Among the fallout from recent grand jury decision to not issue indictments against police officers involved in the conflicts with Michael Brown and Eric Garner is a Twitter hashtag war. Those who were upset with the non-indictments expressed their frustrations in many ways, including the spread of the comment #BlackLivesMatter. Many people used this hashtag to connect with others who were upset by the non-indictments and discuss both how they felt and how they could respond to these events.
While some people used these forums to discuss constructive ideas and actions, others used these forums to lash out at either police officers or people who are not African American. This led to the creation of two other hashtags: #BlueLivesMatter and #AllLivesMatter. The first began as a statement of support for police which would counter the anger expressed at many police officers during this volatile time. The second began as an attempt to expand the "Black lives matter" message to include all races.
If you do a search of these three hashtags, however (the links above connect to the appropriate searches on Twitter), you will see that the messages are not consistent. Because of the nature of social media, anyone who wishes to weigh in on a hashtag conversation may do so whether or not the person intends to be a constructive or destructive force within the conversation. This is why you will see messages attacking police in the category #BlueLivesMatter or messages attacking other races in the other two categories. (If you are a regular user of social media, you likely knew all of this already; if you are not a regular user of social media, I hope this gets you up to speed on how people use these hashtags to talk with others via social media.)
These conflicts within social media are spilling over into our real world conversations as well. If someone makes the statement "All lives matter" at a public event, others will rush to criticize that person for minimizing the message that "Black lives matter." If someone makes a statement that "Black lives matter," others will hear within the statement a criticism of police officers whether or not the statement ever addressed police officers. If someone makes a statement that "Blue lives matter," others will rush to condemn that person for not caring about the lives of African Americans.
This blog post will not be able to bring these conflicting responses together and resolve the tensions. However, I believe that it is important that the Church be involved in bringing these forces together to resolve their differences and reconcile with each other. The Church already includes people who believe that African Americans do not receive equal treatment within the justice system. The Church already includes people who believe that police officers are unfairly judged by people who were not present at the moment of conflict and can view the conflict with the benefits of hindsight and multiples viewpoints. The Church already includes people who believe that each of us is created by God and loved by God. Because of this, the Church can bring these three sides together for times of holy conversation regarding what has happened, what is happening, and what needs to happen so that we can address these issues in love, hope, and faithfulness.
While the Church may not stand behind everything that tries to claim the mantle of these three statements, the Church can assert these three things:
1) Black lives matter to God.
2) Blue lives matter to God.
3) All lives matter to God.
These three statements should not be controversial...and yet, in this environment, they may be incredibly controversial. But the Church must still proclaim all three statements because the Lord created, loves, died for, and comes to every person covered by these three statements.
In this season of Advent, with all of the controversy within our world today, the Church continues to pray to the Lord.
Come, Lord Jesus!