Lately, I have seen a lot of memes and comments on social media that suggest that there are not enough rights to go around. One of the ways that I have seen this is through the reaction of All Lives Matter when people proclaim Black Lives Matter. People post Blue Lives Matter, identifying the fact that police officers and emergency personnel are essential. People post Native Lives Matter, identifying the fact that Native American rights have been violated for centuries in the United States. And some have even posted White Lives Matter, completely missing the point of what is happening around our world today.
Have we run out of rights to give out to people?
Is there a supply and demand of rights that I’m not aware of?
Has the supply been depleted and now people are demanding, at a high cost, that rights only be distributed to certain people groups?
Please don’t hear what I’m not saying. I agree that Black Lives Matter, that Native Lives Matter, that Blue Lives Matter, and that All Lives Matter. I also agree that at this point in history, the movement Black Lives Matter is calling attention to the systemic racism that has oppressed black people throughout the world for centuries. I love the picture with a little girl in pigtails and sunglasses holding a poster that proclaims, “We said, ‘Black Lives Matter.’ We never said, ‘Only Black Lives Matter.’ We know All Lives Matter. We just need your help with #BlackLivesMatter for black lives are in danger.” At a time when it seems that violence against people of color has increased, we all need to agree that all lives matter but that right now, we need to pay attention to the lives that are in danger.
I cannot begin to explain the plight of people of color throughout the centuries in our country as a white woman of privilege. We need brave people of color to tell their own stories. One thing that we can do is listen to the stories of those who have been mistreated and oppressed. The other thing we can do is to say something or do something when we see someone being mistreated or oppressed. Remember that “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Likewise, I cannot excuse the way that people in power have mistreated the lower classes, treating them like chattel instead of people. I think we can all agree that there are many social evils that we need to address in our world today: racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, ageism. But focusing on the rights of one group does not mean that another group of people loses their rights. Black Lives Matter does not mean that White Lives don’t matter or that Blue Lives don’t matter or that All Lives don’t matter.
We haven’t run out of rights.
In my college logic class, I learned a long list of logical fallacies. Logical fallacies present invalid or faulty arguments. They include constructions such as circular reasoning, red herrings, attacking the man (ad hominem or mudslinging), and either/or. Either/or fallacies suggest that there are only two possible outcomes in an argument. Currently, in the United States, either/or fallacies are the root of many of our problems. When we look at politics, we assume that we can only be Republican or Democrat, Liberal or Conservative. When we look at abortion, we assume that we can only be Pro-Life or Pro-Choice, no rights for the unborn or no rights for women. When we look at racial conflict, some of us assume that we can only support Black Lives or Blue Lives, Black Lives or White Lives.
There are more than two outcomes to any argument. These issues are more complex than this.
And we still haven’t run out of rights. There are plenty of rights for all people. Giving rights to one group doesn’t negate the rights of another.
In Galatians 3, Paul dismantles the early Church’s reliance on the Law. He explains that the Law acted as a guide for the people of God before Christ died for the sins of all people and before He was resurrected, eternally triumphing over sin and death. Paul says that the Law “protected us until we could be made right with God through faith” (v. 24 NLT). However, once Christ was resurrected, a new way was provided for people who seek God. Paul proclaims, “Now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian” (v. 25 NLT). This is good news for all people!
He continues by explaining that through faith in Christ Jesus, we are all children of God. This means that “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female” because we are all one in Christ Jesus (v. 26-28 NLT). We are ONE! We are UNITED!
There are enough rights to go around. We haven’t run out of rights for those who have been mistreated for the color of their skin. We haven’t run out of rights for those who have lost opportunities because of their gender. We haven’t run out of rights for those who haven’t received medical attention because of their social class. We haven’t run out of rights for those who were born outside of the United States. And we haven’t run out of rights for those who have been born into privilege, regardless of the color of their skin, their gender, their sexual identity, their education, their social class, their religion, their nationality, or their political party.
There is not a rights shortage in the world today.
Let’s reconsider the way that we react to what we see today. Let’s reconsider our rhetoric when we feel the need to defend our position. Let’s reconsider the ways that we show love for all people. Remember that in Christ Jesus, we are all made equal.
And let’s echo the words of Daniel in his prayer in Daniel 9, seeking repentance for the whole world:
“Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. We have not listened to your servants the pastors and priests, who spoke in your name to our leaders, our representatives and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land.
7 “Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the people of the United States and the inhabitants of the entire world, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. 8 We and our leaders, our representatives and our ancestors are covered with shame, Lord, because we have sinned against you. 9 The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; 10 we have not obeyed the Lord our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets. 11 The entire world has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you.
15 “Now, Lord our God[…], we have sinned, we have done wrong. 16 Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from […] your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our ancestors have made our world and your people an object of scorn to all those around us.
17 “Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. 18 Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. 19 Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.”Daniel 9:5-19 New Living Translation. Changes made by Beccy McGlinchy are in italics.