Defending the Intrinsic Value of Each Life Lost
President Luxton invites everyone to reflect on the ultimate sanctity of each life created by God.
On Monday evening, the Derek Chauvin trial went to the jury following closing arguments. This widely followed trial will soon be over.
This trial, which brought charges against Chauvin, a former police officer, for the death of George Floyd nearly one year ago, is one that has raised multiple intense emotions throughout the country and the world. In many ways this trial has become about something far more than whether or not one man is guilty. The trial has also had the effect of polarizing opinions on law enforcement and justice. It has specifically raised the sensitive, yet real, issues of systemic racism in our world.
With all of this, at the heart of the passionate exchanges surrounding the trial is something very critical, for what is on trial are truly and ultimately the priorities and values of this nation and, further than that, the priorities and values held by each of us, both personally as well as corporately, as a community of faith. These conversations ask whether we, for example, are willing to defend unequivocally our beliefs in the sanctity of life and the intrinsic value of each person as created by God? Are we clear that there are not tiers of human value within God’s kingdom?
I recall the famous words of John Donne, “Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” I truly believe that if we lose our capacity to mourn lost lives, and if we do not do all we can to save lives, I would suggest that as a community we are at risk of losing our own soul.
Irrespective of the verdict of this trial, we do know that a life has been lost and we should care about that.
Further, irrespective of the reasons and motivations of the killer, eight lives were lost in a mass shooting in Indianapolis last week. We should also care about that, too. And on any day or week, we could continue sadly with a long list of similar lost lives. As individuals and as a community of faith, we should mourn for those lost lives and we should care greatly about bringing change to society so that fewer lives (all of value) are lost.
As you may know, Andrews University is approved as a site for a Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Campus Center, which opened on our campus this past semester. That means we, with a group of other universities in the United States, have been identified as a campus that is not afraid of the difficult questions and we wish to face those hard questions through a process of listening in order to ultimately bring reconciliation and healing. That also means we seek to understand and listen to very real pain that such tragic and high-profile deaths bring to our world, our nation and community. It means we must find a way to frame these difficult conversations in a way that brings our community together in a truly shared commitment.
Whatever the verdict of the Derek Chauvin trial, it’s inescapable that a tragedy has happened. And whatever the verdict, there will be some who are angry and some who will rejoice. But that is not the end of this story, not the conclusion of this tragedy.
As a campus we will find an opportunity through our Office of Diversity & Inclusion and the Center for Faith Engagement to create a listening space for this community as the Chauvin trial ends and a verdict is delivered.
As an Andrews University community, please know that we will be there for you. We will want to actively share, listen and learn. We want to take the time to carefully discover together how we can be change agents in a world where value is too often removed from the realities that first, all life is sacred and second, there is no hierarchy of value when it comes to human lives.
Please look out for the announcements for those formal opportunities to talk and listen together. Please join us for those honest and meaningful conversations. In the meantime let us pray, today and always, that as individuals and as a community we may have the grace to become truly world changing leaders who value and identify with all human lives. We must do that not just in words but in action.
Thank you for your continued prayers and involvement as we continue through this difficult, but essential, journey to understand and assure value, meaning and care for one another.