The Price of a Human Life?
The Price of a Human Life?
Reflection by The Reverend Ted Witham
You cannot put a price on human life. Maybe it’s acceptable to buy and sell live animals in the market, ‘two sparrows for a penny’ (Matthew 10:29), but human life is beyond price.
Centuries before, Moses had delivered God’s commandment, ‘You shall do no murder’ (Exodus 20:13). When God made human beings, he pronounced them, ‘Very good’.
Note that he made human beings, two individuals, one male, one female. We can conclude that God values three things about us:
1. All human beings are ‘very good’. All of humanity has God’s stamp of approval. I strongly agree that ‘Black Lives Matter’: I affirm that ‘All Human Lives Matter!’
2. As individuals as well as a species, you and I are ‘very good’. Every individual is cherished.
3. The differences between male and female are to be celebrated. Diversity is valued. God’s good creation is beautiful because of diversity. I’ve learnt that every magpie has its own personality. Every pebble in a gully is unique.
To treat one human being as though they were of less value than others is sinful. It defies God’s explicit values. To treat groups of human beings as though they were less than others is sinful. It denigrates God’s evident joy in diversity.
It makes me sad and angry that we need to declare that ‘Black Lives Matter’. The truth is that in Australia, as in the USA, we live in a world made for and by whites. Our community is systematically distorted by the sin of racism.
The brute facts spell this out:
- 432 Indigenous deaths in custody since the 1991 Royal Commission.
- 29% of people in prisons are Indigenous, yet there are only 3% in the wider population.
- For the period 2008– 2012, about two-thirds (65%) of Indigenous deaths occurred before the age of 65, compared with 19% of non-Indigenous deaths.
There is much for us to work on to combat the scourge of racism.
Our first task as Christians is to loudly declare the equal value of every human being. We proclaim the virtue of humility, yet one of the white community’s worst traits is to believe that we know the best for Aboriginal people. It is surely time to listen to Aboriginal voices, to hear what they say about their disadvantage and white privilege.
It will be an uncomfortable journey. It’s painful to recognise one’s own prejudice. Moreover, people who protest racism, either in person or at a rally, easily divide those around them, ‘setting a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.’ (Matthew 10: 35-36).
Opposing racism, however, is a crucial struggle for Christians. When we see racism in action, we need the courage to call it out, and not allow people in our circle to get away with casual racist comments. We may be called to work at a political level to oppose racism, making sure Government policies do not cement racism into place, and exhorting politicians to listen to Aboriginal voices.
Surely to be racist, or to allow racist behaviour to continue, is the same as to deny Christ before others (Matthew 10:33). Acknowledging Christ and his values is our calling.