Select Page
All Lives Matter & Other Broken Reductionist Statements
Matt Johnson

Matt Johnson

In addition to writing about faith, leadership, and the church, Matt is also the founder of Spiritually Homeless.

Jun 10, 2020 | Current Events, Faith, Ministry

Reductionism is the (over)simplification of a complex problem, system, or process into basic terms and blanket statements. Christians are amazingly good at reductionism. There is so much beauty and nuance to theological concepts like salvation, the being of Jesus, the ministry of the church, etc… but Christians are painfully skilled at boiling down the nuance to drastically oversimplified statements. These statements rob the theology they represent of its true meaning and value and draw unnecessary lines of division in the process.

“Once saved, always saved.”

“Hate the sin, not the sinner.”

“Let go and let God.”

“God works in mysterious ways.”

The church has gotten really good at creating shorthand statements of our beliefs that allow us to quickly evaluate, judge, and give a trite response without ever really engaging our hearts or minds in the process.

Someone you know loses a job, we quickly respond – “Praying God opens a door”, a friend has a child struggling with homosexuality – “Hate the sin, love the sinner”, a co-worker loses a parent – “Maybe it was just their time.” It’s like a spiritual knee jerk reaction that comes with such quickness and regularity. Even if all those responses are theologically sound (they’re not…), are they really helpful? Do they engage the person with grace and mercy, and show love well as a reflection of Jesus to them? Probably not… in fact, oftentimes, just the opposite. Our simplified responses sound tone-deaf and disconnected from the pain and struggles of the world around us. 

I can’t help but be intensely aware of three reductionist statements I keep hearing, especially from my brothers and sisters of faith that are white.

All lives matter

Theologically? Yes, they do. The core of Christianity is the belief that Jesus died on the cross to provide salvation to all people across race, class, gender, etc… According to Galatians 3, there are no longer divisions within the Body of Christ, but unity. And yet, even as we point to a passage to support our statements, we totally miss the part about unity. We trip over truth reaching for rightness.

One of the biggest problems American Christians have is pride. We have an overwhelming drive to be right over being righteous. We have such an intellectual faith that believing correctly and speaking correctly are often seen as more valuable than living correctly. There’s a massive display of pride in American Christians, especially my white brethren, who feel the need to argue their theological rightness as they use the phrase “All Lives Matter”.

In your pride and argument, you’re missing the point. Completely. Painfully.

There is example after example going around social media right now explaining the phrase “Black Lives Matter”. Consider the teachings of Jesus – the Beatitudes that speak of “blessing” for specific groups of people, the parable of the lost sheep, the encounter with the Samaritan woman, the parable of the Good Samaritan, the intentionality of caring for orphans and widows… the list goes on and on. Jesus sounds like an Oprah favorite things giveaway day – Your life matters. Your life matters. Your life matters.  Samaritan lives matter. Jewish lives matter. Roman lives matter. Women’s lives matter. Every life matters! I genuinely believe that if Jesus were here today, He would be more concerned with affirming that indeed, black lives do matter, than with pursuing theological superiority.

If you are driven to rightness in the need to say ‘all lives matter’ then you have missed the calling of Jesus to protect the oppressed, love the unloved, and care for the cast out. The reality is that people of color in our country have long been mistreated and it’s time you stepped up to engage the problem, not find a simple statement to throw at a broken world.

I don’t see color

If you were a kid that grew up in church, you probably sang the song “Jesus Loves the Little Children” – remember it?

Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world
Red, brown, yellow
Black and white
They are precious in His sight
Jesus loves the little children
Of the world

So much truth packed into such a small song. As white Christians, when we say we don’t see color what we’re really saying to the world is this:

Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world
White, white, white
white and white
They are precious in His sight
Jesus loves the little children
Of the world

There is nothing biblical about the statement ‘I don’t see color’. God’s creation is varied and beautiful in every way. Plants, animals, geography, and even humanity, all created intentionally unique and different. In trying to claim your disregard for color (which multiple studies have shown is actually impossible), you’re unintentionally undermining the very same God of creation you preach in nearly every other setting. Your theology is at odds with itself.

See color. See the beauty of diversity and culture. See people of all colors and races how God made them, not whitewashed for your comfort. 

It’s a sin issue, not a skin issue

Is racism a sin? Absolutely! One that should be called out and addressed directly – just like lying, cheating, murder, adultery, rape, incest, drunkenness, and every other sin that is directly mentioned and confronted both biblically and in the church today. Can you think of another sin that you expect the church to deal with generically and indirectly? I can’t. If someone we know is struggling with porn the consequences and process of dealing with that sin are very different than someone we know who has an anger problem. Are they both sins? Biblically, yes. Are they addressed and cared for differently? I sure hope so!

Generalizing racism as simply ‘sin’ is likely an indication of one of two things… 1) You live in a homogenous enough bubble that the plight and challenges of people of color are not yet personal for you, or 2) You are unwilling to tackle the darker recesses of your own heart that might be exposed as the realities of hatred, bigotry, and pride gets unpacked.


Brothers and sisters in Jesus who are white – we must do better at reflecting Jesus accurately to our world.

We must be willing to lay down our theological pride which has often become an idol of its own pursuit. We must pick up the mantle of grace and justice knowing full well we may also find ourselves convicted. We must restore the voices and values of people of color to bring them back to equality envisioned in Galatians 3.

I love the message translation of Philippians 2:1-4.  May we be followers of Jesus that step up to this powerful challenge in exactly a moment such as this.


“If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.”

Pin It on Pinterest