Yes, they do, as do all lives, but let us not use the latter to diminish the claims “Black Lives” makes on us. Historically, migrant people often suffer discrimination. That is not because some “system” is inherently racist – we cannot blame it on something impersonal; it is because mankind is tribal and our nature is a fallen one. The history of “Black Lives” in America is different from in the UK; in the former the ancestors of most “Black Lives” came in slave ships, suffered horrendously, and the marks of that left a deep scar. But that is not to say that “Black lives” in the UK have not also been the subject of discrimination. I am old enough to remember being shocked by some of the words used by adults which I won’t sully the internet with. That this situation is being weaponised by some for left-wing causes should not, and I hope will not, detract from the need to pay attention to the real problems suffered by racial minorities. I missed the protests about the way the Chinese treat their minorities, but I am sure they were equally vociferous within China, although I suspect statues of Chairman Mao may stand a while yet.
What ought to concern us all is the weaponisation of a good cause. That carries with it the potential to polarise society and make things worse. Wherever people feel there are things they are not allowed to say, they do not forget those things, and they are never exposed to the reasons why they might, on consideration, change their attitudes, they become fixed; nay, they become a virtuous cause which dare not speak its name. The most obvious example in the UK is what became the Brexit movement. When what Nixon once called “the silent majority” got a chance to speak, it did so with a vengeance. It may, to some of us, have spoken incoherently and with a force which surprised us, but that is on us; we never asked, we were never told, and so we made ourselves deaf to the feelings of others. We must try to avoid a repetition of this with “Black Lives Matter.” It is about far more than statues, and those focussing on it help the rest of us miss the point, unless we are careful.
Macaulay was correct when he wrote: “We know no spectacle so ridiculous as the British public in one of its periodical fits of morality.” We might now rephrase this, as there is something more ridiculous, that is “woke Twitter.” If we proceed from the assumption there is one “correct” way of thinking and that all who disagree are bad people with evil motives, we end by creating not a society in which everyone thinks alike, but one in which everyone speaks alike; group-speak is not quite the same as group-think, although those in the solipsism usually mistake it for such. It does not last, and when it goes, it usually involves violence and a sharp move to the opposite extreme.
The origin of our ills is us, as St Paul reminded the Romans long ago:
15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
There is but one cure for this, and it is not group-think or group-speak. Indeed, here our own Faith risks being misused as a cover, as Jesus warned us when He spoke about how we should conduct ourselves, not trumpeting our virtues or excoriating the sins of others. We are all sinners, and that stone we wish to cast should, if we have self-knowledge, remain in the dirt where we found it. St Paul knew there was but one answer to this sin operating within us:
So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord
Law can do only so much, and is, of course, necessary given our fallen nature. But only Christ can warm our hearts within us and make us whole. Before he is “cancelled” let us remember that old ex-slaver lost in the mire of sin, John Newton, who received Christ and turned from his sin to campaign against that very slavery of which he had been a victim and in which he had been a protagonist. He rightly bade us sing of that “Amazing Grace” which had saved a wretch like him.
So, as the culture wars take this new turn, and as good causes are weaponised by some for ends which others will contest, let us stop a while and remember we are on a road where we all get hurt, and that only the love of God saves; but let us rejoice that it is bestowed on all who turn to Christ. Though our sins are scarlet, yet shall we be washed clean – black, brown, yellow and white. In Christ there is no division, in Him we are all one. If we can live that as though we truly believe it, then we shall do better, and we may even begin to apprehend why “Black Lives Matter” is something to which we might all, as Christians, attend with prayerful enquiry.