ahrens, Michael Smith, Brent Thompson, and Micah Johnson. Jesus’ question to us today is, how will we be a neighbor to people just like them?
There’s this rap song by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis called White Privilege 2, that has a voiceover quote that has strongly influenced my understanding of the #AllLivesMatter line of thinking:
“Black Lives Matter, to use an analogy, is like if… if there was a subdivision and a house was on fire. The fire department wouldn’t show up and start putting water on all the houses because all houses matter. They would show up and they would turn their water on the house that was burning because that’s the house that needs the help the most. — My generation’s taken on the torch of a very age-old fight for black liberation, but also liberation for everyone. Injustice anywhere is still injustice everywhere. — The best thing white people can do is talk to each other, having those very difficult, very painful conversations with your parents, with your family members. — I think one of the critical questions for white people in this society is, ‘What are you willing to risk? What are you willing to sacrifice to create a more just society?'”
Of course, Mister Rogers is the expert on what it means to be a neighbor. He once said, When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” The helpers, the Good Samaritans, those are the neighbors. Those are the people who are unwilling to give up on others. Those are the people I want to be more like. What am I willing to risk to create a more just society?