"Black lives matter."
“Blue lives matter.”
“White lives matter.”
Voices cry out, vying to be heard, trying to climb above the clamour.
Like rainforest trees they race upward, desperate to burst out from under canopy shadows and reach that got-to-have-it sunlight.
Whether there’s space for everyone up there or some have to be deposed for others to ascend I leave for others to discuss. I want to ask a more fundamental question here.
What if, when you get up there, you discover that you have no roots? Without roots, the very sunlight that you seek only accelerates your withering demise. What if the very basis for your entire cause is missing?
What if no lives matter?
Do Any Lives Matter?
If humans are considered valuable only insofar as they contribute to or benefit from certain things (economic prosperity, health, ethnic or genetic “improvement”, the advancement of certain politics or ideology, happiness, education, national security, quality of life), their value is not inherent, it is only incidental, and it is taken away the moment that the function in question ceases. It is fair to say, therefore, that this kind of “value” is not really value at all: humans are no more “valuable” than a carton is to someone eating a Big Mac, they can and should be thrown away as soon as they are no longer of use.
So what we really need to discover is this: Can the case be made for the intrinsic value of all human beings, regardless of their functions or capacities (size, age, sex, disability, happiness, intelligence, memory).? If it can, we have a solid basis for “lives matter”. If it can’t, we have no basis at all.
There really are only these two options.
Black Lives ARE Matter?!
The prevailing worldview in the West right now seems to be, broadly speaking, secularism: the belief that there is no Creator God but instead all there really is, is matter. Everything around us is here by chance. Collisions happened, over billions of years, and here we are today. No design.
And therefore, though this conclusion is rarely said out loud, there is no meaning.
If all is matter, nothing really matters. It merely happens.
Human beings, far from being intrinsically valuable, are simply the latest model in a long line of (accidentally produced) carriers of “selfish” genes. Their “value” in the evolutionary narrative is totally contingent on function (speed, intelligence, size, fertility): they “matter” only insofar as they help to advance the species.
The logical conclusion of all this is that caring for the vulnerable, the elderly, the disabled is nothing more than slowing down the onward march of evolutionary progress. What a waste of precious fuel and oxygen – propping up faulty gene-carriers!
It is horrifying to see instances past and present where this logic is followed, but mercifully most atheists are inconsistent and we are spared the full weight of these terrible conclusions.
Being consistent doesn’t prove that you’re right. But being inconsistent does prove that you’re wrong. Atheists who want to uphold any sense of the intrinsic worth of human beings are inconsistent and therefore wrong. Their worldview provides no basis whatsoever for the intrinsic worth of human beings; indeed, it expressly works against the notion.
The intrinsic worth of human beings and the reality of good and evil that we all intuit so deeply can only be defended if there is a God. Atheist philosophy professor Mark Joel in his Amoral Manifesto gets this: “without God, there is no morality”.
If you want to believe in human rights, you have to believe in God.
And not just any “god”: you have to believe in a loving God who has actually dignified his creatures with value.
Indeed, human rights were founded on this precise worldview. The United States’ Declaration of Independence states: “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights”. This is based on the Judaeo-Christian belief that humans are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-7; 9:6) – they bear the likeness, and something of the dignity, of their Maker. They are not just stuff.
According to a biblical worldview, we are all in some sense God's children (Acts 17:28). One family, one race, under God: sacred.
Root And Fruit
It is of course no secret that in the United States as elsewhere, adherence to these expressed convictions has been, to put it mildly, patchy. Many have claimed the name of Christ yet done horrific things against his character and commands. Nevertheless, a strong correlation can be mapped between a nation’s relationship with the Christian worldview and their esteem of human worth.
The point I am about to make is not that racism in the post-Christian UK is unworthy of attention or action. But as we respond to it, let it not escape our attention that there is racism at an objectively higher level in many other nations such as China, where it is believed that over 1 million people are actually being detained (and worse) by order of the Government simply because they are Uighur Muslims; or India, where some school children are formally required to sit apart from everyone else at meals because they were born in a “lower caste” with darker skin. If we think the UK criminal justice system is harsh, consider North Korea. If we think our politicians and police are corrupt, consider day-to-day life and business experience in many sub-Saharan African countries. Gender equality: Saudi Arabia.
We have plenty of planks in our own eye, but it is very difficult to maintain that the Christian-based West is more oppressive than, for example, cultures based on atheistic communism or Islam. (Although held to be a creator, Allah is not believed to have dignified his creatures with his own image, as the Jewish/Christian God has; the imago Dei is unique to Judaism/Christianity.) The freedom even to write and read things like this is not something that could be taken for granted in many parts of the world today.
Liberty, equality, rule of law; countless hospitals, schools, orphanages worldwide; the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade: all of these are gifts from a Christian worldview.
The point I’m trying to make is that theological worldview makes all the difference when it comes to human rights.
Running Out Of Gas
Someone might retort, “But we’ve long since departed from Christianity in the West and we’re doing fine! Human rights continue to advance!”
Are we doing fine?
Like a car that’s run out of petrol, our momentum is keeping us going for a while, but we are beginning to find out the hard way: we’ve got nothing left in the tank.
Indeed, the wheels are already coming off. Some who think they are the world’s leading campaigners for human rights are actively agitating for the killing of more humans. Some who claim to care for black lives seem not to care very much when the black lives in question are not on the same political side as them. That these casualties are tolerated is proof that it is not humans that are the intrinsic good here, it’s certain ideological outcomes; people matter only insofar as they are pawns in these political manoeuvres.
But the statistic that really exposes our human progress delusion is this: Last year in England and Wales one quarter of babies in the womb were deliberately killed by our doctors, with our permission and our money. Worldwide, some 50 million babies are killed every year. This killing is far more prolific – and state-sanctioned – than any other killing in the history of the world.
Start At The Beginning
In a sense, the rights of the child in the womb are the defining human rights battle of the day. Not all of us are black, Jewish, disabled, or female. But every single one of us was once a baby.
There can be no true justice for black lives, blue lives, or any lives, unless we first establish that baby lives matter (black, blue, or otherwise). Anyone who declares “black lives matter” whilst upholding “access” to “abortion” contradicts themselves instantly: black lives don’t matter if baby lives don’t matter.
How can it be argued that baby lives matter? Pathetic, speechless, weak, productivity-negative babies?
For that, you need a loving Creator, who has endowed even the least of us with this immeasurable dignity: that we are made in the image of God.
That, and only that, is why lives matter.