In his post today, blogger David Henson challenges us to think about All Souls’ Day in the context of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. We know that “All Souls Matter,” he writes, but maybe the events of this year should require us to say aloud, “Black Souls Matter.”
We have probably all seen the responses to the #BlackLivesMatter movement that clamor back, “All Lives Matter” or “Police Lives Matter,” from people who think that somehow this movement seeks to make certain lives worth more than others, rather than to highlight the existence of fatal inequalities in our society and justice system.
There is a misconception that stating the value of one group of people automatically devalues other groups, when actually, it is the reverse that is true. It is devaluing one group of people that automatically devalues all of us.
This reminds me of one of my favorite popular authors, Michael Connelly, and Harry Bosch, the central character of his extensive detective series. In a few of the novels, Harry finds himself investigating crimes that others feel are low priority. Who cares who killed a prostitute? Why bother to solve the case? No one cares.
But Harry’s response is this memorable phrase:
“Everybody counts, or nobody counts.”
We are all human, and we all bear the image of God, even if sometimes our human frailty and brokenness may obscure it. Sometimes our brokenness, or our sin, if you like, is our inability to see the image of God in others; to value all life and to seek equality, justice, redemption, and reconciliation for all. When we devalue others, either on purpose or by turning a blind eye to their suffering, we tarnish our own divine image. In making others out to be lesser creatures, we become lesser creatures ourselves.
If I want my life to matter, I must do my part to ensure that all lives, all souls, are understood to matter just as much.
This isn’t easy because we all like to feel superior to someone or to some other group of people. It’s an easy, cheap way to feel better about ourselves. I think that all of us do this in some way whether we are conscious of it or not: I’m better than that poor person, that badly dressed person, that socially awkward person, that black person, that redneck person, that non-English-speaking person, that genderqueer person, that gay person, that addicted person, that liberal person, that conservative person, that fundamentalist person, that Muslim person . . . the list can go on and on.
Some of these judgments are simply unkind. Others can be fatal.
So, on this All Soul’s Day I challenge us to be honest and to think about the souls that society and we as individuals have devalued and marginalized, and to speak their value out loud.
In doing so, we are not giving special value to these groups because the truth is that they already matter. Rather, we are recognizing their value and affirming that we should live in a society where All Lives and All Souls matter.
Everybody counts, or nobody counts.
Let’s work toward a world where everyone does.
Here’s my litany of souls that already matter, but that need to be spoken aloud. Who would you add to the list?
Black Souls Matter
Undocumented Immigrant Souls Matter
Refugee Souls Matter
Non-Christian Souls Matter
Non-Hetero Souls Matter
Trans Souls Matter
Mentally Ill Souls Matter
Disabled Souls Matter
HIV+ Souls Matter
Working Poor Souls Matter
Homeless Souls Matter
Trafficked Souls Matter
Sex Worker Souls Matter
Addicted Souls Matter
Convict Souls Matter
Souls on Death Row Matter
Only when we have said, believed, and most importantly acted as though all of these souls matter, can we simply be content to say
All Souls Matter.