Yet, that person, whom we don't recognize, is someone else's friend, child, parent; he or she isn't alien to others. And this thought brings us to the question of belonging.
If all humans belong to this thing we call "humanity," how can we say that those we don't know are worth less than we are? Either we are all humans, or there is no humanity. If there is no humanity, there are no humans. Hence the question of worth is really a question about what and who we are. If we aren't human, then what are we?
When we say other people are worth less than we are, we are in reality trying to justify our inhumane treatment of others. By saying some are less human, we are really saying, "I don't need to treat you as a human." But by doing so, we are the ones acting in an inhumane manner. It doesn't diminish the humanity of those we mistreat, it makes us the inhumane ones. And this is the irony of a theology that allows for the oppression of those we consider alien to us in order to justify our own privilege, especially that of white privilege.
Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt. Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless. (Exodus 22:21-24, NIV).
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" "What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?" He answered: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" "You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live." But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.' "Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise" (Luke 10:25-37, NIV).
The priest and the Levite ignored the man, although he was one of their own, an Israelite. Since they were of the priestly class, and the man was (presumably) a commoner, they didn't feel obligated to help the man. But the Samaritan, whom the Jews looked down upon, stopped to help the wounded man and went to great lengths to help him.
The parable teaches us two things
1. A hierarchy of worth makes us fail to love our neighbors the way we love ourselves
2. All humans are our neighbors, wherefore we should love all equally.
James has something to say about this:
If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, "Love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not murder." If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker (James 2:8-11, NIV).
Now that we look at the reactions after the verdict from Ferguson, it becomes evident that the rage most people feel stems from our society's unequal treatment of people of color. The other source of frustration is the church, which either remains silent, or agrees with the oppression. We can't fix society without changing people's thinking, and the need for justice advocates is ever-present, but a more pressing concern is that if our faith allows us to show partiality, it allows us to break the law of loving our neighbor as ourselves. And if you and I can break the law of loving our neighbor as ourselves with the blessing of the church, and thereby break the law of loving God with our whole beings, what is our faith? A cloak for evil?
It isn't possible to confess faith in God and deny the humanity of those created in the image of God. All humans are of equal worth, because all find their common origin in God. Let's hope that the church will finally take it's confession seriously and loudly proclaim the equality of all humans in the midst of a society that won't.