When two of my long-time heroes write another book together, I sit up and take notice. Wayne Gordon has been a pastor for many years in Chicago's Lawndale neighborhood. My visit to Lawndale Community Church transformed my perspective on what a church should be. His story, an educated white man choosing to live and minster in a poor, urban, mostly black neighborhood challenged my sense of place. John Perkins, a civil rights pioneer, has continued to be a prophetic voice for reconciliation in the church and in America.
Perkins and Gordon, co-founders the Christian Community Development Association, have written a challenging new book, Do All Lives Matter? The Issues We Can No Longer Ignore and the Solutions We All Long For. In answer to the titular question, they answer Yes, all lives matter. But they stand firmly in favor of the Black Lives Matter movement because for much of history society has demonstrated that black lives don't matter. To say all lives matter "subtly suggests that black people are treated the same as everyone else." They write: "All lives can't matter until black lives matter."
Both Perkins and Gordon have seen up close and personal the mistreatment of blacks by police and by white people. Perkins's own brother was killed by police. Gordon points out that "in the same period of just a few days that spanned the killing of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the five Dallas police officers, 114 people were shot in Chicago. Eleven of them died." Only the most heartless among us fail to feel sympathy for those whose lives are touched by violence, black or white.
Perkins and Gordon succinctly tell the story of racism in America, making the case that the repercussions of slavery and Jim Crow continue much more than we want to acknowledge. The innate assumption that white people are intellectually and socially superior may be spoken aloud only infrequently, but it shows up constantly and subconsciously in our interactions. In this racial-cultural milieu, they favorably endorse the Black Lives Matter movement. They lament that "only 13 percent of evangelicals support the Black Lives Matter movement, even though many of its foundational principles are faithful to Scripture and many of its leaders and participants are Christians."
Given the rhetoric and practices of the BLM movement, why are they surprised? When chants about killing cops are heard at their marches, and when the Dallas police assassin says he supports BLM, the scriptural principles and Christian participants are drowned out. Blocking traffic and disrupting other people's lives make BLM leaders (and Gordon's church) feel good about having a voice, but such actions are inconsiderate, bad public relations, and fuel the distaste of people who are neutral or disinclined to support BLM. I was surprised that Gordon and Perkins had little, if anything, negative to say about BLM.
Their overall point is on target. Yes, all lives matter. The Bible makes "abundantly clear, . . . all human beings are equal in the sight of God." But, as Richard Mouw writes in the afterward, "Yes, it is certainly true that all lives matter to God. But there are times when we need to focus on specific lives because those lives have for too long been denied the right to flourish." That is a sentiment I can get behind.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!