I was driving down the street when I noticed a church sign that said, “Black lives matter but God …” and I could not catch the rest of the message. I kept going but could not shake the “but God” in the message. Later that day, I went back to the church where I saw the sign, pulled in the drive, sat and read the entire sign. I read the sign and pondered its message. I wanted to go into the church and talk with someone, but no one was at the church. I thought about leaving a phone message, but what I needed to say would have been too long and really needed a face-to-face conversation.
The sign said, “Black lives matter but to God all lives matter.” It also had the Scripture passage John 3:16: “For God so loved the world he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
My problem with the sign and even my heartache behind it now has to do with the “but God” in their message. There is no but God, in black lives matter. Black lives matter has a period on the end. It’s a statement of fact, not something for people to consider. Often I hear people saying, Black lives matter, but so do brown or all lives matter, and that really frustrates me.
We all know that all lives matter, the problem is that in America and other places around the globe, people seem to forget that all lives matters when it come to black people. The Black Lives Matter movement is to remind people to consider “black lives” equally in their consideration for all life.
The church sign should have read, “Black Lives Matter, and to God all lives matter, therefore we are called to treat one another with dignity and respect.”
The Scripture quote that best fits the issue is the greatest commandment, Matthew 22:37-40: “He said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hand all the law and the prophets.”
The question for the Black Lives Matter movement is not whether black lives matter to God; we know black lives matter to God. The question is whether or not the world realizes that black lives matter.
In the inception of black lives in these United States of America, black lives have been a footnote or even a stain in its beautiful fabric that they would like to forget it is even there. America is comfortable showing off its beautiful colorful fabric and pretending the stain on that fabric doesn’t exist.
The world is free to disregard black lives, but it is not OK to do so in the name of God. When the church prepared a sign that said “but” after Black Lives Matter, they negated that true fact that black lives matter.
I always try to give people the benefit of the doubt, maybe that church did not mean to disrespect black lives when it said “but God.” The problem is they did, and it still hurts. Not just because this church belittles the existence of black lives, but it is part of a bigger problem in America right now, where people of color still have to remind the rest of the world that we exist and have meaning.
Some 50 years ago, during the Civil Rights Movement, black men marched with signs saying, “I AM A MAN.” The tragedy for us is that we still have to remind others of our humanity.
So let us all pray for a day when all Americans believe and treat all lives with love and respect so that movements like Black Lives Matter do not have to exist.
Cyneatha Millsaps is pastor of Community Mennonite Church in Markham, Ill.