One thing is certain about the year 2020; it’s a year where all of us are being asked:
“What do we truly value?”
The picture of the left is a graphic that ran on Fox News this week, and I’m going to ask you not to move straight to your outrage. Even though I’m confident that’s what bubbles up.
I’m asking you to meditate deeply on the VALUES behind a graphic like this.
What does this picture from Fox News VALUE?
What kinds of values does it pit over and against each other?
As I’ve written many times these past months, I have been deeply moved by the way Americans have been “sheltering in place” during the COVID pandemic. Yes, some folks have sheltered out of fear for their health, or the health of their own families.
But millions of average Americans sheltered out of a sense of *compassion* for those they had never met. They put aside their own economic interest. Somewhere along the spectrum of “grudgingly” to “willingly” millions chose to do what was *not* in their own economic self-interest.
They put human values and compassion ahead of economic values. Even their own economic values.
As you know, there’s been push-back against this in the past month, with many political leaders arguing that the true path of “sacrifice” is not to “shelter in place,” but to “go back to work.”
This framing places economic values AHEAD of human values. And this is why I have rejected this way of thinking.
This Fox News picture does the same thing, but in far starker and disturbing terms.
Given America’s 400-year history of commodifying Black bodies for commercial purposes, it’s chilling. Only someone with a conscious or unconscious White Supremacist mindset could be so unthinking enough to publish this.
Somebody who either has no clue…
Or somebody who intentionally wants to appeal to a White Supremacist base…
It’s one of the two…
I guess, as Fox News likes to say, we get to “decide.”
I mean, of all the pandemics, terrorists attacks, domestic shootings, etc, during the past decades….Fox News chose (for comparison’s sake) THE four most polarizing modern events that involve Black bodies.
During the time of slavery, one of the panics of the White Supremacist culture was the economic “hit” they would take should slavery be abolished. Their cultural descendants are, to my mind, the only people who could possible be interested in comparing the four events in this graphic.
So, friends, what do YOU value?
My Christian faith teaches me to always value human beings above systems.
Jesus teaches about this time and time again. He was always “breaking the law” of his day…pushing the boundaries of the status quo… not just because those laws apparently made it harder to worship God, but also because they harmed people too.
Jesus said, literally said: The law is made for human beings, and not human beings for the law.
Jesus turned over the tables of the money changers in the Temple —calling it a “robbers den”— thereby rejecting the idea that economic values were primary values.
I continue to hear people make derivative arguments about human values and the economy. They use a kind of Neo-Liberal economic logic that anything that harms the economy must de facto be harmful to humans. They continue to worship the idol of the Free Market system, as if it is an infallible god.
I would simply remind them of Jesus’ own words: The law was made for humans. Sometimes, economic systems become a “robbers den.”
There is no credible way to argue that Jesus would prop up ANY particular economic decision or system. Jesus always put people first. Jesus didn’t believe in free markets, because there weren’t any in his day. And he didn’t really ever seem to CARE about what the *systems* were…he cares about *people.*
In 2020, “putting people first” has meant showing a compassion for strangers. It’s meant millions have been moved to “stay home,” sacrificing our own economic self-interest in what some philosophers call “enlightened self interest.”
I believe, with all my being, that in this we have seen an awakening of our innate human compassion. As a person of faith, I believe compassion comes to us from God. But whether or not you share that view, I hope you will continue to meditate on that compassion that is breaking forth all around us.
A LACK of compassion can allow us to conflate economic systems with people. This is always dangerous in any situation.
Which brings us back to a TV network commodifying and conflating the death and damage to Black bodies with our economic system.
Whatever else happens this year, pay attention to what others are telling to you value. I can only tell you, Jesus put health, safety, and security of the weak and vulnerable FIRST.
That is why we Christians (some of us) understand “Black Lives Matter” as a powerful affirmation of the truth of our moment.
As David Hayward’s drawing shows (Picture #2), Jesus literally told parables about leaving the “many” to search out and care for those who were being harmed, in just the way “Black Lives Matter” calls us to do.
I believe God calls us to person-centered values that show compassion for the hurting and the harmed.
Fox News apparently sees no problem continuing the 400-year history of commodifying Black bodies during a time of economic turmoil.
So…..“What do you value?”
How do you rank *your* values, when —as is literally happening on our streets this week— “push comes to shove?”
This is THE great moral question our nation is being asked to consider in 2020.
I pray that you, individually, and we as a nation, answer wisely, justly, and compassionately.