Here at Spiritual Insights we have watched with concern the debate raging in the United States over the saying “Black Lives Matter.” For many years we’ve been appalled by the systemic abuse of the police power against our black and brown neighbors. Accordingly, we were appalled at the death of George Floyd from excessive force by the Minneapolis Police Department. (And for every abuse that is filmed, you can be sure that a number of others occurred that were not filmed.)
When we started Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life, we committed to never taking the easy way out when addressing difficult subjects. We have worked hard to offer substantive answers on sensitive subjects. “No hollow platitudes” has been our commitment.
And so over the years we have posted articles about racism and the abuse of power. Some of them are linked at the end of this article. We invite you to read them.
Short version: Racism is derived from a corrupted love of self that leads people to love only people who are like themselves. Abuse of power coupled with racism is a recipe for a hellish existence for all people—including the racists themselves, who live in their own little hell of self-absorption and fear of the “other.”
Lost in the acrid debate over “Black lives matter” vs. “All lives matter” is the deeper question of why God created different races of people on our earth.
Do Black lives matter?
Time and again American institutions have failed to demonstrate that Black lives matter as much as the lives of other socio-ethnic groups. In 2013, George Zimmerman was acquitted of the charge of second-degree murder after he shot to death seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin. In a Facebook post that day, civil rights activist Alicia Garza lamented that there were people celebrating his acquittal. “I continue to be surprised at how little Black lives matter,” she said, concluding her statement with, “Our lives matter.” In response to Garza’s post, her friend Patrisse Cullors created the twitter hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. The hashtag gained momentum in 2014, and exploded in 2015.
Opposing hashtags, #AllLivesMatter and #BlueLivesMatter were quickly created, and a fierce debate began about which slogan had the most merit. People soon took sides, and became entrenched in them.
However, taking sides in the which-lives-matter debate is tied up with a false premise. American history has demonstrated that there is no question that White and Blue lives matter. Heavy penalties are paid when those lives are taken. We can’t, however, look at our history and honestly say that the same holds true for our Black neighbors. Until heavy penalties are likewise paid when Black lives are taken, it becomes necessary for American society to verbally affirm that Black lives do indeed matter.
Affirming that Black Lives Matter takes nothing away from any other group of people. Nobody is saying that Black lives matter more than any other lives. Nobody is saying that by verbalizing Black Lives Matter, all other lives no longer matter, or don’t matter as much. The phrase simply shines a light on a group of people whose lives haven’t mattered to the larger society for centuries.
Where does racism come from?
Why don’t Black lives matter as much as White and Blue lives in so many people’s minds?
Scientist, philosopher, and theologian Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) listed four primary categories of love that drive human beings. Here they are in their proper order of priority:
- Love of the Lord
- Love of the neighbor
- Love of the world
- Love of self
When these are in their proper order in our mind and heart, all of them are good and healthy.
Healthy self-love prompts us to take care of ourselves and improve ourselves in mind and body so that we will be mentally and physically fit to serve God and our fellow human beings.
Heathy love of worldly things—money, possessions, and so on—prompts us to provide the necessities of life for ourselves and our families, ideally with some left over so that we can better serve our fellow human beings in practical ways.
Loving our neighbor—our fellow human beings, both friends and enemies alike—is what God put us on earth to do. Not just loving them in a theoretical way, but loving them by engaging in useful service and acts of kindness toward them.
And loving God, when we put it first in our lives, means that we will make it our life’s goal and mission to love and serve the people whom God has made—as Jesus taught us in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats in Matthew 25:31–46.
It’s when we push love of the world and love of self up into the top spots in our priority list that the problems begin.
When we do that, a healthy love of the world for the means it provides us to accomplish good becomes instead an unhealthy love of acquiring wealth, possessions, and pleasures by whatever means necessary, including by lying and cheating and stealing other people’s money and possession for ourselves.
And a healthy self-esteem that prompts us to become our best self so that we can serve others becomes instead an unhealthy egocentricity that causes us to think of ourselves as better than everyone else, and to think that we should dominate and control everyone else, while their only role is to serve us.
Racism is an extension of unhealthy self-love
But there is also a broader version of self-love. We can see this in the way organized crime families, for example, commonly have an exaggerated love for their own families and relatives. They do everything to benefit their own families, including committing horrific crimes against anyone who isn’t in their family and who gets in their way.
That’s because when we are driven by unhealthy self-love, we think of our family, our friends, and everyone who likes us and agrees with us as extensions of ourselves. These are “our people,” whereas everyone else is “not our people.” We love “our people.” We don’t care about everyone else, and we even hate them if they don’t serve our goals and our needs.
Now think of this in terms of racial and ethnic groups. These are like large extended families of people who have common origins and ancestries. Based on its common origin and ancestry, each race shares particular racial characteristics such as skin color, hair type, and facial features.
It’s a short leap to thinking that the people who look like us are “our people,” whereas the people who don’t look like us are “not our people.” And when we selfishly think that “our people” are better than “other people,” racism has reared its ugly head.
In short, racism is an extended version of unhealthy self-love, in which we think that we and our people are better than their people, and that we should therefore rule, and they should serve us.
Why are there different races?
Biologically, the question of different races is a complicated one, given that scientists believe we all came from common roots on evolutionary time scales.
But this is a spiritual blog, not a science blog. And from a spiritual perspective, the reason there are different races is very simple: We humans are of different races because God created us to be of different races.
The biblical background for this will have to wait for another post. For now, I’ll just say that if anyone ever tries to tell you that in the Bible God cursed the Black race and made it a servant to the White race, that person is so ignorant and uninformed about what the Bible actually says that you should not listen to anything that person says about God, the Bible, or really, about anything else.
For now, it is enough to say that both in the Bible story and in the human world as a whole, God created and arranged for us to be of different races. And God did that for a very good reason.
If we look at the world around us, both the world of nature and the world of human society, we can’t help noticing the vast variety and diversity in everything God has made. In nature, there are millions of distinct species, each filling its own particular niche in the ecosystem. Even within a particular species, no two plants and no two animals are ever exactly alike.
The very same is true of human society. There are now billions of humans on earth, no two of whom are exactly alike. And they belong to millions of different families, clans, and cultures.
Did God make a mistake in creating us all to be different from one another? Not at all! In fact, God’s plan requires all different people, in all different families, clans, and cultures. Each individual human being and each family, clan, culture, and race has something unique to add. Together, in all our differences, we form a much stronger human race.
As an example of how this works, consider a company that manufactures cars. An auto manufacturer certainly needs, say, accountants. But what if every single employee were an accountant? Would any cars get manufactured? I think not! Manufacturing automobiles is a complex business. It requires people of all different characters, personalities, and skills to make it work.
Similarly, God saw that for the human race to work, there had to be all different types of people. The different races of people are part of the diversity that is required for real and strong unity in humankind. In short:
Every race, ethnicity, clan, and family adds to the whole.
Does this mean that God created some races to rule, and others to serve? No. Rather, within each race there are some people who are natural-born leaders, and many others who are willing followers. God has provided that each race and nation has within it the capabilities required to run a healthy human society.
Yet it is in the friendly and cooperative interaction of all the different races and nations that humankind reaches its greatest effectiveness and potential. Each adds its own unique character and contribution to the whole, so that together we are stronger than we could ever be separately.
Black Lives Matter
This is why Black lives matter. Black Lives Matter is about recognizing that Blacks are important to the country and to the world. Blacks have their own unique contributions that no one else can make in the same way.
When Black Lives Matter, everyone will be better off. Everyone will benefit from the richness of partnership with one of the races that God has created to be an integral part of the richness of our beloved human race.
This is why we hope you, our readers, will join us in affirming that Black Lives Matter.
For further reading: