A few years ago, I paid Right On Mission to help me develop a personal mission statement. I had never been big on such things, but I had a previous relationship with the professor (Dr. Sarah Sumner), and she offered me a good deal. It also came with another class that helped me develop a plan for the Broken and Mended ministry.
Basically, I shared my whole life story with Sarah. She asked me a series of questions that ranged from my hobbies to what made me angry. But it was her job to craft the mission statement. After about three hours, she came up with this: “To acknowledge the stardom of every person’s life.”
“Stardom” is connected to my love for the stars in God’s heavens. It had nothing to do with the celebrity of someone’s life or even their accomplishments. The word was chosen to convey the personal sacredness of every human being bestowed on them by a God who makes us all in his image.
It is a meaningful mission statement, but I soon discovered that it was not chosen for me because I had mastered it. Rather, it took intentional effort to regard each person I met as sacred. I had made my own distinctions between people and had catered to my own favorites. My mission statement was an ideal that needed a lot of repentance to take shape in my life.
Let me confess that though I have made substantial progress, I believe I will always be in need of repentance. The moment I think less of a person just because they are different than me is yet another opportunity for me to hear my own mission statement calling me back to a God’s eye view of every human. But the passion that Sarah helped me unearth is blossoming unto fruitfulness for me and with others God places before me.
That’s the backstory to what I have found so upsetting in the midst of this pandemic. I have been shocked at how easily others have dismissed the sacredness of human life. I have heard or read countless dismissals of the 100,000 people who have died in our country alone. They “were on their last legs” anyway. They were elderly. They had preexisting conditions. As if any of these factors could somehow lessen the tragedy of a life prematurely snuffed out.
Do people dying in nursing homes isolated from their families matter less because they were no longer “productive” members of society? Do their survivors mourn them less because they didn’t have long to live anyway? My maternal grandparents are both still living. When my grandpa turns ninety in June, they will both have arrived in their nineties. I know that I won’t have them much longer. Whenever they die, I will mourn them deeply, because I love them. If they happened to get COVID and die even sooner, I would advise you to stay away from me with “well, they were elderly anyway” garbage.
Another disparity has been the reality that this virus has impacted minorities at a disproportionate rate. The virus itself does not regard race or any other human distinction, but communities with greater poverty tend to have greater health risks with less access to healthcare. And then during this time, we have had the reprehensible stories of the slayings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and now, George Floyd.
The killings are the worst, of course. But then there are stories like a white woman lying to a 911 operator that an African American man was threatening her, a black delivery driver detained in a predominantly white neighborhood–for no apparent good reason–and I am sure a host of others that I’ve either forgotten or didn’t make the national radar.
It is past time for white people like me to listen to what black people and other minorities are saying about what it is like to be a person of color in this nation. But the distressing truth is that most people don’t have the appetite for it. They will excuse, justify, and deny the real problem of racism and white privilege in this country. They will be more passionate and angry over protests that draw attention to the problem than people dying for no good reason other than the color of their skin.
Or maybe we can talk about those kids separated from their parents at our border. I’ve actually read where a Christian brother suggested the kids deserved what happened to them because their parents were criminals. I wonder if that same brother is so readily willing to call his fellow citizens criminals who broke the law when they ignored shut-down orders to open up their businesses. But they were desperate, you say? They had to feed their family, you say? Right. But struggling families trying to flee dangerous situations from other countries are the real criminals?
This is a blog for those who struggle with chronic pain, and as I mentioned above, those who have preexisting conditions are being spoken about as if their lives are less valuable because they are physically compromised. But it is also part of a larger human problem.
Either you believe that God has created everyone in his image or not. You don’t get to choose by race, health, or immigrant status. You can’t wave a flag for the unborn and dehumanize the immigrant, the disabled, or people of color. My mission is and remains “to acknowledge the stardom of every person’s life.” It is also my lifelong challenge. Will you join me?